Man, judging the Etsy Awards was hard. Wayyyyyy harder than I thought it would be. A few weeks ago I sat down with the team from Etsy as well as fellow judges Lucy and Sara, and was absolutely overwhelmed by the talent and creativity of the more than thousand entries. It was one of the most challenging, and yet rewarding, things I’ve done in a while. As someone with a passion for all things creative, it was amazing to see how so many people had turned bright ideas into big (or at least aiming big) businesses. I was so impressed by how so many of the entrants had managed to perfect their products and also their marketing, aesthetics and brand. After much debate about our favourites, we decided on the winners.
Drumrollll please! This year’s Etsy Award winners are:
Community’s Choice: Jeremy and Dee Rolston from Needle & Nail (Whatawhata, New Zealand
Lasting World: Kirralee Robinson from Kirralee & Co (Brisbane, QLD)
New Talent: Noël Skrzypczak and Andy Newton from BankyMoon Plantstands (Melbourne, VIC)
Fashion & Accessories: Joram Salisbury and Cameron Paterson from Paterson Salisbury (Wollongong, NSW)
Home & Living: Lucile Sciallano from La petite fabrique de Brunswick (Melbourne, VIC)
Art & Illustration & Paper Design: Penny Ferguson from Min Pin (Melbourne, VIC).
To celebrate the winners, and indeed all the entrants (and actually just creativity in general), I thought it would be nice to feature one of the amazing winners in depth – Lucile Sciallano of La petite fabrique de Brunswick, a Melbourne-based ceramic studio. I was immediately taken by the details of her work!
These amazing designs are just what my (and your) table needs. Took our usual Monday Meeting treats up a notch, wouldn’t you say?
You are originally from the south of France, what made you decide to move to Australia and start your ceramics business in Melbourne?
When I completed my Masters degree in the Netherlands, I met my partner Ben who is from Australia. During my Masters I learned how to combine research and making – my brain and my hands! That’s where I fell in love with ceramics and even though I couldn’t do all my projects in ceramics, I knew that as soon as I graduated and could choose to work with a particular medium – I would focus on ceramics. So when we came to Melbourne, I moved into a house across the road from Northcote Pottery Supplies, so I had no excuse not to pursue my ceramic practice, and took over a shed in the garden, which has become my studio.
How did you discover your passion for ceramics?
I studied object design in France at a school that sits between fine art and design. My projects were all handmade, and I learnt how to work in wood, metal and ceramics. In my bachelor studies, I worked a lot with plaster. From there, moving to ceramics was a natural progression. I like ceramic’s versatility; that it’s a natural material, that there is a process to follow, and you can return to work on the object several times.
How do you gather inspiration to create new designs?
Coming from a design background, I’m always trying to think outside the box and break the rules about how things should be made. I experiment a lot with colours, shapes and patterns. Often luck and randomness play a part in my process – I’ll sometimes see a shape or a line in nature or in a painting, and it will spark an idea about what I could make. I also trust my hands’ ability, and try not to overthink what I’m making! The creative process is a funny thing- you can be really absorbed and inspired by something and it will take you a lot of time before you know what to do with it. So in my day to day life, I don’t look specifically for inspiration, but I feed my creativity with Instagram, Pinterest, some random Google research, and also looking back on books I love. I also use drawings to record my inspiration and find a balance between that and my computer research.
Can you explain the process for creating your ceramics?
I slip cast porcelain to make functional wares. Slipcasting is a very interesting process as you have to create the positive object, make the mold in plaster, and after use slip (liquid clay), to cast the object. I really love working step by step and thinking through all the implications of each decision I make. I use very white porcelain and a limited palette of colour to create patterns. I always use a stain in the slip rather than coloured glazes. Each pattern I make is unique, and I like the randomness of each piece. Every one is different, and different people are drawn to different ones!
How has Etsy helped you to build your business?
Etsy is a great platform to support your work and show it to the world. It’s a great system to connect makers, craftspeople, and customers. I found a very supportive and caring community through Etsy and it helps a lot to keep you motivated in making and loving what you’re doing.
What is the most challenging part of making a business out of your passion?
I guess for me there are two types of challenges in my business. As I don’t have a degree in Ceramics, I’m always learning a lot – but you learn as you go, and other people have been so generous and helpful! That support gave me confidence to start my studio. Even though starting your own business is really exciting and being able to do what you love as a living is bliss, sometimes it can be really hard and you can have doubts. If you don’t push yourself to get out of bed every morning no one else will do it. Some of the biggest challenges at the beginning were to be confident enough to start to show my work to shops and get better at talking about it. Working by yourself can make you feel lonely and insecure but I got a lot of help and very good tips from other makers.
Your Instagram feed is full of delicious cakes and pastries that you’ve made! Does cooking good food play an important role in your life and how does eating it from beautiful ceramics add to it?
I have to plead guilty about cooking desserts! I have a big sweet tooth and I love making pastries and cakes! I find cooking relaxing and meditative. When I am stressed I will probably end up in the kitchen cooking something. I love making desserts and trying to present them well. The first thing you experience before eating anything, is seeing it. So using a nice and well tailored container for what you cooked is also part of the experience. I would love to work with a chef or a baker to design some specific shapes around the food they cook.
What are three pieces of advice you would give to other budding ceramicists or creatives wanting to turn their passion into a business?
Stick to your guns. Sometimes social media, customers and other makers can influence you and push you in different directions and it’s hard to know where you want to go and why. So trust yourself and try to stay focussed on what you really like. Be honest with your work, fair in your criticism and keep finding joy in what you are making, otherwise what’s the point?
Thanks Etsy for the honour of having me on the judging panel. And Bree Dunbar for the gorgeous studio photos.