Sunday, September 16, 2012


Most potters tend to be generous in sharing our knowledge and enthusiasm but this weekend  I encountered that and a little bit more.  Mary Wallace of Spiral Studio in Denmark, Western Australia (about 400km from Perth) presented a well planned, super workshop on throwing and working with porcelain at Perth Studio Potters in Cottesloe.  In fact I have never left a workshop with a 'goodie bag' before, a trend I'd love to see established.  We each received a handmade ramekin dish, a razor sharp carving tool, Mary's business card and publicity postcards and picture cards from the Ganjin Celadon festival.

I could be boring and relate the day exactly as it happened but this is just my little blog and not a magazine article.  Suffice to say, it was a very rewarding day.  Mary is a trained production potter, working in porcelain and she gas fires.  Production potters leave me a bit awestruck and envious of their skills.  They are so precise and decisive as they work and just get on with making - efficiently and well.   While she filled us in on her background, started at Perth Studio Potters in the 70's, TAFE, trained with Ian MacRae at Beaufort Pottery, moved to Denmark (the Denmark in Western Australia not the one in Europe) set up her own wonderful pottery and works there with her pretty great husband Daniel Webb, Mary was swiftly throwing repeat forms on the wheel.  She explained her interest in porcelain and celadons and her connection with Korea.  The day moved fast filled with demonstrations, quick slide shows, great explanations of clay bodies and how some behave when carved.  I had forgotten what the poster at Central Institute of Technology Ceramics noticeboard had advertised, I had just seen that Mary Wallace is coming to Perth, recalled her exquisite work - and signed up immediately.  I'd forgotten that carving was part of the agenda too - BONUS!  and we learnt how to make our own carving tools too and to temper the metal - double BONUS! and we got a goody bag - Oh I need a lie down.

Mary’s lotus tea set  (below) won the Judge's Prize in this years CAAWA Selective Exhibition as blogged here closer to the time.  She spent some of the day showing us how she carves these pieces having observed and learnt from Master Carvers and other craftsmen during her trips to Korea.  She made carving feel very achievable and worth doing. 
Image from CAAWA Facebook page.  Photographer, Cher Shackleton or Natalie Acton
Mary Wallace drawing the pattern of lotus flowers onto the leatherhard vase
A freshly carved outline ready for slip inlay (photo Elaine Bradley)
Coloured slip inaid into lines then trimmed away
Mary showed us how she inlays slip into carved lines in trays like the one below and several leatherhard trays for us to work on using our new carving skills.  There were about twenty two or more attending the workshop, everyone had a go.

Card supplied by Mary and Daniel

Perth Studio Potters aka PSP is an amazing resource for new and experienced potters without a studio or for the potter who likes to work in a bit of company.  There is a well equipped workroom, handbuilding table, slab roller, Venco wheels,  a brand new kiln shed out back and a glazing area.  This historical and important club which has been going for over fifty years has a small kitchen, a library and at the front of the building a modern gallery to show and sell work of the members.  A book on the club's history was authored by Janet Kovesi-Watt and which names many WA potters having had a connection at some point.  PSP runs day and evening classes and when there are no classes the members come and go using the place as their studio.  Neighbours on this suburban street often pass by and see club members sitting outside the gallery cheerfully sharing their lunch and clay tips.  As always at PSP workshops, everyone brought a plate of food to share and a delicious lunch was enjoyed with Mary outside in the springtime sun.
Peacock stained slip has been applied over the carved pattern and is being scraped away once firm.
I believe the Japanese term for slip inlay is Mishima, and I have used and appreciated the technique but now I've been told the Koreans were using it long before the Japanese or Chinese and the technique was adopted as a consequence of the many invasions of Korea down through the centuries.
I haven't mentioned Mary's husband yet.  Daniel Webb was with us all day too contributing in many ways especially when after lunch he demonstrated and advised how to make our own carving tools from umbrella spokes.  Golf umbrellas are made from better metal than cheapies are and the spokes or ribs inside can be cut out and adapted to make superb carving tools.  Daniel showed us how to cut the brolly spokes, flatten one end, trim with cutting pliers and grind to sharpen and then, bend into a useful hook all the better to carve with.  He used a variety of tools - pliers to cut, hammer on a metal block to flatten, tin snips or pliers to trim, some jewellers pliers to form the style of 'hook' desired, flat square edged, angular or gentle curve.  Fortunately I have all of these tools required, so tomorrow I will be hitting the Op Shops in Fremantle for an old golf umbrella.   I will also be plundering the garden shed and the retic risers to use them as handles for my new carving tools.  Thank you Daniel.
a mini tutorial card provided by Daniel and Mary
See how fine and sharp the carving tool is, the edges are razor sharp having been refined on the ginding wheel

I found a little more on the web about Mary, particularly here on the very informative pages ...
'Identifying Australian Pottery 1960s to Date' on  
Mary's potter's marks, image from Identifying Australian Pottery page
NOW if you are  regular reader of my blog you will know that I always redirect my blog pals over to the Mud Colony blog where you can read more of the antics, lessons and discoveries of many other clay bloggers.  The numbers are growing, there are nineteen blog links there already.  Perhaps you blog occasionally and would like to join Mud Colony?  Give it a thought.  Meanwhile hop on over here to Mud Colony.  Ciao potter pals.  


All text in this blog posting are copyright of Elaine Bradley, Ceramic Artist, Western Australia.  All photographs in this blog posting are copyright of Elaine Bradley unless otherwise stated.  Please report any errors in crediting photographs, sources or facts to the author in order to allow her to rectify the matter immediately.  Thank you  


  1. Terrific, informative post. That must have been a great day for all. I love the idea of goodie bags!
    Thanks for joining my site. I assume you found me through Mud Colony.....YAY M.C.

  2. sounds like a great day! Love carved celedon pieces but I only have access to a electric kiln.thanks for all the info on the tool too.

  3. My name is jack Thomson, from Scotland. I am trying to contact Ian macrae a potter who I think lives in Denmark,

  4. My name is Jack Thomson, from Scotland. I am trying to contact Ian Macrae who I think is a potter living in Denmark can you help me please?

  5. Jack Thomson from Scotland, please email me with your contact details on my gmail address - I'll do whatever I can to get you in touch with Ian.