Clay Koala, Potty About Ceramics

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Sue Brangwin has been creating with clay since high school and is now sharing her passion with adults and children at her studio, Clay Koala.

How long have you been a potter, Sue?

I’ve been creating with clay since high school, when I did an elective ceramics course and got hooked. But it goes further back than that, I think; I remember my grandmother had beautiful terracotta pots, and she also had lovely English crockery like Wedgewood. At Christmas we’d have our food on these beautiful plates – I think some of my love of pottery goes right back to that.

When I left school, I really wanted to study pottery, but I needed to pay the rent – so I went into nursing. I still did a bit of pottery and ceramics, though it was hard to fit it in with the shift work. Then we moved to a farm in Condobolin and when my kids were small, I had a pottery wheel with a playpen around it, so the children couldn’t get at it. I even used to get clay out of dams and fired it in pits! Later on I did a teaching degree and taught art – I’ve changed career a lot! After 15 years in Condobolin, we were concerned about the drought and the future out there, so we moved to Port. My husband, Robert had always dreamed of having his own auto workshop, and now he does! I got a teaching transfer and I work part-time in a primary school. We’ve been here 12 years now; I love it.

How did you come to start Clay Koala?

I belong to the Port Macquarie Arts and Crafts Centre, and it’s great; I really enjoy it there, and I figured we need more opportunities for pottery in Port Macquarie. I’ve been doing an ArtSmart course with the Council; it’s a business mentoring program where you learn how to make a business from art. I’ve learned a lot about the business side, marketing and so forth, and I’ve met some amazing friends through the course. A lot of creative people are a little bit out on their own, so it’s really great that it’s brought local artists together. We’ll get to showcase our work at the ArtWalk event in July, which is exciting.

What sort of things do you do in your studio?

I’m a Creative Kids Provider and run after school and holiday classes for children, as well as day and evening workshops for adults. I teach hand-building using various techniques like coil and slab and I’ve also got four wheels for throwing, and I glaze and fire the creations in my kilns. I try to make the sessions fun, but also as a teacher I want to make sure that people get proper instruction – it’s not just mucking about with clay! I also make and sell various different pieces in the gallery. 

I saw on Facebook that you’ve had date night pottery sessions!

Yes, one of my husband’s friends wanted to do pottery with his wife; they used the wheel together, and we made it like that scene out of Ghost, with Patrick Swayze; we had the music on and projected the movie scenes on the wall! The couple had a really fun time, and it’s definitely something I’d do again. In fact, it’s given me an idea for ArtWalk: I’ve got this vision of a potters’ wheel and big cardboard cut-outs of the actors – I’m sure people would love to see that scene re-enacted!

Contact details: Sue Brangwin 0427 953 824

Thanks Sue.

Interview: Ruth Allen.

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