Labour Of Love: Inside The Cooroy Butter Factory

Image source: Photographer Katja Anton Photography

Alicia Sharples takes us on tour of the Cooroy Butter Factory Art Centre’s state-of-the-art ceramics studio and explains how much passion goes into making a single piece of pottery.

Word on the street is that ceramics are the new yoga. Not only are the classes at the Cooroy Butter Factory Arts Centre fun and social but also incredibly therapeutic. Magic happens when you get your hands dirty and work with clay. And if you talk to a potter, you discover that the process of making a single piece is both time consuming and incredibly addictive.

The Cooroy Butter Factory is a haven for potters. Tucked away behind the main gallery, the ceramics studio boasts ten wheels, two kilns (one electric, one gas) and a range of classes on offer. The formerly council-run premises became the domain of the Cooroy Future Group back in 2016, and a passionate posse of volunteers.

cooroy butter factory-katja anton Photography

The studio also features a glaze room, drying room and access to four main ceramic artists and tutors; Julie Waal, Monika Juengling, Wakako Motoike and Fiona Cuthbert-O’Meara; who all teach classes during the week. Classes range from introductory to more advanced with a potters meet-up each Friday.

According to Alicia Sharples, Coordinator at Cooroy Butter Factory, “The Intro to Wheel Throwing class is a great way to get started and then you can utilize the space on Fridays during the potters group meet-up.”

The process of making a single piece of pottery, something that appears so simple, is actually quite complex.

“It’s amazing that potters charge so little for their ceramics as the process is so intensive,” explained Alicia.

“The pieces start off as very wet clay, which are moulded or thrown on the wheel. They need to dry slowly so they don’t crack so they are set aside and covered in plastic. Next the base or feet need to be turned when the piece is semi dry and then it goes first firing in the kiln. It comes out fired and is ready for its first glaze. After it’s glazed it is then re-fired to seal the glaze. Everything shrinks when it’s fired so to make proper size plates and bowls you have to make the piece quite large.”

The Cooroy Butter Factory is the only facility on the Coast with so much space and resources dedicated to ceramics.

“Our gas kiln is quite large, so we don’t get to fire it too often because it has to be full,” explained Alicia.

“It’s difficult to even get a gas kiln as it costs over $2,000 to even connect it so we are incredibly fortunate. It’s also labour-intensive to run as you have to babysit it if it’s on and it can take a few days to fire ceramics.”

The current artist in residence Wrenna Hubbard has created an aquatic inspired couture and ceramic wearable art range. Sculpted head pieces representing the fragility of our waterways, shells and other artefacts from the ocean make up her clay-based collection. According to Alicia, this is the first time one of the residents has also been utilizing the ceramics studio. Wrenna will present her pieces alongside fellow resident Netty Pukall at the second Kaya Sulc Studio Residents exhibition throughout March.

The Butter Factory gift shop also has ceramic pieces for sale made lovingly by several local artists. Pieces range from animal figurines and jewellery to cups, bowls and other decorative items. And to see some throwing in action, come down on Saturday 12 May. As part of the Cooroy Fusion Festival, the Butter Factory will host a Throwdown judged by Eumundi local and former TAFE ceramics teacher Michael Ciavarella.

Ceramics Class Schedule

Tuesdays – Handbuilding & Wheelwork with Julie Wall 9:30am – 12:30pm

Wednesdays – Handbuilding & Wheelwork with Julie Wall 6 – 9pm

Thursdays – Wheelwork with Monika Juengling 9:30am – 12:30pm

Intro to Wheel Throwing (5-week circuits) with Fiona Cuthbert O’Meara 6pm – 8.30pm

Fridays – Cooroy Potters BYO Project Day 9:30am – 3:30pm

Want more?

For more information about the ceramics studio and classes go to www.butterfactoryartscentre.com.au.

Did you know?

The term “throwing pottery” comes from the Old English word, thrawan from which means to twist or turn. Because the activity of forming pots on the wheel has not changed since Old English times, the word throw has retained its original meaning in the language of pottery but has developed a completely different meaning in everyday usage.

About the Author /

christina@innoosamagazine.com.au

Christina loves a good story. Hailing from the US, she studied archaeology hoping to unearth ancient sites in Athens and Rome. Instead, she found a way to fund her travel and trekked into the outback crafting editorial for off road and camping magazines. After launching a successful magazine and TV show, she ventured into digital marketing, content creation and published her first novel, New Henley.

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