Here at LouiseM studio, we’ve been using January to reflect. 2022 was a huge year. The year started with a move for the studio into a space twice the size we had been using, followed by three floods, a broken down kiln twice, supply chain issues causing us to run out of slip three times during the year, and the suppliers to change the slip recipe, causing production issues of cracking in our patterned vases. However, despite all these interruptions to our work-flow we were still able to do so much. Our team grew in April with the hiring of part-time production assistant Marcy, our production capacity grew with the addition of a huge new kiln in October (just in time for the Christmas rush!), and we attended a large number of markets and other events as design markets came back in a big way in 2022. What a year.
What does 2023 hold in store for us? We’re hoping to make changes, but maybe some quieter ones this time around. Alongside ongoing improvements that are planned for the studio workspace, we’ve also got plans to work on some new ranges, and some new collaborations with other businesses and creatives. But to make more room and time for new things, we have decided to take a break from teaching our extremely popular beginners ceramics classes that were run through the Sydney Community College. Last classes are being run from mid-February. We’ve also got some big design market events booked in for the year, so keep an eye on our page footer for the next events coming up.
For the longest time it’s just been me toiling away my studio, helped and supported immensely by friends and family, but ultimately alone. The journey from a full time ‘regular’ job with ceramics on the side to full time ceramics has taken a long time and now I’m at the point where my pottery can support me and also another person. So. I AM HIRING! If you or anyone else is interested, please head here for more details and shoot me an email if you want to know more. Looking for someone to start January or February 2022
After a massive 12 weeks away I will on October 11 finally be able to get back in to the studio! Cue the celebrations! Of course this also means that I will have a lot to get done in the lead up to Christmas with lots of markets planned on top of pre-lockdown orders to fulfil. Add to all of this that Australia Post is probably running on fumes at this point…If there’s anything you want in time for Christmas, my recommendation would be to order sooner rather than later, and to pick up in person if possible. In the meantime, if you need me, I’ll probably be in the studio…
Sydney is currently going through another round of COVID-related disruptions, and LouiseM studio has been heavily effected by these changes. As the studio is located in the Inner West Council, and I live in the highly restricted Canterbury-Bankstown Council area, I am unable to get in to the studio because crossing council boundaries for work in not allowed for non-essential workers. Much as I love my job I wouldn’t dream of trying to frame my work as essential. What this means is I am restricted to working at home, and as my kiln isn’t at home there isn’t a terribly large amount of work-related tasks I can complete at home. Unfortunately it looks like the making of Hardenbergia pieces for the flora range will be impacted, as well as Flannel Flower pieces. Hopefully I don’t spend all of spring in lockdown!
Any orders placed through this website at this time will be delayed. If the piece is in stock, I am able to get occasional drop-offs from one of my studio partners, so it will be delayed, but only for a week or so. Any items that need to be made will be delayed to the end of lockdown plus an extra few weeks. Once I get back I will be working as fast as I can to get everything out to everyone as quickly as possible, but there will most likely be delays.
One thing to be grateful for though is that my kiln, which had been broken for approximately a month prior to the lockdown has been fixed, and I am very fortunate that my studio partners have been working their way through firing my back-log of pieces. And so we wait, and we hope, and we try to embrace the down-time. Things at home have never been neater or better organised!
If you’ve been to Sydney, we’re pretty sure you know this famous strawberry watermelon cake! Dubbed the world’s most instagram-ed cake, Black Star Pastry has served over a million slices of this cake to date!
And you know what they say, below every instagram-ed cake lies a beautiful handmade plate. Yes yes, we totally just made that up! We got in touch with Louise Martiensen of LouisM Studio, the maker of that plate in the photograph above, to learn more about her and her craft.
Tell us a little bit more about your start into the world of ceramics.
I fell into ceramics almost entirely by accident. Back when I had to choose university courses, I decided on a general design degree, but with a rough idea of working in furniture and product design.
When we had to choose our workshop studios for our practical sessions, I had one choice left and couldn’t decide. Alas, I ended up choosing ceramics because it was on a Monday and suited my timetable best! After a couple of classes, I was in love with the medium and it has driven me ever since. Now, I’m a full-time potter based out of a studio in Sydney.
