Louise Rive and Chuck Joseph established EDGE CITY art studio and clay workshop. Since 1981 EDGE CITY has been located in a distinctive wedge shaped building in the fork of the road between Garnet and Old Mill Roads in Westmere, Auckland, New Zealand. More recently the clay workshop has been moved to Mangere Bridge with the painting studio and shop still in Westmere, at 8 Garnet Road.
EDGE CITY in pictures: Top Left: 1981 - 1994 (Painting by Chuck Joseph 1986), Top Right: 1997 - 2002, Center Left: 2002 - 2004, Bottom Left: Entry through the green door at 65 Old Mill Road 2005 - 2008, Bottom Right: 2009 to now.
EDGE CITY in the past - through the public eye
Louise Rive - Cover, New Zealand Potter Magazine 1992. Chuck Joseph - Cover, New Zealand Potter Magazine 1997
Style ART with Steve Dickinson. 1992
...Edge City is not an easy gallery to find, tucked away in Old Mill Road behind the zoo in Grey Lynn. The gallery is owned by two committed individuals who have created an environment that allows them to sell and display their own work without getting caught up in the so called gallery scene. Chuck Joseph and Louise Rive have cultured the Edge City gallery over the last six years to become an extension of the work they do. The large painted clown juggling fish bones and pictures and pots on the outside wall sets the scene for within. On opening the door you are bombarded by a spectrum of colour and although the space is cramped, it has a welcoming scene of involvement. You have to squeeze past Joseph as he is working on a large painting that juts out into the showroom. This closeness to creating artists gives a friendly warm ambience. Paintings or pottery are all that you will find here and although the styles are similar there are very clear differences in the contributions of each artist. Louise Rive's work is very strong and perhaps more subtle than her counterpart. She is deeply concerned with her work which reflects her own experience whether it be as a daughter, lover or mother. Her latest piece entitled I'm just Singing my Song, shows her strong sense of coming from within herself and her reaction to the relationships of those around her. Nakedness features extensively in both paintings and pottery "Nakedness doesn't sit well with secrets." This desire to create openly and honestly in a theme approach gives the work a unique attribute. Chuck Joseph is more of a story teller. His work is full of humour and he maintains that it is the story telling and expression of his life. Symbolism and strength of colour are the specific features of his work. His simplistic way of working in paint shows a need to make his story very clear. Picture frames are used as a part of the canvas and give the image an uncontained essence. This need to get the message told is once again reflected in where he works. There is no cloistered studio where he sits in isolation for hours, but he is right there amongst the buying public doing his work and involving anyone who wants to be involved. Edge City is less of a place to buy work - rather an extension to the artwork created there. It is a life style, a new way of involving the public without having to fit a style to the fashions of the day. The bizarre uniqueness of the pottery pieces that are created, their humour and the quality of craftsmanship have always been consistent. There has of course been economic reality and this has meant that work has had to be kept within a regime of both size and price. Even so there has never had to be a compromise on the concept and quality of the work produced. Rive and Joseph enjoy their own environment of display and work, as Rive explains. "We have control of how the work is displayed our work stands and falls on its own merit and neither of us wants to deal with unnecessary hurdles that involvement with other people implies." New Zealand is rich in high quality art, whether it be painting, pottery, sculpture, or craft. You can find such art throughout the country in galleries run by people who appreciate quality work and wish to support and encourage artists who are committed to the search for excellence.
NZ Home & Building Vicki Holder 1990
Come to the Edge
We might fall
Come to the Edge
It's too high
Come to the Edge.
