Sandra Tyson’s change in career results in stunning, textual ceramics.
WHEN SANDRA TYSON WAS DIAGNOSED WITH A RARE FORM OF HEART DISEASE, SHE HAD NO IDEA IT WOULD LEAD TO A COMPLETE CHANGE IN CAREER DIRECTION. THE RESULTS ARE STUNNING: UNIQUE, TEXTURAL AND CREATIVE CERAMIC PIECES MADE WITH LOVE.
Where are you from originally and where are you based now?
I was born in New Plymouth, Taranaki, which is a small beachside town on the west coast of the north island of New Zealand.
I lived there for 21 years, after which I moved to Victoria and eventually the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.
You came to pottery in a very unusual way. Can you tell us a little more about that?
I nursed for 29 years in a Neurosurgical Department and at the age of 36 was diagnosed with a rare form of heart disease. Because of its rarity it took around 10 years to diagnose.
The diagnosis has been very restrictive and I can no longer exercise. It’s exacerbated by extreme heat or cold. As a result I am in hospital quite regularly.
Your style is incredibly unique – was that a direction you wanted to take or did it happen organically?
I have always been drawn to anything with texture, anything handmade and quirky. I guess you could say it happened organically.
What’s the thinking behind the rustic quality of your work?
Being born in NZ and spending most of my childhood on my friends’ farms and owning a horse, I have always had a love for barns, country style, vintage, antiques; essentially anything rustic. Travelling is also a huge inspiration as I love to collect handmade pieces from the places I visit. I am always on the lookout for textural pieces that I can use on my clay. Even my husband finds pieces for me now.
What drew you to pottery and how did you go about learning the art form?
It was always on my bucket list to try pottery. I am one of those crafty girls who is always cross stitching, crocheting or dying fabrics! My friends have always teased me and said you are like an old lady, but once I started pottery I was hooked. I also realised that while my mind was actively engaged in pottery, I soon forgot about the possibility of having a heart attack.
What pieces do you enjoy making the most?
I love making bowls, crosses, my frilly plates and pretty much anything with a lot of texture. I love making spoons but believe it or not, as simple as they appear, they are one of the hardest pieces to make.
We love your textural style and intricate patterns – where does your inspiration come from?
It comes from anything really. Sticks, plants, shells, nature, garage sales, unusual material.… you name it; I see inspiration in it.
What’s next on your bucket list?
Good question. I would like to write a book about how you can turn a negative into a positive. I often hashtag my Instagram posts with #livingwithheartdisease and post photos of myself in ED. I don’t do
this to draw attention to myself but more so to create awareness. I get a lot of feedback and some beautiful messages from people I don’t even know about their own personal battles so I like to think I am helping other people. My heart dictates how much I make and how my day will transpire. I have had a go at the pottery wheel and it’s definitely something I want to master as I am currently focusing on the art of hand building. I also want to do more fabric dyeing as I love using material for my backdrops in my photos. I also used to do wood carving at school so that is something else I would love to have another crack at.
I also present regularly at the Gold Coast Hospital and provide clinicians with my journey in dealing with a chronic illness in the form of a speaking workshop, so I would love to continue to motivate people, even though I am very much a fledgling public speaker.
My husband and daughter are my biggest supporters and heroes and I also have some beautiful friends who continue to support me and my craft.
Words of advice for anyone contemplating a similar change in career direction?
I would say go for it. You never know where it can take you. Before you take that leap of faith, read, read, read. And when you’ve read enough, read some more. Also find someone in your chosen field and ask questions. Knowledge is everything. This for me is more of a hobby but I am proud to say that I have lovely people who purchase my work. I still can’t get my head around the fact that people actually love my quirky, rustic, bespoke pieces. If it doesn’t work out, rest in the knowledge that you have tried and if it does, well good for you. You don’t want to be that person who says, if only I had done that. Handmade seems to be much more appreciated these days and workshops are popping up everywhere which I think is both amazing and exciting.
We’re all about travellers discovering local artisans. What’s your favourite place to visit and top travel tip?
Good question… I really love the architecture of Italy and Paris and the culture of Japan and New Zealand. My main travel tip would be to ALWAYS keep a travel dairy. They are amazing to look back on for inspiration and ideas. Additionally I’d encourage people to get off the beaten track and explore how the locals live, explore what they create and the inspiration behind their story. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world; everyone has a story. There are so many talented and creative people in the world. The craft in
Japan absolutely blew me away, it was a visual and sensory feast in such a good way. To sum it up I would say look, learn, ask and write it down. Oh and don’t forget to take photos. But if you’re taking photos of people’s personal crafts, just make sure you get the owner’s consent. That sort of thing is very important to some people. I take my camera everywhere and I often take photos of the locals doing their thing in their environment. Photography is a passion of mine (although I am far from a professional) but for me, photos hold special memories and tell a great story.
“I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN DRAWN TO ANYTHING WITH TEXTURE, ANYTHING HANDMADE AND QUIRKY.” SANDRA TYSON