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Kowhai Art & Craft History

The Founding of our Club

In 1974 a group of five ex-night school potters, under the tutorlege of Mooreen Cameron of Point Wells decided to continue the craft together and find premises in which to work instead of meeting in private homes. When offered the use of a disused cow shed on the farm of Mr and Mrs Mann at Sandspit they named it the “Mud Slingers Inn” and held fortnightly meetings. They raised funds for a kiln but then discovered the kiln could not be transported up the steep track to the cowshed! It ended up in the Speed’s garage until it was kindly given space by Peter Thompson at the Warkworth Hire Centre in Woodcocks Road. 

From then on the need for better premises was imperative. They decided to formalise the club and formed a committee of Mooreen Cameron, Judy Cairns, Peg Gardiner and Edythe Sharp. Membership was limited to 20 because of the lack of facilities.

Kowhai Crafts began life in 1975 as an idea to have a central club for all different crafts people of Warkworth. The aim was to establish a community arts and crafts centre in Warkworth, incorporating a studio – workshop and a display/sales area. The group members felt very strongly that there was a need for this in the town as the district contained many talented and diverse craftsmen and women who would be willing to teach. It could also be a tourist attraction for the Kowhai town.

Members who attended the First A.G.M. of Kowhai Crafts held in the “Cowshed”, Sandspit:

Mooreen Cameron, Judy Cairns, Edythe Sharp, Peg Gardiner, Valerie Penred, Mina Imeson, Olive Woolman, Isobel Smailes, Dorothy Hall, Elspeth Speed, Linda Moore, Barbara Nash, Cherry Lawrie, Rosemary McFarlane, Mary Starr, Phoebe Tull, Hazel Sutherland, Jessie Oliver.

Much fund raising was undertaken to raise funds for the kiln and better premises. The Rotarians gave them a very generous donation for helping to entertain children at a Rotary exhibition with the proviso the group became an Incorporated Society. Kowhai Crafts was incorporated on the 17th August 1976. (The name was changed to Kowhai Art & Craft Incorporated on the 17th August 2000).

In 1977 the Club tendered $3,500-00 for the Keith Hay office building. The tender was accepted and after more negotiations with the A & P Society, land was leased in September 1977 and the building transported to its present site on the 15th November 1977. The grand opening of the club rooms was held on 11th November 1978, with Sir Keith and Lady Hay as honoured guests. In his address Sir Keith said that the fostering of community spirit is important in the NZ way of life and acknowledged the pioneer spirit which has been the hallmark of Kowhai Crafts Club. At the Opening of the new Club rooms the membership stood at 72.

At the end of 1977 membership was over 50. The last meeting was held in the cowshed at Sandspit on the 6th December 1977. A Newsletter from that time says “It was with a little nostalgia that we cleaned it for the last time. But for the kindness of Mr and Mrs Mann we would have been homeless for these last two years.”

It is worth noting that we could be celebrating one milestone or another from 1974 to 1978 as our Ruby Anniversary but we have chosen to make it our founding year 1975. Other celebrations can always follow!

Please contact me if you can contribute any further information.

Rosemary Burnby,   Tel: 09-425 0504 Email: