Ms Shawyer’s version of Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter is called “Occupational Hazard”, a delightful, and according to the judges “slightly disturbing”, figure which made a striking statement among the less animate ceramic works in the country’s prestigious pottery contest.
That the piece was also voted the viewers’ favourite at the exhibition at Lopdell House, Titirangi, was the icing on the cake, as it were. Ms Shawyer’s previous career was largely spent in Europe as a pasticerra, or sweet pastry chef, specialising in pastiage, the art of making flowers and decorations with sugar paste.
“Typically most entrants stem from a potting background,” Ms Shawyer said of the Portage awards.
“The point of difference in my work is that I do not.
“The patisserie adorning my hatter offers a suggestion of a tea party, but more importantly acknowledges my past occupation.”
Ms Shawyer said that in times past many hatters went mad due to mercury poisoning from the chemical soaking cheaper furs.
“I allude to the madness in other occupations as well, particularly artists by referencing Duchamp in the signing of a readymade, and Van Gogh by eliminating an ear, replacing it with brushes and a loose screw.”