In the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle in February this year, Holly Morgan of Napier ceramics studio Morganmade sprang into action, asking herself how she could help her community start to heal.

Morgan views her practice as a channel for storytelling, and as the theme of water “crept into her psyche” she invited locals across Hawke’s Bay to join her in creating simple pinch pots with their hands.

From grandmothers to little ones, locals from all walks of life dropped by to process trauma through clay’s therapeutic properties – or just take respite from the challenges of the cyclone’s aftermath. Morgan glazed and fired the pinch pots and strung them together to form a five-metre-long rain chain, adding forged brass elements to finish the collective work in collaboration with local jeweller Vanessa Arthur.

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On June 10, the rain chain will be exhibited at Hastings gallery Ākina in Morgan’s first solo show, along with accompanying photographic prints and several other ceramic pieces glazed in the same silt that wreaked havoc throughout Hawke’s Bay during the storm. The show is titled No Control in a nod to our relationship with the ever-wilder weather.

“When the storm happened, everything was stripped away,” says Morgan. “All I had was water in the house. Turning the tap on and off every day, we take water for granted. Yet metric tonnes of water had tsunami-like effects for the entire community.”

At her wheel, Morgan worked intuitively to find form for her reflections on water’s dual potential to heal and harm. “We as humans go to water for life and vitality. Water evokes calmness in the soul, but it can also be terrifying and apocalyptic,” she says.

Morgan’s meditations are embodied in a series of vessels that receive, hold and release water. They collectively draw attention to the full spectrum of interactions and emotions prompted by water’s ebbs and flows. The silt glaze achieved a striking, deep purple-toned black, and the pieces exude a subtle sheen.

A symbolic ceramic sink, the show’s namesake piece, is joined by generously proportioned vessels and a pitcher encircled by a set of 11 cups, the same number of lives the cyclone tragically claimed.

No Control is both a celebration of community resilience and a means to give back to it. Morgan is auctioning her work Old Man River, a rotund water-storage vessel, for charity. The bidding is now open via Trademe. Proceeds will be distributed between several charities, including domestic violence support provider Shine, the Mental Health Foundation, and Kōanga Gardens heritage seed recovery.

“The auction was a way I could raise some money for the smaller organisations that can't access immediate funds and will continue to need support from the wider community,” says Morgan. “I'm a firm believer that a little goes a long way, and that every bit counts.”

No Control, June 10–18, 2023 at Ākina, 319 Heretaunga Street East, Hastings. Artist talk at 2pm, June 17. Find the Old Man River Trademe auction here.