Vicki Read has known her fair share of difficult times. Diagnosed with cancer three times in her life, she was given only one year to live just over ten years ago. Yet here she is, with an indomitable spirit and a twinkle in her eye, as she crafts and creates the most beautiful pottery in the workshop that her husband David built for her at the back of their house in Torbay.
“When I got the diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma I asked what I could expect and they didn’t really know,” she tells me simply, “So I decided that there was no point in worrying about it and decided to carry on doing what I loved for as long as I could”
This strategy seems to have worked incredibly well for Vicki, whose pottery hobby, like her health, seems to have gone from strength to strength since then. A visit to the studio is a little bit like being welcomed into the family. As you pass through the glass doors leading to the second-hand kiln which Vicki and her husband installed themselves, you arrive into the sunlit workshop itself. In pride of place on the right are two pottery wheels, just waiting for the next slice of clay. Rows of pots, plates, mugs and vases sit in various stages of development on the shelves in the middle, with a selection of finished articles beautifully displayed in an alcove on the left. A shelf runs above the door depicting various examples from the past 15 years of Vicki’s pottery journey, along with her many” how to” books, which detail the processes which she has learnt along the way. Vicki tells me that she prefers the Japanese aesthetic and tries to reflect the philosophy called “wabi-sabi” meaning ‘perfectly imperfect’ in her craft. Comprising clean and simple lines with just a touch of imperfection to make it original and give it character along with that authentic handmade look. Her work is striking yet functional, which is exactly what she wants to achieve.
“I first started by joining the local pottery group at Vancouver Arts Centre about 16 years ago and I just progressed from there,” she explains, “When you are creating pottery it takes all of your focus, there’s no room to think about anything else, so I think it’s really helped with my recovery.”
Originally small farming in Donnibrook they then moved to Dardanup and built a health and fitness business before moving to Torbay 16 years ago following the second recurrence of cancer. She began volunteering at Albany Hospice, working in the Aged Care sector, but decided to retire and concentrate solely on her pottery about 6 years later. Working closely with her customers to create the bespoke, personal design that they require, she gets most of her commissions through word-of mouth. Popular items include personalised birthday and wedding anniversary gifts as well as beautiful yarn bowls, colourful mugs, decorative plates and vases, all handmade to order. Vicki says, “I just love being able to create something to mark a special occasion but which people can still use every day.”
Once the clay has been formed into shape it takes some time to dry thoroughly before being painted with an underglaze and having its first of two fire’s in the kiln. During this initial drying phase the pot is very delicate and can be easily damaged. Vicki accommodates this by making two or three of each design. Whatever isn’t used for the commission can then be added to her stock for sale. Different textures can be carved and shaped into the clay and Vicki prefers using traditional techniques such as ‘Chattering’ (making a stippled effect in the clay) and all of her glazes and underglaze colours are Australian sourced and non-toxic. “In the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s many of the bright colours contained toxic substances such as lead and barium” Vicki explains, “The products I use now are food safe when fully vitrified and they are beautifully vibrant.” After this the glaze is applied and then fired again in the kiln to make it strong and resilient.
One of her favourite designs is a mug with a simple drawing of an old caravan. “This is actually based on my first caravan, which I bought when I was just 16,” Vicki says with a grin,” My dream would be to take my pottery studio on the road in a toy carrier, heading up to Broome Markets and stopping in on places along the way, to share my pottery addiction!”
Wonky Pot Pottery just participated in their first Great Southern Art Trail, which was tremendously successful and Vicki has just started to offer classes at the studio, which are open to all ages and aimed at beginners. She can be contacted by telephone in 0419191722 or via her email firstname.lastname@example.org. Her designs can also be viewed on her Facebook Page www.facebook.com/WonkyPotPottery or her Instagram Page Wonky_Pot_Pottery.
After an all too brief visit, it was time to depart from Wonky Pot Pottery, sure in the knowledge that, like its owner, it will continue to spread joy to those lives that it touches.