And they came
And he pushed
And they flew.
the words attributed to the philosopher Apollinaire by poet C. Logue are framed on the wall of Edge City Studio, in Westmere, Auckland. They hold special significance for artists Louise Rive and Chuck Joseph as they were the final piece of inspiration needed to take the plunge in establishing their own studio as a commercial outlet for their artworks in Auckland. Chuck had worked as a teacher and was an art advisor in Whangarei. Louise had completed a BFA at Elam concentrating mainly on printmaking and painting. When they were in Whangarei, there was a lot of experimentation among schools doing primitive pottery firing techniques and raku work. Being caught up in the scene, they couldn't help but become involved. Louise says: "We wanted a studio space with the notion we would produce all sorts of artworks." Ten years ago the moved to an old shop with a house neatly positioned out the back between the intersection of two roads in Westmere. Here they set up shop and home, back to back. Apollinaire's message now pervades their whole approach to living and working at Edge City Studio. Brightly painted planets, like a comic book rendition of a scene from outer space, make an appropriate statement on the shop's pink facade from which sprouts a broad, green, corrugated iron veranda. In the physical sense the studio is located on the original town planning outer road limit surrounding the city of Auckland. And metaphorically, Louise and Chuck continue to experiment with new techniques and ideas, drawing inspiration from books and the scene around them. In their studio they are surrounded by a constantly changing wonderland of colourful ceramic pieces - toys for adults - with a unique Auckland or New Zealand flavour. They have captured something essentially New Zealand: the images; the humour; the flora and fauna; the landscape; the cityscapes; cartoon and movie characters; the rituals and institutions. Western Springs and Auckland's immediate environment, the view from the kitchen window, provide Louise and Chuck with a wealth of ideas for decoration. They are forever wandering the parks with their sketching pads and cameras recording the things they see around them. The cabbage trees and raupo plant, the arising cityscape and shells are ever-recurring images on canvases, bowls and vessels. Some of the vegetation is sadly becoming less commonly seen. "The cabbage trees at Western Springs have gone now," says Chuck. "We used to get a view of Rangitoto so we used that a lot. Since we've been here the skyscrapers have moved in." Hence the proliferation of stylised skyscrapers in the studio. Fish are another popular theme of Chuck's. "You just can't get away from fish in New Zealand. Schnapper, John Dory, hammerheads, barracuda catching them, eating them - it's a very New Zealand thing and people respond to them. Even the piranhas in the sardine can. Although we don't have piranhas in New Zealand, people can relate to the humour. It's a reflection of living in the city in New Zealand." Chuck's Electric Blue Kiwi is a reaction to the delicate paua and silver varieties available in every souvenir store. "I wanted to make him more substantial. He's not a wimp as he's portrayed. He's got incredible thighs." Chuck has elevated New Zealand's national symbol to a more lofty position as a "superhero". "Our daughter gets used a lot as a model," says Louise. "She has a lovely, gentle face which is a good form to work from." Stylised female faces are found on many of Louise's most recent works: vases; bowls; pots; candleholders; paper and canvas.
When they first started working in the studio, they were mainly using clay. "We had a narrow idea of what we could do with it. But the best thing is you can do what you want, it's just a matter of developing skills and learning how to do it so that you get a smaller failure rate. It's also about learning new ways of decorating. We ended up painting onto clay," says Louise. "But we are fairly lateral with our ideas. Every surface can be painted on. Now we go from paper to canvas to a cup, bowl or sculpture, or the other way around." The New Zealand-ness of their works makes it inherently sought after by ex-patriots keen to take a memento back to their adopted land. The pieces are also popular with visitors to New Zealand who recognise the combination of beauty, wit and souvenir-like nature of Edge City works. As an alternative to the souvenir shops found in the more familiar tourist drawcards, Edge City does New Zealand and New Zealanders proud. Every time you visit the shop the works on display seem to have changed. There is always something just perfect for somebody you know who is about to celebrate a birthday. It is impossible to walk out empty handed.
