Len Castle

Genre: Craft & Object Art

Country of Origin: New Zealand

Len Castle was a leading light of New Zealand's pottery movement for over six decades; a ceramic artist and potter well-known for an Anglo-Japanese aesthetic that combined a fascination with the circular form and a dramatic interpretation of landscapes and the natural environment.

Castle graduated with a science degree from the University of Auckland in 1946 and initially trained as a secondary school teacher before lecturing Auckland College of Education. He started making pottery in 1947 and in 1955 was awarded a fellowship that allowed him to study under Bernard Leach in St Ives in 1956–7, during which time he became drawn to the Oriental aesthetic.

He gave up teaching in 1963 to become a full-time potter. That same year he was a force behind the creation of the New Zealand Society of Potters.

Castle’s science training was evident in his work, saying “In my workshop, by using considerable force I cut, tear, twist and stretch blocks of clay to suggest on a micro-scale some of the aspects of the geomorphology of our restless earth.”

He has exhibited extensively throughout New Zealand and internationally, and his work is held in many major art collections including Te Papa and the Christchurch City Art Gallery.

He has twice won awards for his books; Len Castle: Potter was joint winner of the Illustrative Category of the Montana Book Awards 2003, and Len Castle: Making the Molecules Dance won the NZ Post Book Award for Best Illustrative Non-fiction in 2009.

Castle was one of the ten inaugural Arts Foundation Icons honoured in 2003, and has also received a CBE for Services to Pottery in 1986, a New Zealand Commemorative Medal in 1990, and a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for Services to Pottery in 2004.

Born in Auckland, Len Castle has long been associated with the area, living and working there. He died in 2011 aged 86.