When Tony Sly came out of the movies at Rialto one winter evening in 2017, opening a store in Newmarket was the last thing on his mind. But walking back to his car he saw a ‘for lease’ sign in Teed Street and he realised he’d just found his second New Zealand pottery store.
Tony has been a potter for more than 30 years. “I did a night-class in Hamilton; it was love at first sight. I was mad keen and I never stopped.” He moved to Raglan in 2002 and his famous studio and shop on Raglan Wharf has been drawing visitors to the picturesque Waikato surfing town ever since.
Tony Sly Raglan Wharf is now also on Teed Street oposite Bambina. The new store offers not just Tony’s signature range of ceramics and dinnerware inspired by the blues, greens and chalky whites of Raglan harbour, but also a beautifully curated range of kitchen accessories and homewares.
“I love cooking – that’s how I decide whether or not to introduce a new colour or shape.”
His Raglan studio consists of a team of four, operating like the kitchen squad of a high-end restaurant. “We make about 100 pieces a day and I do all the hand-throwing on the wheel. So, I’m like the head chef really – passing it on to the next person. The throwing takes just a minute or two but each piece takes about four weeks and 23 steps to be finished. It’s hard, physical labour but we want to make an honest product, not something that’s faux.”
Tony’s bowls and plates are robust and utilitarian, and the kitchen is his testing ground. “Things last and I keep using them, or they get pushed to the back of the cupboard,” Tony laughs. “I love cooking – that’s how I decide whether or not to introduce a new colour or shape.” It’s a testament to his instincts that Tony’s newest glaze, a glistening inky grey, has been a runaway success.
“Making pottery still feels no different to that first night-class”, Tony says. “I’m lucky to be able to do this every day of my life.”