Stephen Smith is the talented Auckland-based ceramicist behind Author Ceramics. Drawing inspiration from nostalgia, Aotearoa’s stunning coastline, storytelling, and the essence of human relationships, Smith creates both sculptural and functional pieces that captivate the senses. His work is a tribute to the natural world, with each piece crafted to evoke a sense of tactile satisfaction. What sets Smith’s creations apart is his incorporation of meaningful elements from the landscape: he blends sand from cherished family beaches directly into the clay, infusing each piece with personal significance. The resulting speckled finish gives each fired work its own unique character, forging a tangible link between the art and its natural origins.

Smith was inspired to begin working with clay after wanting to create all of the dining plates for his wedding to wife, Lilly. He hired a pottery wheel and, alongside a few online tutorials, taught himself to throw. Shortly after, he dedicated himself to working with clay full time. For their first wedding anniversary, Smith wanted to capture the memory of their first date at Te Arai beach in a timeless way.  He took sand from his and Lilly’s wetsuits and blended it through the clay, creating a vase that drew on the curves and form of the sand dunes. “The result changed Author’s direction forever. The natural speckle the sand created, the connection to the ocean and land just made sense. We stopped using traditional glazes and decided our story was best told using sand and clay”. Working alongside Lilly, Smith established Author Ceramics, using and sourcing New Zealand clay and sand to create works in their Auckland studio.

Pillow Vase:

The Pillow vase, a signature piece by Author Ceramics, emerged from an unexpected twist of fate in 2021. As Stephen Smith honed his pottery skills, he ambitiously attempted his tallest vase yet, standing at an impressive 18 cm. However, his pursuit of perfection led to thinning walls, causing the vase to collapse moments after shaping. Despite initial disappointment, Smith found beauty in the organic form created by the mishap—a gentle slump reminiscent of tired clay seeking rest. Thus, the Pillow vase was born.

This piece has since undergone significant evolution, with the form refined and the finish perfected over time. Initially glazed in a soft hue dubbed ‘linen’, a greeny-blue shade that complemented its form and name, the Pillow vase underwent a transformation when Smith experimented with incorporating sand into his clay. This pivotal change marked a defining moment for Author Ceramics, ushering in a new era of artistic exploration and innovation.

Marlowe vase: 

More than just a vase, the Marlowe Vase is a heartfelt tribute to the artist’s beloved daughter, Marlowe—an embodiment of her vibrant and spirited personality. Marlowe’s infectious energy and boundless joy inspired Stephen Smith to create this unique piece, which originally stemmed from another failed vase attempt. As Smith worked on crafting a large Pillow Vase, a moment of artistic serendipity occurred when the rim opened too wide, resulting in a beautifully waved and bent top. It sat on his shelf for months until Marlowe’s lively presence brought it to life, prompting the birth of the Marlowe Vase.

This statement piece captivates from every angle, with each vase possessing its own distinct character. Designed to accommodate large floral arrangements, whether dried, preserved, or fresh, the Marlowe Vase doubles as a striking sculptural centerpiece. Its presence sparks wonder and imagination, infusing any home or space with joy.

Crafted with a special blend of clay infused with sand from both the West and East Coast, the Marlowe Vase boasts a natural, cream-speckled finish—a homage to the raw beauty of New Zealand’s stunning coastline.

Rosa Bowl:

Introducing Rosa, a soft and gracefully wavy bowl that serves as a standout accent in any home, drawing inspiration from the artist’s beloved puppy, Rosa.

Crafted on the potter’s wheel, each bowl undergoes a transformative process of shaping and molding, resulting in a captivating organic form. Positioned between the Lilly bowl and Marlowe vase, Rosa embodies a harmonious fusion of both, offering a seamless addition to any collection. This versatile bowl shines as a centerpiece, effortlessly making a statement on its own as a work of art or when filled with fruit, elevating any table setting.

Every Rosa bowl is a unique masterpiece; while the size and design remain consistent, each piece bears subtle differences, ensuring its one-of-a-kind charm. Made with New Zealand white clay from Waikato and black sand from the West Coast, meticulously blended in the Author Ceramics studio, each bowl carries with it cherished memories of family adventures exploring the coastline.

Parnell Gallery has represented Author Ceramics since 2023.

To view all available works by Author Ceramics on our website, click here. 

All images: Author Ceramics.