Remuera’s is golden-yellow ochre and Te Atatu’s is French vanilla. In Grey Lynn within a single street it varies from bright, fiery orange terracotta to creamy mushroom. Clay, that is. “Across Auckland seams of clay flow underground and it’s so lovely that I’ve taken a hunk out of the earth and put it straight on the wheel,” says potter Kirsten Dryburgh. “Auckland is a whole colour palette of clay.” When her neighbours dug a swimming pool, Kirsten was there with a wheelbarrow carting away the clay that usually gets thrown aside.

In her home studio, once used to house circus props, Kirsten creates domestic ware – vases, cups, plates, candlesticks and bowls – in a wonderfully varied display of styles, forms and textures. Blocky vases inspired by Brutalist architecture sit alongside the draped fluid lines of palest pink platters and nubbly gravel-textured espresso cups, cool, speckled earthy tones next to rich glazes of green and turquoise.

A self-taught studio potter with a background in illustration and floristry, and a degree from Elam Art School majoring in sculpture, Kirsten describes herself as a total nerd with an artist’s eye and a sciency side. It’s all about chemistry and colour, she says, of her current interest experimenting with glazes. So take a nerd, add deep curiosity, a good dose of science and lots of trial and error and you get Kirsten’s latest project: a green glaze inspired by San Pellegrino mineral water. An idle moment glancing at the label led Kirsten to experiment with a glaze made completely from the mineral content listed on the side of the bottle. A bit of maths to scale it up and tweaking the blend to allow for the temperature and an ‘I wonder if…’ moment at a café table has led to a new range of work with gorgeous green finishes.

It’s no surprise that Kirsten says, “Pottery keeps me so entertained. I can’t get bored; there are a thousand things to think about.”

Looking backwards to go forwards, Kirsten has recently made a range of olive oil lamps, modelled on those used in Roman times. “I love the way that pottery has been used through centuries. [The lamps] are a beautiful, simple idea and it seems sensible to be looking back.” And, when gathering from the past to bring ideas to the future, what better medium than the clay that has lain beneath our feet. @dryburghpottery TRACY WHITMEY