Classroom to Clay: Jennie Bate's Journey of an Educator

Classroom to Clay: Jennie Bate's Journey of an Educator

Apr 24, 2024Tracy Allan

Mastering motherhood AND starting a new creative teaching business isn't  something most new mothers aspire to do, but Nelson born Jennie Bates is well on her way to finding her balance.

Jennie Bates has tonnes of energy to support the creative aspirations of the Nelson Tasman community, establishing the new classroom/studio space last term whilst giving birth to son Remy only 14 months ago.

Kowhai Studio, located opposite the Granary in Founders Heritage Park, in the shared studio space of Fiona Sutherland. And it turns out Fiona Sutherland inspired Jennie's transition from primary school teaching to ceramics.

"Fiona was firstly my colleague at school, art teacher, then mentor and friend."

Spending 6 years in Australia, some of which as a youth worker, Jennie returned to Nelson to knuckle down and gain her teaching degree. Spotting a gap in the holiday programme market she set about to create a welcoming space for kids and adults.

"I wanted to create a welcoming space. A kids space where they can get involved and get messy with stuff. I want people to come here even if they don't feel like they are a creative. I want them to be relaxed and have a great time - and rediscover their passion for art."

How does your background in education influence your approach to teaching ceramics?

"It informs everything single thing I do!" Jennie says as she describes how she moves around the class one, engaging with every student. "One thing I has noticed is that adults don't ask questions as freely as children do."

What are the benefits of hand-building ceramics, both for adults and children?

"You can make something and have a finished project, unlike with throwing you will fail 100 times before you make something you are satisfied with. With hand-building the goal of the pinch pot IS to make something asymmetric - with no machinery necessary." 

One memorable experience Jennie reflects on occurred during a lino-cut lesson with a diverse group of students, each with unique needs ranging from high behavior issues to muteness, trauma, and language barriers. As she guided them through the process, she noticed full engagement of every single student, igniting her passion in so many ways! 

Balancing raising a 14 month old and a new business Jennie openly says "it's really hard - it's a huge struggle. There's always a compromise." However she is quick to offer words of advice to someone who is interested in starting their journey in ceramics. 

"Give it a go. Adults - stop scrolling on Instagram and Pinterest. It almost stunts your creativity."

Kowhai Studio is for the community, offering programmes for adults and children in small groups - including a holiday daytime programme.

By relaxing and igniting that creative spark Jennie wants "people to leave the space inspired!"

Mother's day is coming up... Sunday 12th May.
Instead of buying Mum another Briscoes mug, make a memory and bring Mum to Kōwhai Art Studio and paint one!

Check out Kowhai Art Studio on Instagram to find out more about the Mother's Day Workshop event. 

A new website is coming soon.