Len Castle, Born in Auckland in 1924, Castle graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 1946 from University of Auckland and trained as a secondary school teacher, eventually taking a lecturing position at the Auckland College of Education. His first experience of pottery was as a 10-year-old, seeing Olive Jones demonstrating at the Auckland Easter Show.
Castle began making his first pottery in 1947 and took night classes with Robert Nettleton Field at Avondale College, Auckland. In 1956 he moved to St Ives, Cornwall for a year to work with Bernard Leach and became a full-time potter in 1963. The same year he helped establish the New Zealand Society of Potters.
In the early 1960s he had an architecturally designed house built in the bush of the Waitakere Ranges at 20 Tawini Road, Titirangi, with a kiln and rail system out the back, and a low basement which allowed pottery to be exhibited. Turning room for tour buses was provided in the street outside.
The Boyes family which bought the house demolished the kiln; however, the bricks from it form the paving round the lower part of the house, and shards from discarded pottery works can still be found amongst the clay soil of the bush behind.
In the early 1950s, Castle met Theo Schoon and Schoon decorated the surfaces of pots thrown and fired by Castle. In the 1960’s Schoon introduced him to the geothermal areas of the central North Island of New Zealand. Castle has continued to photograph this landscape area, which is also reflected in his pottery.
With the death of Len Castle, New Zealand lost one of its greatest potters who developed a long and innovative approach to clay that can be bound up in the search for national identity.
Castle began working with clay from 1947 experimenting with commercial clays and Westmere beach sand. He was a natural, understanding both its composition and plasticity. Recognition from Auckland Society of Arts and Auckland Art Gallery came during this time. His forms reflected broad influences – a leaning towards modernism through Crown Lynn and Scandinavian design, otherwise Bernard Leach’s Anglo-Oriental vision where oriental glazes and English slip ware were both experimented.
From the late 1960’s, Castle began to reach beyond the Anglo-Oriental and create new unglazed forms that reflected his fascination for the inner qualities of clay. He talked about the process of rolling, folding, stretching and compressing clay that brought strong textural qualities which, at the time, Castle maintained were interpreted wrongly by others to suggest an association with natural forms.