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Pottery lessons as fun as making mud pie

Visit Ballarat

16 Feb 2021

Filed underMakers & Growers

For Ballarat ceramicist Beck Davies, working with clay is reminiscent of making mud pies as a child. 

“Such a simple joy now translates into adulthood. Essentially, I’m still making mud pies, only now instead of people turning up their noses at my request for them to enjoy them, people smile and proudly display them in their homes.” 

You too can also re-live your childhood memories of making mud pies during one of Beck’s hands-on workshops.

Before signing up, let’s learn a little bit more about the colourful work of Beck Davies.

What drew you to ceramics? 
Funnily enough ceramics was never my first choice of medium. I’ve always been a lover of art. From a very early age I loved all things creative and as a young child my favourite pastime was spending time alone with a colouring book. 
Throughout all of my schooling my favourite subject was art and I loved my art teachers, dreaming of how one day I could become them. 
Fast forward a few years and a few children later and I finally decided to pursue my art as a career. I first took a short course in photography and set up a small photography business. But our family business and our young children demanded a lot of my time and so this pursuit fell to the wayside. 

A couple of years later I found myself as a single mother with the opportunity to do anything I wanted and so the spark for art was reignited. I enrolled in a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Federation University in Ballarat convinced that I would emerge as a Professional Photographer. Unfortunately, the photography courses were dropped out of the program just before my start date, but little did I know that that was all part of the master plan for my life. 
Prior to starting my degree, I did a term of pottery lessons and that was the catalyst for the path I am now on. As soon as my hands touched the clay, I knew I was in love and I made it my major throughout my degree and after my degree, I went on to complete a Post Graduate Diploma in Ceramics. 

How has Ballarat inspired your work? 
The thing I have always loved most about Ballarat are its old Victorian houses and their stunning gardens. 
Springtime in Ballarat is an explosion of colour much like my work. As a photographer I always leaned towards macro photography of flowers so it is no surprise that colour was always going to be evident in my work no matter the medium. 

What do you enjoy most about creating something from clay? 
Well when you really think about it, working with clay is reminiscent of making mud pies as a child. Such a simple joy now translates into adulthood. Essentially, I’m still making mud pies, only now instead of people turning up their noses at my request for them to enjoy them, people smile and proudly display them in their homes. 
I love that a block of clay can become anything and its only limitation is your imagination. 

Image captured by Josh Erbacher.

What do you hope to evoke in those who view your work? 
I hope that my work brings colourful joy into the viewer or purchasers’ life. It is meant to evoke a feeling reminiscent of simple childhood joys, when colour, bubbles and running under sprinklers in the summertime elicited overwhelming happiness.  
Our lives can get pretty busy, and sometimes the mundane routines of our lives leave our world feeling a little beige, so I can’t see any harm in injecting some colour here and there. 

You host workshops and courses (we particularly love the idea of Friday night clay night), what can people expect from joining one of your sessions? 
Our workshops and courses are designed for absolute beginners. We keep the class sizes small to keep the sessions more intimate and allow for really good tuition and interaction. One student described my courses as a “door opener”, a space where they could really tap into themselves and their creativity without judgement or expectations. This perfectly describes what I hope my students get out of their time at the studio. 

With respect to our Friday Night Clay Dates for two, these are a new addition and they have proven very popular. These sessions are BYO and are a great way for couples or friends to really unwind at the end of a busy week. For me, these are the most fun, everyone usually arrives at the studio a bit apprehensive and convinced that they don’t have a creative bone in their body, but once you put a glass of wine in the hands of a person working with clay, laughter fills the studio space and the creativity just flows. 

What does Ballarat as a UNESCO Creative City of Craft and Folk Art mean to you? 
Growing up, as many others in my generation, we were always told that being an artist was just a hobby and you could never possibly make a living from it, only posthumously, if you were lucky. Watching Ballarat’s respect and advocacy for the arts grow and evolve over the last few years gave me hope that the career of an artist could be held in high esteem. 

To have Ballarat recognised as a UNESCO Creative City of Craft and Folk Art is a massive achievement and a testament to all those artists who continued, and are still to this day continuing, to pursue their passion in the face of the skeptics. I am so grateful to live in a city that values what I and my fellow artists have to offer to the world. 

For those interested in ceramics, what piece of advice do you have for them? 
For anyone interested in ceramics, I have a couple of pieces of advice. Firstly, prepare to have your need for control and perfectionism challenged throughout every step of the process, you will learn far more about yourself and your ability to let go than you ever thought possible.  
And secondly, you may pursue a path where your desire is to gain financial rewards for your work and when this happens it’s truly magical, but don’t forget to take time out from production to just play with clay, for no other reason than it makes you happy. 

What does your next 12 months look like? 
My next 12 months look pretty colourful, first and foremost. I will be continuing to open up my studio for workshops and courses. I have a couple of collaborations coming up and I will of course continue to play with clay and make the world a little more colourful with my work. 

What’s Ballarat best kept secret? 
Ballarat has many best kept secrets but for me, it has to be, the Ballarat Botanical Gardens. This is my favourite place in all of Ballarat, the gardens are always transforming meaning there is always something new to see and the whole space has this very calmative atmosphere. The gardens are such a beautiful place to catch up with friends over a picnic or just sit with a good book under a grand old tree. 

Across Victoria’s Midwest, we acknowledge that we travel across the ancient landscapes of many First Peoples communities.

These lands have been nurtured and cared for over tens of thousands of years and we respect the work of Traditional Custodians for their ongoing care and protection.

We recognise the past injustices against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in this country. As our knowledge grows, we hope that we can learn from their resilience and creativity that has guided them for over 60,000 years.

As we invite people to visit and explore Victoria’s Midwest, we ask that alongside us, you also grow to respect the stories, living culture and connection to Country of the Ancestors and Elders of our First Peoples.