Potter's of Perth and Western Australia - Part 1 - The Village Potters of Swan Care Retirement Village
I chose to write my first Potter's of Perth and Western Australia blog post about a perfect day.
Yesterday was a perfect day. There are days that are perfect, and then days that are PER-fect! If you know what I mean?! These PER-fect! days do not necessarily need to be profound in actions, sights, or sounds, but rather are and can be a state-of-mind, an interaction, or just a sense of pure joy.
Yesterday, I met "The Village Potters" of Swan Care Retirement Village in Bentley - a suburb of Perth, Western Australia. This group of potter's led by Margaret Frew were so lovely and welcoming. Simply spending time over tea chatting with them felt like we were reunited after a long-time of knowing one another rather than a first-time meeting. Sharing thoughts, joys, and passions - connecting as human-beings - made this a PER-fect! day.
Margaret Frew reached out to me a few days before leaving for Perth and invited me to visit their studio. I'm actually not sure at the moment whether she found one of my FB postings or an email I had sent to the pottery community around Perth telling of my goals for the trip - but nonetheless - we found each other. I was more than happy to accept the invite and visit their studio and chat.
Pictured is one of several rooms the potter's occupy at the end of one of the Village buildings.
Margaret referred to their village as finding your way around a Rabbit Warren to the studio. The Village was built in the 1960's initially as inexpensive housing for widows, and has been expanded over the years to quite a large complex of buildings.
A view of their well-lit glazing area. They mix all of their own glazes from scratch and fire to Cone 9 in electric kilns.
Rooms around the corner from the hand building room hold several Venco wheels and a place to enjoy company over tea.
Two small electric kilns outside the entrance and a larger electric kiln in a metal kiln-shed outside are the work-horses of the group.
Margaret has spent over 40 years with clay. She received an advanced diploma from TAFE (A large University System in Perth and surrounding area campuses) in ceramics - a program that no longer exists on this side of Australia.
I learned that in order to learn ceramics in Western Australia there is a reliance on community studio operations rather than a University education more recently.
The group sells their work once a month at a local Farmer's Market in order to fund purchasing more supplies. They told me that they are currently working on a large order of bowls for a wedding that will be a gift for attendees filled with garlic or cookies for a rustic and unique favor for every guest. I was glad to hear the appreciation for this group and their creations!
In visiting artists along this journey, I am asking each person several questions to get a feel for similarities and differences as I travel around Australia. I also love to connect with people through their stories and dreams.
1. Besides the basic tools of ceramic arts like wheel, slab-roller, extruder, your hands, or a rolling-pin - what is one tool you find you use the most or cannot work in the studio without?
2. What gives you pure joy?
3. If money were no object - what would life look like for you?
Here are their answers:
1. Margaret said her trimming tool made with love by her husband. It consists of a copper pipe and tempered steel brick-carrying strapping for the cutting portion. Cath loves all of her brushes. She paints pre-bisqued pieces and is known to sometimes re-paint the eyes on a piece three-times or more to get them right. Her favorite brush has a single hair. Ellen loves the rounded tear-drop loop trimming tool. Nolene said that although sponges cover a multitude of sins, she recently loves her little tiny trimming loop and wooden sculpture tools. Mary said she likes all the tools that make a nice pot! Peter who couldn't join us typically will use pinch and push methods to form pieces and then a sure-form tool for refining which leaves intricately carved sculpture strokes.
2. For pure joy: Mary said a successful bowl gives her joy. Nolene said that simply working with the clay, the touch, feel, and response of the medium. She mentioned working on an Orca mother and baby sculpture as joyful and of course the big reveal from the kiln that all potter's adore! Ellen finds joy in all successful pieces. Her work involves animals, plants, and typically in sculpted forms. Cath said when she completes something she has put her heart and soul into - especially eyes! She said she would have loved to have tried glass blowing as an art form and also mentioned that getting up every day to be alive gives her pure joy. Margaret loves both throwing and trimming. She reminisced about the pure feeling of heaven when she would fill her work table with a particular form of wares.
3. What would life look like if money were no object? Cath said she would travel to all the little places in the world - taking her time. Cath is quite well-traveled! Mary doesn't think she would change a thing. She said although not rich, she doesn't need anything and is very happy. Margaret agreed. She said she started clay at age 38 and is quite happy doing what she is doing. Nolene said she would love to see them have a nice big pottery studio for their group, but really not anything else. We joked that every potter wants a larger space, and no matter the size, we always fill them to capacity! Ellen said she would love being able to do anything she wanted when she wanted - like if she wanted to go see an art exposition in Sydney for a day - she could just do it.
In addition to a list of many other potters locally recommended to check out, the group also recommended I go to King's park and Aspects Gallery to see many of the local artists represented as well as the wild-flowers in bloom at this time of year. Western Australia has the largest wild-flower bloom in the spring each year in the world.
Words cannot describe how grateful I was to spend the morning with this amazing group of people. Just like Dorothy, I find myself having to pinch-myself in realization that I'm even in Oz, and then to add icing to the cake - getting to interact with such a warm, welcoming, and hospitable group made this a PER-fect! day!
I pray our paths may cross again!