The West Australian
Seize the clay
Vaughan Smithson and Katie Anders created an urban sanctuary when they wheeled out Studio P in Leederville
The pottery wheel is Vaughan Smithson’s happy place. He says there’s simply nothing better than throwing a lump of clay into a one-off vessel with smooth curves — it’s an experience that is both meditative and satisfying.
A plumber by trade, Smithson found the craft five years ago after becoming captivated by a Japanese vase at the National Gallery of Victoria. He took a couple of pottery courses and set up his own home space, Studio P, where he was joined at the wheel by girlfriend Katie Anders soon after they met.
Before long, he was running workshops for friends, and word quickly spread.
“It wasn’t initially set up to be a business idea, it just happened,” Smithson says.
But hosting classes from home most nights while working meant the couple had to decide whether to go all in with their dream.
“Katie was a full-time teacher and we decided to get a bigger space and give it a crack — we either had to shut it down or go for gold,” Smithson says.
The pair leased a sunny warehouse space in the heart of Leederville for the next incarnation of Studio P, and since the beginning of the year their courses have been booked out.
Much of their popularity lies with the teachers’ relaxed approach, allowing students to express their creativity while under expert guidance.
“We focus on a hands-on approach,” Anders says. “We don’t want to just demonstrate; it can be tricky, so it’s all about feeling the clay and going over the process. We will take people’s hands and guide them so they learn to progress quite fast.”
In addition to classes and workshops, the studio also offers memberships, so passionate potters can come in and hone their skills.
“We had people who had done three or four eight-week courses and we wanted to create a space where they could learn by themselves,” Anders says.
“It’s really hard to get the equipment and power a kiln from home.”
The atmosphere they have cultivated is beyond what Smithson could have hoped for.
“The community is something we are really proud of,” he says. “It’s not just what you make. People are experiencing real joy, they are making friends here.”
Anders believes the public’s revived interest in pottery as a hobby is a result of the ongoing COVID-19 travel restrictions paired with a desire to support local businesses.
But Smithson says there are even more reasons to experiment with clay.
“It’s a self-fulfilment thing too,” he says. “People lose time when they are doing it. They stop watching the clock or thinking about much else. Pottery also teaches patience and tenacity. Pieces don’t come out perfect every time and you lose some.”
Anders agrees: “When you throw something, it has to go in the kiln for the first time and then you glaze it before it is fired again. You increase the temperature and there are so many things that can go wrong along the way, so you learn not to be too attached and enjoy the experience.”
The couple hope to expand Studio P’s offering later this year with more classes, art shows and gallery openings.
“They stop watching the clock or
thinking about much