• Chantel Matthews

Stacking the unwanted cups

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

Sun 27th Sep (Reflection)

Nā tō rourou, nā taku rourou
ka ora ai te iwi

With your food basket and my food basket the people will thrive

Is the ultimate goal realising that by taking care of yourself (filling your own cup) you can then take care of others. if your well-being is good then you can contribute to others well-being. Could this be the process? Doing things that contribute to my well-being, ie art making, conceptual ideas that focus on the social, cultural, political ideas a a woman, mother, artist, wahine Māori.

Is the ultimate goal to explore what is well-being as wahine-Māori who is also pakeha, living in two worlds and what that feels, looks and sounds like. As a mother, how do I contribute to the worlds thinking, what exploration, insight can I offer as a train of thought, as research, what findings could benefit.

Wed 23 September

Level 3 WM Building, AUT, Art and Design Building

10-2pm (During Tea Station opening hours)

I recently purchased a book called Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers by Leonard Koren.

Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete
It is a beauty of things modest and humble
It is a beauty of things unconventional - Leonard Koren

I am still trying to figure out why cups as sculptures and how I got here. What does it mean to mix the domestic, humble cup with a sculpture that references or represent female forms that explore this idea of wahine (time and space) through a Te ao Māori world view? Yes, a cup is a vessel, and it is a carrier but mixing something made for kai/kitchen with the sacredness of wahine and something that symbolises wahine well-being, how does the cup fit into these concepts? I then come back to myself and use the cup as a metaphor for holding and creating space for my well-being. I think about the kai korero sessions, the cuppa tea stations, these spaces used to nourish and give through kai and create a space for others. In this act of giving, my well-being is lifted and filled with gratitude, privilege that I can do this and build connections, which we all want.

Not fully understanding these vessels, yet I am not happy with their imperfections. I consider these ideas of wabi-sabi, accept the imperfections and challenging the conventions of cups as female forms and what that means, and attempt to see their beauty for just existing, not expecting, and only accepting what they are. not entirely functional and aesthetically unsure of themselves.

The cup that just keeps giving

In pursuit of greatness without a map, 2020. Uku (Clay) ipu (Vessel) glazed in wai moana (Whaingaroa) with flora

Wed 9 Sep 2020

Level 3 WM Building, AUT, Art and Design Building

10-2pm (During Tea Station opening hours)

Taking a step back to analyse how I got to this point, I stacked the cups that were not good enough to be cups, the handmade what I call 'ugly' ones. These were given away to homes that actually loved them. Extending this idea of discarded cups or cups that did not make the cut in my eyes, I decided to take what actually was looking to be some of my best cups and stack them into forms that represented spine like female forms.

Thur 3 Sep 2020

Level 3 WM Building, AUT, Art and Design Building

10-2pm (During Tea Station opening hours)

(Turned the 10 cups I made yesterday into something else!)

I started this morning with Māori meditation Oro mai I Ngā Rangi Collective vibration, which was on Turuki Healthcare FB page. These sessions were available during level 4 and level 2 lockdown. Setting the intentions for the day, I visualised creating 3 sculptures. 3 wāhine representing myself, my mother, and my grandmother were ideas that came to mind. Given I have wanted to stack and combine cups during level 2, this seemed like the perfect time.

Taking the humble, functional cup and turning it into a form, exploring ideas of moving the cup beyond its own language to reveal something else... What if the cup shifts to symbolise wa (time and space) hine (female essence) starts to form? A cup that empties itself refills itself, bends, and curves itself to reveal itself.

In making these vessels/forms below, I found joy in the shadows the light produced. Inspired by the

tu`i ipu form and shape reminded me of a spine, the backbone, which is another consideration when creating these forms.

Stack of imperfections.

Handmade v throwing.

The two on the right were my first handmade, homemade attempts during covid lockdown. The others are my learning how to throw.

Reflective thoughts on the idea of stacking cups.

If the cups are stacked permanently then they lose their function which means they won't be filled with anything other than themselves. I think about cups not being used as a metaphor for my absence from the Marae, from the whenua. An empty whare kai, not in use or those that no longer go home because of that fracture or disconnection.

These cups pictured did not make the cut for functional cups yet sculpturally they offer something else. A fractured spine, discarded whanau, their own whakapapa seen as disfunctional by appearance. The black sheep of the whanau, that was my mother. She never made the cut and refuses to connect with a place she doesn't feel comfortable.

Thinking about the cups that will be part of kai kōrero and cuppa tea time, what if the used cups are then attached, glued permanently together based on the experience, this forming a whakapapa and relationship with each other through experience? the objects become sculptural moments.

Vessence (Vessel/Essence Exploration)

Vessence, Uku, Essence, 2020

Half Caste

Half Caste, Vessels as portraits, Uku, 2020

As a wahine of Māori and Pākehā descent, I walk in two world's. Given the dominant influence growing up was Pākehā, I know it but I don't necessarily feel it. In the Māori world, I feel it but I don't necessarily know it. this tacit knowing and unknowing locates my position in a space of in-betweenness.


These works are processes in the making as I continue to learn how to use the pottery wheel to form cups. The dipping into different glazes haphazard like have created these half caste vessels. Not quite cups, not quite functional for their purpose as I figure out their place, I also figure out mine.

wāhine vibes

"I feel you sis" - @daydreambeliever

" Gosh this sums so much up that I can relate too!" Beautiful sis" - @miriama_r

A shell doesn't try to be a rock

I don't know what korero they will fill the cups with?

An exploration of vessels as if they were portraits of mana `wahine.

Development - iteration from morning pages and kai kōrero.

Kāpu Korero

Why not the humble cup?

A cup is an ordinary object that is functional to our every day. It brings people together and, depending on the content, can provide warmth, set the tone for the day, ease tension, and bring comfort. In this context I am using a cup as a vessel for conversation.

"What it means to put experience into the vessel as if they were a portrait."

I don't know what korero they will fill the cup withs? It is an idea to make sets of cups in pairs that will be packaged and sent to wāhine with the idea that 'something' will be sent back (returned). Part of this exchange is so other wāhine can contribute to the work by sharing their experiences when using these cups. This exchange through sharing will feed a more significant concept, which is to bring wāhine together to understand and be understood through the self as wāhine, connecting through the everyday and creating embodied relationships.

I am still working through how these cups will be packaged, delivered, and what instructions will be as it is essential that the work is not directed but instead lends itself towards an intuitive act. I'm hoping to use the outcomes of these experiences as a framework to further develop object-making with concepts of mana wahine as a philosophy of wellbeing.

Key words: Self defining, inclusiveness, energy and frequencies, experiential, wairua, mauri.