Dangerous isn't a word usually associated with making pottery. But the process, from handling raw clay right through to clean-up, can be hazardous to health if it's not managed properly.
"Basically the clay we work with as potters, doesn't matter where it comes from, contains a certain amount of silica," said the newly appointed Regional Councillor for the NZ Ceramics Association, Karla Marie.
"Silica is a very, very fine dust that can quite easily get up and into the air. And when you inhale, it's such fine particles and your body doesn't know how to process it or purge it, so it builds up in your lungs. And when your lungs reach a certain level of build-up then you can develop a disease called silicosis," she said.
Marie is an industrial health and safety expert and has transferred her knowledge to ceramics.
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"I looked after health and safety at a very large aluminium refinery. Health and safety systems have been drummed into me but it took me a minute when I got into pottery, to flip my brain into the health and safety aspects."
Marie says silica dust is sometimes referred to as the new asbestos. And while alarming, simple practices will keep potters safe, like keeping the studio whistle-clean. Even the smallest piece of dry clay is a potential risk. A comprehensive book called "Potters Beware" written in the '70s by New Zealander Rosemary Perry, warns of the dangers and has just been made available online.
Popular on Instagram, Marie teaches pottery in her Wellington Studio and is looking forward to the opportunity to share her knowledge with even more potters.
Part of her new role is to connect with the many pottery societies and studios from Taranaki to Wellington, to see how the national organisation can support them and make sure their events are on the national calendar.
This year the Ceramic Association celebrates the 60th anniversary of the first exhibition by Studio Potters.
• All members have until August 20 to submit works. Entry forms are online at www.ceramics.org.nz.
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