Yvonne Rust: Maverick Spirit, by Theresa Sjoquist

by Helen Martin
Helensville has many artists, as we see by the fabulous variety of work on display each year during Labour Weekend’s Arts in the Ville. Ask any of them about the source of their inspiration and one thing they’ll talk about is the people who have been important to them in their lives. The late Helensville artist Noeleen Healey, a wonderful woman who, as a teacher and artist, inspired many people, was herself greatly inspired by incomparable potter, painter, teacher and mentor, the late Yvonne Rust, describing her in an interview as someone who “constantly sits on my shoulder”.
Rust was a big personality, a woman who influenced everyone who crossed her path, artist or not. When I met her in the early 1970s she was in full flight, combining her two great loves, making beautiful pottery and running workshops from her studio in Whangarei. I remember her telling me firmly that if I wasn’t a potterit was time I got started. That was not my calling but, because she looked me in the eye and called me Chum (the name she gave everyone), it really felt like she had my best interests at heart.
Rust’s huge and enduring influence on artists and craftspeople in New Zealand is painstakingly detailed in Helensville writer Theresa Sjoquist’s biography ‘Yvonne Rust: Maverick Spirit’, published by David Ling in 2011. It’s a great read, beginning with stories of Rust’s childhood in the Far North during the Depression years, following her every move as she grew into the towering figure she became. The liberal use of Rust’s own words, taken from various attempts at getting her story down on paper, adds depth to the narrative and the generous photographs of people and places, as well as of Rust’s work, provide fascinating visual illustration. If you’re at all interested in the arts it’s a book that, having read it once, you’ll want to keep going back to for another hit.
‘Yvonne Rust: Maverick Spirit’ can be ordered direct through the website theresasjoquist.com. It is also available at libraries and at The Quarry Art Centre, Whangarei, known widely as Yvonne Rust’s enduring legacy.

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