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South St Gallery has closed its doors with the man behind it honoured as the ‘go-to man’ of ceramics and an all round great bloke, Judith Ritchie of the Nelson Mail reports.
Mike Rogers is a legend. He’s the ‘go-to man’ of ceramics in the region, and some say, the
country. Rogers is much loved and will be missed as the frontman of a gallery that has been a hub for potters for nearly 40 years.
On Sunday, after a gathering of potters, friends and supporters, South St Gallery closed its rustic doors.
The ever-positive Rogers has sold the building and is having some well-earned quiet time after greeting thousands of customers at the door. Potters adore his passion, generosity and unwavering understated support. He has clearly had a ball running his eclectic gallery.
‘‘You can’t call this a job,’’ he says. ‘‘It’s a life’s passion.’’ He is proud of the people he’s sold for, the standard of work and remembers those who have come and gone.
Potters who have sold works at South St include Jack Laird, Meg Latham, the late Ross Richards and Harry and Mary Davis.
Those selling their work at the gallery until recently were Sue Dasler, Sophie Holt, Maxine Waters, Anna Barnett, Russell Harding, Tania Grey, Darryl Frost, Sue Newitt, Steve Fullmer, Carl Vendelbosch, Kirsten Boswijk, Michael Potter and Doreen Linder.
Traditional values permeate Rogers life, from his down to earth appearance behind the counter in blue overalls and jandals, his convivial conversations with customers, to the humble wrapping paper of purchases in newspaper. Potters speak of friendships spanning decades and the humbleness of a man who prefers to stay in the background when it comes to accolades. Jan Moresby started behind the counter at South St Gallery some 30 years ago. She thought about retiring several times, but stayed on because she loved working with Rogers so much. She retired last year, aged 70. ‘‘He’s special with a capital S,’’
Moresby says. ‘‘It was an absolute joy and privilege to work there, I learnt so much, I’m really going to miss it.’’ Moresby agrees Rogers is the consummate ‘‘go-to-man’’ who always had time to help people out. ‘‘He’s a man of principles, a family man and a confidant to so many people,’’ Moresby says. ‘‘He’s got that sort of magnetic personality"
Sue Newitt has sold work through South St Gallery for 25 years, becoming close friends with Rogers. ‘‘He’s probably one of the most supportive people around for anyone who’s into clay,’’ Newitt says. ‘‘Not just here in Nelson, but anyone around the country, giving advice, giving a lot of people a chance to try their work out in the gallery, supplying clay.’’ She says Rogers has done so much behind the scenes, from supporting Nelson Craft Potters and Community Potters to being the driving force behind bringing potters together from Nelson, Marlborough and Blenheim for the Contemporary Ceramics Exhibition at the Refinery ArtSpace last year. ‘‘Mike’s energy, really, got that exhibition up and going, he was very much the instigator of that exhibition, but didn’t want his name mentioned. That’s just Mike.’’
She is unsure of what will happen next for potters in the region. ‘‘Everybody’s so gutted, South St has been the only designated gallery for ceramics, possibly in New Zealand.’’ Newitt says. ‘‘For all of us, it’s a bit of a wait and see moment.’’
Another good buddy and long- time potter, Steve Fullmer has known Rogers ‘‘since the beginning’’. He tells of a friendship that
grew from a shared love of ceramics, a mutual appreciation of wit, and each other’s skills. ‘‘He’s a really awesome human being; whatever anyone had troubles with, Mike could fix, like pyrometers, electrodes and electric elements in kilns,’’ Fullmer says. He mentions Roger’s generosity of spirit, quietly supporting Nelson College for Girls students over the years, by offering work experience in the gallery on Saturdays. ‘‘Once the girls had graduated from school and were about to leave for university or whatever, Mike would give them a care package,’’ Fullmer says. ‘‘Like a box with wine, cheeses, all sorts. That’s how kind he is.’’
Fullmer thinks the closure of South St will impact on the livelihoods of many ceramic artists, in Nelson and beyond. Rogers believes ceramics in the region has a great future. ‘‘The masters are still here, the new ones are getting more proficient, ‘‘ Rogers says. ‘‘Artists can keep a profile in the region, I can see them approaching existing commercial galleries and other options out there that are a totally different mindset. It’ll be all right.’’
New Zealand Potters (Inc.)
Registered as an incorporated society in 1965 by an enthusiastic group of potters in Wellington, New Zealand, NZ Potters (Inc.) has grown to become a significant international voice in New Zealand ceramics. The affiliation of about three dozen independent pottery clubs throughout New Zealand together with a number of corporate businesses greatly increases its effective membership. We are a national, not-for-profit organisation representing the interests of practising potters and ceramicists, students of ceramics and all those interested in New Zealand ceramics. We actively support and promote quality, and we encourage and support specialist ceramics education nationally.