You run The Clay Barn in Bangalow, can you tell us a bit about how the concept came about?
The Clay Barn has evolved from my studies at Southern Cross University Lismore, where I completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts majoring in ceramics and my own studio practice over the last 15 years. My children and I lived in a sprawling home in Mullumbimby where I had my workshop tucked away in one half of my garage. I held a Christmas art sale including other local artists, potters, painters and sculptors. The next year the Australian Ceramics Association initiated the open studio’s event nationwide, where a small group of Northern Rivers potters collaborated and started the Mud Trail in the area under this event where there were 5 of us. Today, the Mud Trail has evolved and includes over 20 studios in the region. I started to teach holiday and home-school groups from that space during the week.
I knew that I needed a bigger space to share my passion and accommodate the resurgence of interest in ceramics. During 2015 I searched the region for a property that had the perfect space for a larger ceramic studio…… and a place that had the magic Byron feel about it. In May 2017 I found the ideal family home on a beautiful piece of land with a stunning view. It had a huge rundown shed with light, space and a lot of history that I knew could be renovated into a perfect workshop. An additional shed would be needed for the kilns to be housed – but I could feel it had great potential. And so, with some blood, sweat and tears I created a space that I had held in my heart for a decade.
The Clay Barn has evolved into a ceramic studio that offers casual workshops to expert and amateur adults during the week, children’s workshops in the school holidays, Master potter workshops throughout the year, weekend clay escapes for groups of city people, birthday parties, bridal parties and, of course, spontaneous gatherings of local people from all backgrounds that share the love and magic of the clay. Connections are made, emotions are shared, and laughter echoes.
How do the ceramic workshops you run work - can students learn the basics of pottery or is it more for aspiring artists and professionals?
Our workshops are for anyone. I cater for a mix, from beginners who haven’t worked with clay since preschool to experienced potters who want a shared creative space to work with all the tools required at their fingertips. I also offer a firing service for their convenience.
There are many options available for workshops. I start the week with the group vibes. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are adult group workshops. Then I shift into the more intimate space with private sessions on Thursdays and Fridays. During school holidays we offer a few days for children’s clay classes and always welcome visiting adults to have a session. Each month we host a special clay getaway weekend.
My first Fusion date is coming up. In May, chef Samantha Gowing of Byron Bay Cooking School will do her Raw Food as Medicine demonstration and provide a shared table for lunch. The participants will have a clay session to make their own plate and bowl. I am so excited to be bringing this together.
We have a Clay Social Club that offers local potters a monthly Friday evening cheese and wine get together. Being creative can be isolating at times, so we come together to share, laugh and create. Beginners are always welcome because we all start as one.