Spotlight on: Melbourne Ceramics Market
Sometimes, it’s not until you hear about something that you wonder why it took so long for someone to come up with it.
For us, that was the case with the Melbourne Ceramics Market (MCM) which, given the huge resurgence of the craft in recent years, only just made its debut in August this year.
Last year, the seasoned market stallholders spotted a distinct gap in the market, um, market, recognising the need for a dedicated retail space that directly connects ceramic makers with the people who appreciate the craft the most.
And rather than waiting around for someone else to create that platform, Geelong-based Thorburn and UK expat Cooper set about doing it themselves.
Now back for its second iteration, the independent market has grown from a single day event showcasing 27 makers, to supporting more than 50 emerging and established ceramic artists who’ll sell their wares over the course of an entire weekend in November.
And the diverse range of vendors slated to appear at the upcoming market is enough to whet the appetites of the most rabid ceramic enthusiasts (🙋)—it includes local favourites like Ella Bendrups, Arcadia Scott and Penelope Duke, as well as Thorburn and Cooper themselves.
With the November market looming close—and just in time for Christmas shopping—we spoke to Cooper and Thorburn to find out a little more about what drives them and where they hope to take the MCM in the future.
Hey Daisy and Tina! To start, can you each share the story behind your respective journeys to becoming ceramicists?
Daisy Cooper: Six months ago I became a full-time potter. After moving from London to Melbourne with my partner for a change of lifestyle, I was able to set up my studio in Brunswick and it’s been upwards from there. Starting out in an evening class in 2014 I became addicted to making and couldn’t keep my hands off clay. Spending two years in London building my brand whilst working other art related jobs, it was only when we moved to Melbourne that I could allow myself the time to become full-time, which is everything I hoped it would be and more.
Tina Thorburn: I am a full-time potter, and I bloody love it. I took it up as a hobby in late 2014 when I was looking for something to fill my Tuesday evenings at the end of hockey season. I took up an eight-week class at Carlton Arts Centre and by 2015 I was building my work hours around when the studio was open. By March 2016 I had quit my job and poured my savings into building a studio at my dad’s hobby farm. It’s the best decision I ever made.
What do you love about making ceramics?
DC: I love the material quality of clay, the tactile nature of using raw clay to create your work, the different stages require to make one piece, and how each stage can either make or break (literally) a piece. The most exciting stage, of course, is when you open the final glaze-firing kiln and everything shines out at you! It’s like Christmas everyday!
TT: I love making ceramics for so many reasons. I’m not a naturally patient person; I prefer to go-go-go and get shit done. But ceramics is a process that requires patience. If you rush the drying the clay can crack, if you rush the making the pieces aren’t right, if you rush the glazing you can ruin a piece. Ceramics has its own pace and I have to adapt to that, and for that I am grateful. For someone who rushes around it’s good to have such a grounding craft anchoring me to the present.
What was the idea behind starting the MCM?
DC: Melbourne Ceramics Market was born from myself and Tina coming together as two potters. Seeing a huge gap in the market scene here in Melbourne, we wanted to create a specific marketplace for Melbourne’s thriving ceramics scene to all come together and shine! We wanted to bring the huge array of makers directly to the ceramic-loving public, all under one roof; to bring makers together and cement the community further.
TT: For me, MCM is a community. Ceramics are back after a three-decade hibernation, and Melbourne is hungry for it. My vision for MCM involved bringing makers into contact with passionate and interested ceramic enthusiasts. I firmly believe it is the artist’s job to communicate their practice to the general public; I have no right to expect people to part with their hard-earned cash for something they don’t understand and can’t appreciate.
I like telling people of the process and hearing about when customers give ceramics a try and realise just how hard it is. MCM is a space for this to happen. Also, I love the magic that occurs when a group of makers are in the same space: collaborations form, friendships start, good things happen—these were all side effects I hoped for MCM and I believe are slowly coming to life.
Did you have any fears or doubts around starting the market?
DC: Not really—there was so much research and prep behind starting the first market that there just wasn’t time or space for fear and doubt. I’m the kind of person who tries to not let these feelings come into my work as it becomes negative and unproductive. Tina and myself worked so hard to get the launch market off the ground that it was only in the few hours before we opened the doors that I thought for a second, “What happens if no one comes?” But this was quickly dissipated when there was a queue forming outside the front. Fear and doubt turned into excitement and elation of what we had achieved together as two young women potters.
TT: Hell no! In the lead up to first market there were fears that we might not get the numbers, but that was only a background fear. The emotion I feel most is excitement! It is a lot of work to get the market off the ground and we put a lot of work into it, but I believe this is exactly what Melbourne wants—so no fears or doubts.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced in establishing the market?
DC: I think the biggest challenge has been making sure everything was in place so our makers felt supported. Working with so many different makers, so many different personalities, has challenged us to think differently about each situation and how to make everyone feel happy, content and welcomed. Community is the most important aspect of MCM to us, so working with all the makers has been the biggest joy—and sometimes a challenge, which we rise to and enjoy.
TT: For me, the biggest challenge has been doing this as two young female potters. I have had to get over the barriers of being a young woman running a small business, but it still ruffles my feathers when I come up against someone who inherently believes I don’t know what I’m doing because of my age or gender. There have been times when people have given us the metaphorical pat on the head— a ‘that’s nice, girls’ vibe. It is a challenge to rise above it and know we are competent, have a clear vision and are doing something that is benefiting lots of ceramicists.
What do you hope the market achieves?
DC: I guess I hope we are highlighting the variety, amazing talent and quality of Melbourne’s ceramic makers to the public. We want to allow makers to connect directly to their customers and build relationships that last. As a maker, the biggest joy you get from selling is when you talk to your customers and find out about them: why they are interested in ceramics, where they come from and how they found you. MCM allows this to happen.
TT: We have so many hopes and goals for MCM! Personally, I hope to bring ceramicists together. You meet some on the market scene, or at the studio where you get your work fired, but I believe it is important to build a community that is open and kind to one another. I have been part of sporting teams or academic groups that are competitive and cagey, so I hope to build a space for makers to connect with each other and a wider ceramic enthusiastic general public!
And just finally, where do you plan to take the market in the future?
DC: We hope MCM becomes known as the place to look for new and established makers; where you can find interesting work that maybe hasn’t been seen before and pick up unique pieces to be treasured. And who knows—maybe we’ll take our ceramics market to other cities around Australia. Only time will tell!
TT: We hope the market can continue to gain momentum to share the ceramic love with more and more people! I am always coming up with crazy ideas for collaborations or ways we can create more of a community through MCM. It will take time to make these things happen and my hope is that we keep getting the green lights to make it happen.
Images: supplied by MCM. Illustrations by Joana Partyka.
Melbourne Ceramics Market
Saturday November 25, 10am to 6pm • Sunday November 26, 10am to 4pm
Five Easey Upstairs • 5 Easey Street, Collingwood