Doreen was born in Whangarei in 1914. She studied at Canterbury College School of Art before, in 1937 she began teacher training. A year later Dr. CE Beeby, Director of Education implemented specialist art and craft training. Doreen was one of three students chosen for this scheme in 1939.
From being an art teacher in Nelson in 1940, she became Head of the Art Department at Christchurch Teachers College in 1941. In 1951 she was made Head of the Art Department at Wellington Teachers College, staying for 21 years teaching many craft teachers and potters.
Doreen was one of fifteen potters invited to exhibit in the first New Zealand Studio Potters Exhibition in Dunedin in 1957 and was part of a small group who began the New Zealand Potter magazine in 1958. In 1968 she became President of the New Zealand Society of Potters.
She travelled widely overseas and hosted many of the visiting international potters, including Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada.
Doreen was heavily involved with the New Zealand Crafts Council and the World Craft Council Conferences. She collaborated with the photographer (and her friend), Brian Brake on two books, New Zealand Potters, Their Work and Words (1975) and Craft New Zealand (1982).
In 1980 she was awarded a CBE and in 1981 she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, London. She was made a life member of the New Zealand Society of Potters, Wellington Potters Association, the Crafts Council of New Zealand, and the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts. In 1991 she was accorded an Honorary Doctorate of Literature from Victoria University, Wellington; and was made a Dame in 2007.
Doreen died in 2009 leaving a legacy through the Blumhardt Foundation, a charitable organisation established in 2003 in order to foster craft/object art in New Zealand.