We’ve been to Sydney and we have to say it is really quite a creative enclave!
There is a fairly sizeable creative community in our building. I share my studio with two other makers and am right next door to a large pottery studio and teaching space. There are also textile artists, photographers, wood-workers, painters and jewellers in a building just a short walk away. It’s really inspiring to be surrounded by other creatives and seeing them make their beautiful pieces and go through their own processes.
Pottery can be such a lovely, yet frustrating process. If you have to point out one thing you love or hate about pottery, what would it be?
There are so many things that I love and hate about pottery, but I suppose the big one that keeps me going is the magic that happens behind the kiln doors. It’s both the single most rewarding yet frustrating part of the process.
What goes on in the kiln can literally make or break your pieces and it’s always exciting to open the kiln doors and see what’s inside! (If you are wondering what can go wrong in the kiln, this is a minor mishap she had to go through.)
Working as an independent potter is tough work – you have to juggle between production as well as branding and marketing on top of other administrative work.
Indeed! For me, a ‘normal’ working day can look very different from each other. I have a small study at home where I do most of my admin work, but in the studio I could be doing any of a number of things. Casting from my fleet of molds, decorating vases, fettling cast pieces, putting kilns on, glazing, colouring, packing orders, and a whole lot more cleaning than I’d like to be doing!
We have noticed that some makers will sketch it out whenever a new idea pops into their head while others would prefer to just get straight to working with the clay / wheel once a new idea hits.
My creative process usually starts with an idea. It might be something that I’ve seen that sparked something in me, or it might be through my experimentation with processes that I’ve developed a new idea or technique that I want to try.
I usually try to sketch things out and work through my ideas on paper for a bit before I proceed to doing physical tests and developing prototypes. Ideas change and mature along the way so I don’t always end up with what I had expected at the start of the process. It’s an ongoing thing as I’m always tweaking and improving my works.
What do you do if you face a creative block then?
I can’t remember the last time I had a creative block, honestly. There’s not enough hours in the day to keep up with all my ideas! However, when I am in the design or prototyping process I do often come up against problems that need to be worked out that do slow my process down.
When I come up against such a problem, I find it is best to not keep butting myself up against the issue, but to do something else. While I’m doing that, I know the problem is actually being turned over at the back of my mind. Solutions often come to me when I’m engaged in another activity.
Most of your works are made using the slip-cast method, would that be your go-to method currently?
Yup, I mostly work with the slip-casting process. It’s a technique I learnt at university and I love its possibilities for creating things that are the same, but different. I occasionally throw on the wheel for some commissions, and sometimes even hand-build. But mostly, it’s still slip-casting.
I usually use a porcelain slip that gets fired to 1280 degrees and add colours using stains. As I get most of my colours by using body stains, I use a lot of clear glaze but have recently been moving into different glazes which has been really interesting.
It seems like pottery seems to be gaining quite a bit of traction these days.
Most definitely. I do find it hard to precisely pinpoint why ceramics has been gaining in popularity in recent years, but like anything, it’s probably a combination of a lot of different factors. With an increased emphasis on being conscious consumers, a lot more people are having a bit more of a think about where and how their products are made.
Also, for a ceramics practice, you don’t need hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment to get started. It can be quite small so you have plenty of people trying their hand at it and turning to pottery as a hobby. These new potters are popping up all over the place which feeds in to the ‘buy small and buy local’ ethos.
There’s just been an explosion of creativity in this area in the last 10 years which expands what people think ceramics can be, I think it’s lovely!
Functional or decorative?
Functional. It has to be beautiful too, but something that is useful is very beautiful to me, so I think for my work, the function comes first.
Are there any ceramicists or creatives that you follow?
To end it off, what do you think you will be doing if you are not a potter?
If I wasn’t a full-time potter, I think I would have ended up in some other creative field. All my life I’ve loved making things and it has consumed my spare time. But outside of that, I have quite a caring bent to my nature and I think I might have ended up as a counsellor or social worker.