Conference Papers & Reports
  Michael Cardew Remembered
Peter Stichbury


In 1951, as a lecturer in art at an Auckland, New Zealand Teacher Training College, I won a two-year scholarship from the Association of New Zealand Art Societies to study pottery with Bernard Leach at St. Ives, Cornwall and with Michael Cardew at Abuja Potter Training Centre, Northern Nigeria. My wife and I spent just over eight months there in 1958/59.

I remembered discussions we were having with Michael when we were in Abuja about being a potter, the energy and determination involved, the type of pots we should make and how to make a living. Michael summed up his feelings about pottery and being a potter by slapping his knee and saying emphatically, 'I would hate to be a lawyer, I would hate to be a doctor, I would hate to be a banker! All I want to be is a potter'.

What more could you say to that?

And that's why we honour a man who indeed became a potter, one of the highest order. Besides which he was very human, much loved and respected for his intellect, wit, devotion and sense of humour, which we found ever present. I was his first overseas student, though he never made me feel one. The study with him at Abuja and the benefits to me have been without measure. Diane my wife joins me in acknowledging the pleasure of his friendship and the gratitude we feel towards him. It gives me pleasure to share with you a small insight into the Michael we knew and very much respected.

Cardew picked us up from the railhead at Minna at the beginning of October 1959 arriving at 2.00 a.m. in pitch darkness and took us to Abuja and home. Immediately as I stepped out of his car, I had ants biting me around the middle, so that was a wonderful introduction to Abuja! In the morning we were taken down to see our house. It was a Government, non- catering rest house, which we had all the time that we were there. We were charged twenty-one shillings a week, which Michael thought was very dear, but we had wood and water delivered, and sanitary services, all brought by the Sarakan Barracki (the keeper of the barracks).

1. This is Abuja from our back veranda, in 1959.

2. Here is the wonderful house of Michael - the 'Mud and Water Man'. All those trees have since been chopped down and it's rather barren, but it was a beautiful site, an area they called the Barracks, where there was an old fort.

3. Our large rest home.

On that same day that we arrived in Abuja we were taken down to the pottery by Michael and there was much excitement, Michael tooting madly, everybody gathering around and we were introduced. From then on I was Mr Peeta and Diane was Warrgida, mistress of the house. We did a tour of the pottery; we hadn't expected such a beautiful site, all these wonderful buildings, it was like a fairy tale really, when you think about it.

4. This is a scene from the road, in the dry season.

5. This photograph was of particular significance to Michael. He came to New Zealand in 1968 for three months to give workshops and to exhibit at the Pan Pacific Arts Festival at Christchurch. He stayed with us for six weeks, potting in my workshop. A friend and I fired all his pots in two different kilns - at home and at College, in one weekend! He came again in 1981 for just a weekend and saw a big enlargement of this slide on our wall. He just said 'Oh! Oh!'. Fortunately we'd obtained another similar copy for him to take home and he wrote about it from Wenford saying 'Your beautiful picture of those beautiful pottery training centre Abuja buildings is hanging in the toy room and is very much admired by all. It is of course the treasure and an historical document of the first importance in my private life. All those buildings having been swept away in 1973'.


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The Michael Cardew Centenary Symposium
University of Wales, Aberystwyth, UK

27 - 28 June 2001

Cardew in America
Garth Clark

Michael Cardew - His Influences in Australia
Penelope J.Collett

Leach and Cardew - The Early Years
Emmanuel Cooper

Recollections of Abuja 1961 - 1962
Peter Dick

Michael Cardew in Nigeria:
Can we Complete his Autobiography from his Diaries?

Liz Moloney

Some Reflections on Michael Cardew (1901-1983)
from the National Electronic and Video Archive of the Crafts (NEVAC)
Matthew Partington

Michael Cardew Remembered
Peter Stichbury

The Michael Cardew Centenary Symposium
University of Wales Aberystwyth

27 - 28 June 2001

Report by Jo Dahn



Michael Cardew Remembered • Issue 3