‘Mad’ potters happy to get their hands dirty

It looks like the kind of clothes washing mangle that women not so very long ago had to turn by hand to get first the wash water and then the rinse, out of the pile of sheets, towels and clothes, until technology took over.

But over at the Pottery Studio in Mullumbimby, nobody finds it a chore to turn the handle of their latest purchase, a clay rolling press that produces lovely smooth slabs of clay all fresh and ready to work on.

Mullumbimby Potters Associated Inc has been going strong for about 25 years, in the shed at the back of The Old Drill Hall in Jubilee Avenue, an ever-changing, ever-growing group of people with one thing in common.

“We’re all mad potters here,” said studio manager Ellen Flounder, “all quirky.”

While the group meets weekly to roll, throw, fire, paint and everything else that potters do, members have their own key to come and go as they please.

But all agree that it is the group dynamic that is the best part.

“Everyone inspires each other,” said Ellen, “whereas at home you’d just get stale.

“There are new members arriving all the time, and each comes with a new aspiration.

“We’ve had one lady come who wants to makes beads, another who wants to learn to throw better to get into a ceramics course, and a biodynamic farmer came to see if we could make a mould of a cow horn as an experiment for him.

“We just go along with the flow, as each week something else happens.”

All kinds of people are attracted to pottery, with the average age currently around the 40s and 50s and an equal number of men and women.

“We find the men who come along and stay are not your average sensitive guys who get stroppy,” said Ellen, “but broad minded, who fit in well with the women.”

There are, however, some younger members, as well as 96-year-old Joyce Cambridge, who, though she can no longer pot, comes along to paint bowls or to sit at the end of the table crocheting bootees for the hospital.

“We’re like a family away from home,” said Ellen, “one that just can’t stop coming to the little shed – it’s really amazing.”

Keen member Alf Smith, while declaring himself “just a learner”, has just completed an impressive chimney for his home fish smoker, which when completed will feature on top the sculpture of the head of Joyce Cambridge, holes in her curls for the smoke.

“It’s a great hobby,” said Alf.

The association plans on an exhibition in November, to round off the year, and particularly now there is no longer a Mullumbimby Show to display their art.

New members are always welcome, and can either phone Ellen on 6680 4810 or just turn up on Thursday mornings from 9.30am at the shed, and no experience is necessary.

“You could come here and never even have touched a piece of clay,” said Ellen.

“If you’ve ever played in dirt as a kid, you can build in clay.”

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