If you’ve been toying with the idea of throwing out those old ceramic mugs you pushed to the back of your kitchen cupboards, that have been haunting you ever since they were handed down to you, I urge you to read this first.
It seems the ghost of Patrick Swayze has returned and set up shop in a quaint little pottery studio in Melbourne’s inner suburb of Elsternwick, called Céramiques. And if Ghost the movie was a little before your time, it looks a little something like this.
21-year old, Guy Vadas, opened the doors to his very own studio less than six months ago and already has a waiting list as long as the CBD’s Chin Chin on a Friday night, full of eager people itching to get their hands dirty.
In the past couple of years, Melbourne has been experiencing a resurgence of pottery as a hobby, alongside flared chords and vinyl. It wasn’t until I visited the studio myself I realised this newfound appreciation for all things old goes beyond simple nostalgia. It seems to me that pottery is the new ‘mindfulness’.
Rather than being preached to on social media about how being mindful has the ability to improve one’s mental health, people are turning to the hum of the pottery wheel and feeling of clay spinning through their hands to as a form of self-healing.
Vadas himself only got into pottery at the beginning of the year, and says it was love at first sight. “I rented a wheel at my (parents’) house and started playing with it in the garage, and then the next thing I know I was really into it,” he says.
“Over the next month or so I started inviting my friends ‘round and teaching them, until my dad cracked it and said it was either move out or open your own studio.”
Having always dreamt of having his own business, Vadas said he had never thought about opening a pottery studio before this year, but things just happened organically. “Uni just wasn’t for me, neither was school, but the idea of starting my own business and being my boss was always something I saw myself doing,” he says.
Taking his dad up on the offer, Vadas decided to take the plunge and open his studio. “When I decided to open the studio I’d only been learning pottery for a month and it was really either sink or swim,” he says. “So, I took out the lease, renovated the whole place and really didn’t have another choice but to just go for it.”
“A bit of a ‘risk it for the biscuit’ moment really.”
Recognising the lack of studios available in Melbourne’s south compared with the northern suburbs, Vadas wanted to offer a point of difference with his studio. “We’re trying to create a vibe here that’s really about an experience, meditation and enjoying the process and how you feel when you’re here,” he says.
Given the lack of competition, Vadas says the studio has a mixed clientele. “We have a whole bunch of people from all walks of life come into the studio.” he says “A lot of people work in the corporate sector or have very busy lives, so the studio offers two hours where they can come in and completely disconnect and relax.”
“When you’ve got your hands dirty and covered in clay, you can’t touch your phone.”
Reflecting on his journey since opening the studio, Vadas says during the first couple of months while he was establishing the business, he didn’t have the typical social life one would expect of a 21-year old. “When we opened we had a month of free classes and I don’t think I saw my friends at all. I was in here seven days a week from 10 o’clock in the morning until 10 o’clock at night.”
“But now, I have great people working for me who can manage things if I need to step away.”
Since opening, Vadas has swapped teaching to return as a student, leaving classes up to a team of six experienced potters. While he still loves to teach, he mostly leaves lessons up to the experts.
“It’s a very rewarding thing to teach somebody and see them pick up a skill almost instantly,” he says. “Pottery is an easy thing to pick up. You can go from knowing nothing to knowing basics in about two hours, whereas other art forms and mediums can take a while to get to that level.”
Among the experts is Jacqui Rae. Originally from Singapore, Rae has been teaching for 18 years.
Rae acts as a teacher, spiritual guru and mother hen all in one. When students enter the studio for their lesson, she asks them if they have eaten before class, offering to share her chicken wings she has stashed in the back fridge.
“You can’t do pottery on an empty stomach,” she says.
Rae also takes some time to check in with her students and see how their week has been. She says a bad mood or negative headspace can impact their pots.
“I can always tell if somebody is having a bad day because as the clay becomes more vulnerable, their mood begins to echo through.”
It’s clear her students are more than used to her antics, with one remarking, “She can always tell. The first lesson when I was feeling unwell she was like I think you’ve got a lot of thoughts in your head.”
Rae says it’s important for students to feel comfortable and at ease in order for them to be their most creative.
“It’s really hard for adults to try new things, especially when they are not good at them straight away. We want everybody to enjoy their experience and actually leave with the things they’ve made,” she says.
For those starting their own business, Vadas says it’s important to “ask a lot of questions.” His learn-by-doing attitude is what he says helped things run relatively smoothly. “Don’t waste time sourcing information when other people know it already. I just asked those more knowledgeable than me and they taught me a lot quicker than if I tried to understand myself,” he says.
His favourite part of the whole journey he says is the feeling pottery gives him, and the ability to give back.
“It was really important for me to be doing something that is helping or giving back in some way, rather than just taking.”
Vadas says pottery is all about the act of gift giving.
“When I make something for someone, whether it’s a relative or friend, and I give it to them, it’s a really nice and rewarding feeling. Especially if I can give them something with my pottery,” he says. “So when I give pot plants I give a plant, or put a candle in a pot.”
Vadas says the best perk of the job is getting to take home your creations. “I also love having an endless supply of pot plants at home. It’s very handy,” he says.
With his first studio doing so well, Vadas says he is working on securing a second spot, either in Melbourne’s western suburbs or Sydney. He remains tight-lipped however and says you’ll have to watch this space.
Oh, and when asked if he had re-enacted the Ghost scene, Vadas laughed and said with a smirk, “I get asked this all the time. We do host hens’ parties here from time to time and it gets thrown around quite a bit, but I try to keep it professional.” But he adds, “At least it’s not included in the normal price.”