For five years, I was like a modern-day nomad, living in New York and Berlin. This bronze cast replica of the Venus of Willendorf is one of the precious objects I took with me on that journey, connecting me back to my mother and to my sense of home. Now I keep her on my windowsill, so it's something I see every day.
The Venus is a literal touchstone to me, small enough to hold in one hand. The original is housed in the Natural History Museum in Vienna and was made [from limestone] around 25,000 years ago.
I find it beyond fascinating that this totem has time-travelled from the past and that we can hold her in the present — and potentially she'll travel into the future as a pop icon. A few months ago, I saw that Mattel has made a replica of her as Barbie, which is so absurd but also kind of awesome because there are all these issues around female idealism.
My mother [the artist Maree Horner] gifted the Venus to me when I was in my early teens as a kind of female power symbol. I was a 1970s child with a 1970s mother who brought me up to believe girls could do anything. I'm definitely a feminist-plus. I'm also very sentimental. I own all my teeth from my childhood — I didn't give any to the tooth fairy — so I'm an archivist from way back.
The Venus is important to me because she makes me think outside of my lifetime and immediately connects me to a greater sense of time and space. In my ceramics and clay work, I'm interested in touch and human trace, and how it affects history geomorphically. Objects tell our times and stories, and can hold such collective cultural significance.
Another layer of connection here for me is what I call my German fairy tales. Some of the people who are pivotal to my life, including my partner [film-maker Florian Habicht] who's Austro-German, and my grandmother, who's Croatian, come from a similar area to where the Venus was found.
My work operates in a contemporary ceramic context, with layers into fine art. It's quite mad, but on the other hand, it's quite formal. I am so in love with clay. When it dries, it changes energy — almost like witnessing the process of life and death in nature.
For the past six years, I've really put my head down and been committed to my practice in an emerging artist kind of way; it's not all easy and it takes quite a lot of perseverance and trust.
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When I got funding from Creative New Zealand to make the Disastrous Forms project during lockdown last year, it sparked some exciting avenues for my ceramic work in relation to digital platforms. I made an event on Auckland Live's digital stage that played as a video piece. It had a soundtrack and I animated some of the pieces so it became quite kaleidoscopic. It was like a rave, actually.
It also presents some challenges that are part of the work because it's been made in response to the climate crisis, about how we should live in ourselves, what our objects are and how they are archived and carried through time. We're all in this crisis together and maybe it's asking some important questions.
— as told to Joanna Wane
Northland-based artist Teresa Peters won the 2021 Premier Portage Ceramic Award with "ECHOES", a photograph of a clay collection she created for DISASTROUSFORMS.COM, an online exhibition inspired by a trip to Pompeii and Auckland Museum's Natural History Collections Online. Work by all the award finalists is on show at Auckland's Te Uru Waitākere Contemporary Gallery until February 27, 2022.