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SURROUNDED: Project manager Brent Craig holds a rabbit sculpted by Fiona Tunnicliffe at the opening of the Ōtaki Pottery Club’s new premises, Tote Modern. The rabbit was presented to Brent by the club at the opening, for his work to upgrade the club facilities.

Photo Ian Carson


A crowd of about 200 helped the Ōtaki Pottery Club open its new premises, impishly named the Tote Modern, on Saturday, July 4.

The name is not only a twist on a famous contemporary art gallery, the Tate Modern in London, but also a nod to the building’s original use as the totalisater (tote) at the Ōtaki-Māori Racing Club. Racing club stewards were on hand to hand over the building, acknowledging the valuable asset it had become and the attraction it would provide for race goers.

The pottery club bought the building earlier this year. As president Rod Graham said during opening speeches, the road was not paved with gold.

“Every time we wanted to do something, it cost more money that we didn’t have,” he said. “We were counting on our Festival of Pots and Garden Art [in February] to help out, and it did.

“The festival was a great success, which meant we could carry on with the work.”

Led by club member and project manager Brent Craig, the potters have been on regular working bees, and local contractors have been helping with work that’s had to be done professionally. Many provided their services or products free of charge.

Brent’s dedication received special recognition at the opening. He was presented with ceramic rabbit sculpted by guest artist Fiona Tunnicliffe, with the comment that it would probably be the only one on his property without a hole in it. The rabbit was therefore named Forrest Gump, acknowledging the famous move line, “Run, Forrest, run”.

The Tote is a far cry from the cramped premises the club had previously at Ōtaki College. It has plenty of work space for club members, two classrooms, glaze room, kiln room, library, meeting room and kitchen. The new gallery is open to visitors.

The Tote Modern is open at the racing club Friday to Sunday 10am-3pm or by appointment.

Old tote goes to the pots


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