30 November 2022

Wagga potter shares her love of clay and builds community through her studio

| Chris Roe
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Kathryn Powderly in garden

Kathryn Powderly hopes to still be working with clay when she is 90. Photo: Chris Roe.

Kathryn Powderly’s first class teaching pottery began almost by accident.

The Wagga artist had returned to her home town after learning her craft in Sydney and Canberra and had agreed to teach a class in her studio through the Community College.

“On the first night, I think only five people showed up and we had three of those with disabilities,” she says.

“We were almost at the end of the night and the Community College coordinator came around and said, ‘Oh, there’s only five, oh, well, now this class will have to be cancelled’.

“Well, we’d had a great old time so when she left they said, ‘Let’s just do the class and we’ll pay you, OK?”

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Thirty years on she has taught hundreds of classes and built an engaged community in her Best Street Studio in the shady red-bricked garden at the back of her home.

“When I first touched clay I thought, ‘This is it’!” she says over a cup of tea.

“I’d tried so many different types of classes and I just thought, ‘I can do this until I’m 90 and I’ll still keep learning things and I love it!”

Kathryn is busy gearing up for her annual Christmas sale and exhibition and the studio is a hive of activity with a final round of glazing and sculpting taking place amid ongoing classes.

“It’s a combination of all the things I’ve been working on this year and we’ve now got new kilns which go up to a much higher temperature, so I can fire up to stoneware temperature,” she explains.

“I’ve been experimenting with the stoneware clay and making some bigger pots and bowls and I’ve done some figurative sculpture as well as all the normal garden ornaments and birdbaths and things that I make.”

woman in studio

This year’s exhibition includes a return to figurative sculpting for Kathryn. Photo: Chris Roe.

Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19 in the past couple of years, Kathryn says there have been some positives as people took up new hobbies and began thinking locally.

“Classes didn’t go ahead, but I had people wanting glazes and firing and people wanted to buy things that were handmade,” she says.

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“I think they realised the value of art and the fact that you’re doing something with your hands and your mind.

“When you’ve got a world in which we didn’t have any control, you can have control of the things you were making and it also, it sort of brings a joy to make something out of nothing.”


Kathryn’s annual Christmas exhibition includes everything from birdbaths to teapots. Photo: Supplied.

In the year ahead, Kathryn is preparing to become a grandmother for the first time and is looking forward to experimenting more with her new, state-of-the-art kilns. She’s planning a series of works exploring the journey of the materials she works with and understanding how Australian clays are formed.

“I want to explore the longevity of clay and where it’s come from, from the mountains and into the rivers and then all that red dust that’s blown back across the country,” she says.

“The things we make from clay tell the history of people.

“It’s almost like reading a book if you know what the clay is and what the objects are, you can work out what people were doing and even what they were thinking sometimes because of the way they painted things.”

The Best Street Art Studio Christmas Sale kicks off on Friday 2 December and the studio will be open every day for the next three weeks.

You can find out more here.

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