The New Generation of Nelson Creatives

Jamie Smith and Tom Baker of Kiln Studio standing in their studio with a black dog.

Jamie Smith and Tom Baker

Long-time friends and fellow potters, Jamie Smith and Tom Baker are passionate about reinvigorating the creative scene in Nelson.

Words by: Petra Nyman
Photo by: Nancy Zhou

Lockdown might not have been a favourite time for many, but for Jamie Smith it worked as a period of evaluation and inspiration. Excited by the idea of a creative space where people could run workshops, he initially set up Kiln Studio with long-time friend and fellow potter Tom Baker as a combination clay studio and workshop space. It didn’t take them long to realise a full blown ceramics studio was what the space would predominantly function as.

Housed in a building divided into various creative studios on Nelson’s Bridge Street, Kiln Studio hosts regular wheel-throwing and hand-building ceramics classes, offers studio space and pottery wheel/kiln use for local potters to rent, and runs a host of workshops throughout the year.

Jamie and Tom began their journey into clay together in Auckland nearly a decade ago. Since then, Tom has ventured to Japan to study ceramics, while Jamie continued his practice in New Zealand. When it came to setting up a ceramics studio in Jamie’s hometown, it seemed inevitable that the pair would take on the project together.   ‘We decided we needed to be the change we wanted to see,’ Jamie says, thinking back to the early stages of setting up Kiln Studio.

While Nelson has a rich history in ceramics, the craft has gone uncelebrated by the mainstream in our modern time.  ‘People can pick up cheap ceramics from box stores, but there’s no connection to who has made them. Your morning coffee should be from a cup that’s been handmade by someone – then there’s a relationship to the piece and your coffee tastes better’,  Tom argues.

Jamie and Tom want to re-invigorate the creative community in Nelson and hope to, at the same time, grow the appreciation of ceramic art. They are passionate about quality handmade products that are timeless and last for years or generations. In order to celebrate ceramics in all forms and showcase them to the public, Jamie and Tom took on a lease for a gallery space a few blocks from their studio on Hardy Street. The Kiln Gallery displays ceramic arts and functional pieces that are available for purchase and will host artist residencies and solo exhibitions in the future.

Jamie Smith and Tom Baker's Neat Places