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Marea Gazzard's monolithic 'forms'

Marea Gazzard, the new president of the World Crafts Council, is one of Australia's foremost potters. Her "Forms" -- a term she prefers to vessels or pots -- are all slowly constructed, not by throwing on a wheel, but by hand-coiling of the clay. The result: shapes with the natural grace of the rocks and boulders they resemble. Some are monumental in size; all are distinctly individual expressions of the ceramic art.

One Sydney art critic said that the forms shown in the artist's last one-woman exhibition (she has had 10) appeared to be "a series of imposing, biscuit-colored monoliths, which stand like sentinels. . . ." She referred to their scale and aura of mystery, and to their difference from the potter's earlier fragile, eggshell look of white stoneware vessels and fluted landscape forms.

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Kenneth Hood, deputy director of the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, quoted Marea Gazzard in his Craft International interview: "My principal interest is in three-dimensional shapes that help form a particular environment. That is why my work becomes more sculptural than not. I wouldn't call my work pottery. Pottery, I think, is defined as an object for use. I am just making objects."

She admits to many influences -- Greek, pre-Columbian, European, Oriental. But her primary concern has been to try to convey in clay something of her feeling for the rocks, land, and Aborigines of her native Australia. "I kept looking at rocks," she explained, "and liked the way sometimes one sees a shape in a rock that looks human. I . . . wanted . . . the viewer [to] wonder . . . is it a rock, or is it a figure?"

Mrs. Gazzard, who was born of Greek and English immigrants to Australia, began to study ceramics by sheer fluke. She enrolled at a Sydney technical school for a course in dressmaking so she might make her own clothes. By mistake, she was sent instead to a pottery-making class. After a few sessions in the "wrong" class, she discovered that she had not only found the right medium but the right direction for her creative energies, and a new career as well.

Mrs. Gazzard has been involved with the World Crafts Council -- in positions of increasing responsibility -- since 1968. Has been a government craft adviser to New Guinea and a guest artist at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine. She has been visiting lecturer in ceramics at Alexander Mackie College of Advanced Education in Australia, and her reputation as an artist of note has widened through her work chosen for 14 group exhibitions in Australia and abroad. Her work is included in many museum and private collections.

Today, as president of the World Crafts Council, she feels highly optimistic. "It is a rich time for the crafts," she said here. "There are a lot of good things happening.

There is an increased awareness of crafts all over the world. Governments are more concerned about their craftspeople, as is the United Nations. It is now our job to strengthen our network of 86 member nations, and to provide better communications and better examples."

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