We spoke to Denise Porter-Howland, beloved long-time member of the ZamFam and the creative mind behind Eleventeen Ceramics.
What is your earliest memory? My earliest memory is walking a pair of red plastic doll shoes on the end of my fingers up the side of my cot.
How was Eleventeen Ceramics born? Why ceramics? I initially studied painting but I felt this perpetual battle between myself and the flatness of the canvas. I have always loved using my hands to create so while living in Melbourne I decided to sign up for a community based pottery class to learn the basics; I knew instantly that I had found my medium. The possibilities were endless. This was around 6 years ago and even though I was still very much in an experimental phase I decided to start my own brand Eleventeen Ceramics.
Who inspires you? Inspiration comes from fashion, music, my friends. Also from unexpected sources such as domestic & mundane debris. Everyday objects that deserve a platform.
Tell us about your history with Zambesi. In my teens Zambesi was like this alternative club – and I badly wanted access. I met Neville through a mutual friend after returning from London and we got on like 2 old friends, we are still like that today; We like to talk about cars a lot! When I first met Liz I thought she was other worldly, so progressive and completely ahead of her time. She showed me how to be confident in finding my own style and opened my eyes to risk taking – finding beauty in everything. There were no mistakes. The freedom these ideals presented were so very liberating. Every range Liz creates I am in awe of, I own pieces that must 30+ years old, they hang in my wardrobe like old friends.
Favourite item of clothing? My favourite item of clothing is a Zambesi brown tweed Accordian skirt in a heavy wool.
What does style mean to you? Style is personal, its about the confidence to belong to ones self. It is not necessary to be heavily brand influenced, more of an unexpected coming together of pieces & ideas. I also love the idea of a uniform.
What are you reading/watching/listening to? I am currently reading Megan Dunn’s ‘Things I Learned At Art School’ – everyone should read this even if they did not attend art school. The cover photo is by Yvonne Todd. Last night I watched ‘The Triangle of Sadness’ – This movie was such a surprise, I loved every minute. I listen to everything! But most recently a podcast on Anna Nicole Smith.
What do you dream of? At the moment I am dreaming of learning to play the guitar.
What do you love about your craft? I love that working with clay is an extremely ancient way to contain and imprint stories. It is often a personal window into my world and how I view certain objects and ideas. I also love that clay has taught me patience and balance in all aspects of my process. Most importantly I am continuing to learn and therefore grow.
Favourite song lyric? "6 Kinds of Glue Won’t Hold You"
What makes you smile? Animals!
Who/What are you really proud of? I am so very proud of my boys Jhana & Arjun, Such strong and unique personalities. Watching them both unfold over the years has been extraordinary.
Tell us something (or someone) you think we should know about. Everyone should know about Susu! Susu is a Taiwanese artist based here in Tamaki Makaurau. They use moving image, drawing and installation to carry stories of language and memory. I recently had the privilege to assist Susu on an installation at Artspace for the show ‘Between the gift and its Reprisal’. @susu_y2k
What’s next for you? I am going to be taking some time over summer to experiment with Feldspar and glazing techniques, maybe this will determine and drive a new body of work for the new year. Also swimming … lots of swimming.
ZAMBESI X ELEVENTEEN CERAMICS 'Work of Art' Candle Holder' is available in a limited edition run at select Zambesi Stores!