NZ Potter Maggie Blake 1991
It is 10 years since Louise Rive and Chuck Joseph gave up rural life and decided to become potters. The couple and their two children had tried living in Tolaga Bay on the east coast and up north in Hikurangi. Chuck had worked as a primary school teacher with a special interest in art - and Elam-trained Louise had concentrated on motherhood. They both decided at the same time that they needed a change in direction. "When we got to nervous breakdown stage, we decided we would pursue the old dream of having an art studio where we could pursue a variety of work," says Chuck. They came back to Auckland and hunted for a home finding one eventually in Westmere, close to the zoo - with an old shop attached that they could use as a studio. They decided to make clay their prime medium. "We knew people who were potters and making a living out of it and we knew that New Zealanders were educated to buy things in clay," said Louise. "No-one was making a living out of painting - but they were out of clay." Chuck had been working as an arts adviser in Whangarei and had experimented with some raku firings. Louise had been taking a Saturday art class and had included clay work in the programme. In Auckland, they were lucky enough to know a potter called Julian Pirie, who was kind enough to show them the ropes and lend them his kiln while a broken arm took three months to mend. "He was very good to us, helping with the glazing and firing. We looked around and saw what people were making. They weren't making platters and they weren't decorating, so we made lots of press-moulded platters. We made our own moulds and didn't even go near a wheel for five years." They took their first firing to Pete Sinclair who owned a Herne Bay pottery shop called Alicat. He bought the entire firing - except for a couple of cracked pieces. Louise and Chuck went out and bought themselves a new 11 cu ft LPG fired kiln, rolled up their sleeves and got on with it. "it has taken us years to get this kiln going just right," says Chuck. Even so there are still a few post-firing blues for the pieces that don't live up to expectation when they emerge from the kiln. When that happens "all I want to do is make another one," says Louise. Although the couple are getting more and more proficient at the technical side of pottery - they still endure high levels of anxiety. "You want control," explains Chuck. You stick it in the kiln and fire it up to 1300'C for 10 hours in this swirling, boiling hot atmosphere - and you hope it's all going to come out sitting still. Two out of three firings come out perfect - and the third doesn't. A bit of fibre will plop down on a really nice piece or it will have been sitting in a cold spot." Although the couple use colour and decoration on all their pots they have stuck with stoneware - with the occasional terra cotta firing, later decorated with matt enamel paint. They gave up producing pots with brown and shino glazes because "we couldn't sell them for love or money"."We used to use Nelson GB2-, an iron-rich clay, but we gave up on that because it had dark little flecks of brown in it. Now we use Nelson SC80, a white stoneware, with a white glaze. Basically we are painters on clay and we want a good surface," says Chuck. It can take them up to two weeks to "paint up" a firing. "With some pieces we go back and back and back," says Louise. "One of my big jugs, for instance, takes at least one whole day to decorate." "Everything is made as something to decorate," says Chuck. "We have decorated more and more - and the more we decorate, the better it sells." Their oddly-shaped house juts like a boat's prow at the junction of Old Mill and Garnet Roads. It was once a grocery store, then a television repair shop. When Louise and Chuck took it over the shop front was strictly a studio, with painted over windows. They sold all their work to dealers - frequently driving around the countryside with pots, stopping at shops in various towns along the way. Then in 1986, tired of selling to dealers, they decided to take the leap, scrape the paint off the windows and open up the shop for business. "We were sick of selling to shops, satisfying the middle man and whatever limits the retailer put on you. We were doing more and more experimental work and the dealers would say things like: 'We like this - but we'll take that'." They called the place Edge City - not only because it is sited on a street once defined as the edge of Auckland - but because of an inspirational poem that hung on their studio wall.
The television repairman had told them that the place would never work as a retail spot. But the couple opened their doors anyway. Louise: "We decided that we wanted to make things so good that if they didn't sell we would want to keep them anyway." Chuck: "Also if we made really good things, people couldn't ignore them. People would have to buy them. And that's how it's worked here." The couple work very strict hours - 10am to 6pm every day of the week - with Sundays and Mondays off. Five years after taking that leap off the edge they are delighted with the results. They are also enjoying the "unexpected bonus" of meeting their customers direct. They can survive financially solely through their shop sales. If they had tried to make a go of it in the country, they believe, they would not be working with clay any more. Many of their customers live nearby, and are on the lookout for something that reflects their own environment. New Zealanders going away are also drawn to the shop for something - perhaps funny, perhaps with a parochial flavour - to remind them of home while they are away. "People love the fact that the things in our shop are made in New Zealand - and made in Westmere. New Zealanders are pretty positive about supporting New Zealanders."