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8 June 2017

A Life Forged in Silver

Artist and Silversmith Carlina Goffe has made her living as a maker for over four decades; a massive achievement and a huge contribution to the arts around the world.


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‘Around the World in 80 Days’ was a song I remember learning as a child, however as an eight-year-old growing up in 1960s New Zealand, the concept of ‘travelling around the world’ was well beyond my comprehension.

But for artist and Silversmith Carlina Goffe, her 1960s childhood was a far cry from that of many young kiwi children growing up in Aotearoa. She was introduced to people from various parts of the world and was exposed to views that would influence her life.

Carlina was born in England, raised in conservative Sevenoaks Kent by her politically radical left wing parents. Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), United Nations, UNICEF, Amnesty International, and Oxfam were all present during her upbringing. “Home was comfortable and cultivated,” says Carlina, “My father was an internationally renowned medical scientist and my mother was a teacher, a musician and an activist.

We had Americans and Russians at our dinner table during the cold war. “I had a privileged childhood and was encouraged and nurtured in all disciplines. I was musical, creative and dyslexic. I was a messy child and a rebellious teenager and not one to follow the career paths prescribed for me by my mother and school.

“I left home when I was 17 and I got in with a hippy crowd where I had experiences that changed my worldview. I had a chance to do art again."

I loved the freedom of expression and I became passionate about making things of beauty.

Carlina attended Hornsey College of Art, an experimental year where she tried various disciplines, of which one was working in 3D. As a natural progression Carlina applied and was accepted at Middlesex Polytechnic’s course in 3D design where students were allowed to explore ideas and ‘play’ in various mediums including silversmithing.

Carlina explains, “I could take an idea from scratch turn it into a 3D abstract form then translate that into an object. I learned my own visual language and I found metal and silver in particular to be my metier. I had a brilliant teacher, John Sturgess who was my mentor at this formative time and I learned the value of work, goal setting and time management. I found something I loved doing and decided I’d like this to be my life’s work.”

At her degree show she met a chap by the name of Michael Murray who invited her to visit a workshop collective he had set up in Old Street, Clerkenwell in London. There she took bench space and with the help of a New Craftsman’s Award from the Craft Council of Great Britain, set up her own workshop.

For the next 11 years she was surrounded by ‘makers’ and developed many skills. To a great extent her most challenging work was made in these years, everything from large pieces of hollowware, to sets of spoons, medals, awards and a wide range of jewellery in gold, silver with gemstones and enamel. Many of these works were shown at exhibitions and craft shows in London and throughout the United Kingdom.

By 1980 she started working in Covent Garden market and in the early days it was an exciting and vibrant place to work. A fabulous showcase, it fast became a prominent central London shopping and tourist destination; her business flourished. With the birth of her children Joel in 1987 and Rose in 1989 she moved her workshop home and combined this with work at Covent Garden until 1994 when, as a family they immigrated to New Zealand.

Based in Auckland, Carlina got involved with the local art community. She was a founding member of Gallery 3 Collective located on one of Devonport’s main-streets. They traded for 13 years and this enabled Carlina to make inroads locally as a ‘maker’.

She later took a space at Clarence Street Studios in Devonport and by now was exhibiting and selling in galleries across New Zealand. Whilst her workshop remained in Devonport, she chose to make Grey Lynn her home. Carlina worked part time in the retail outlet ‘Pots of Ponsonby’ which was located in the heart of Three Lamps at that time.

In 2008 she opened ‘Carlina Goffe Silversmith Gallery and Workshop’ on Great North Road in Grey Lynn and over two years she had seven exhibitions showcasing other peoples work as well as her own.

Finally Carlina built a studio in her back garden and it’s from this studio that the idea of a six-month-long, worldwide ‘making’ project she aptly named ‘From Here to There and Back Again’, was born. She mapped out her project and decided what countries to visit. It was 2012 she travelled around the world to 13 countries, worked in local studios and made works influenced by the environments she visited. Jamaica held special significance for Carlina as this was where her paternal grandfather came from. The pieces she made here were some of her most beautiful.

 Upon her return to New Zealand and to complete the project she toured the North and South Islands and made pieces inspired by the various locations she stayed at. Throughout her trip she wrote a blog which was published in Ponsonby News as a lead up to the 2013 ‘From Here to There and Back Again’ exhibition at Waiheke Art Gallery.

Her next project however was to be much closer to home. She opened a Christmas Pop up shop at Black Crow in Grey Lynn and for the next two years produced a range of work, mainly jewellery and precious objects; this was a busy and successful local venture.

Carlina continues to work from her garden studio in Grey Lynn. She holds home-based open days and remains involved with group exhibitions across New Zealand  from Silo Markets to Burning Issues Gallery in Whangarei, Buana Satu on K’ Road and Waiheke Art Gallery. Environmental inspirations, the use of natural materials and the application of ancient techniques used in silversmithing and jewellery making are central to her practice. Working at the bench with anvil and forge and eye-hand coordination gives expression to her ideas.

Carlina speaks of natural forms and the human form in particular as being reoccurring themes in her work. Life drawing at art school and dance styles worked their magic on her imagination and she was drawn to early 20th century art for its expressive and primitive qualities. When she arrived in New Zealand however her work evolved. The extraordinary natural beauty of her adopted country and the rich European and Maori cultural mix has impacted on her later works.

She controls the entire design process from idea to delivery to the customer and believes it’s this connection with the wearer or user that gives ultimate meaning to what she does. Years on she continues to meet people who still enjoy her pieces.

Carlina fully intends to continue with the challenges and the rewards of being a creative maker in the community and to mentor some of those starting out. She has made her living as a maker for over four decades; a massive achievement and a huge contribution to the arts around the world.

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