Sharon (Shaz) encountered pottery at high school, where she first began to develop her love of this art form.  Over the next few years she was able to focus on her art, ably supported by her (to be) husband Colin. He proved himself a keeper when he made Shaz her first potter’s wheel from a pushbike wheel with a chain coupled with a pulley with a motor. Very inventive!

Shaz is self taught (without the use of the internet) and has extended herself making unique designs and winning awards in the process. Part of her journey involved working with the Armadale City Council to establish an art store in the old railway signals box in Armadale. Now the Visitors’ Information Centre, the signal box displayed and sold local artists work for many years under her gentle guidance.

With the arrival of her children, and all that entails when working fulltime, Shaz withdrew from her art for an extensive period but decided (after 35 years) she needed to return to it and started her studio shazmaccreations. Shaz finds pottery very meditative and relaxing and loves its unpredictable nature, you never know what you are going to achieve until it is finished! Shaz had encountered the Japanese pottery form of Raku and has been exploring Raku glazing for some years now.

Raku pottery is usually hand-sculpted, rather than thrown on a potter’s wheel, and adorned with lead glazes. The properties of the clay mean it can withstand rapid heating and cooling, whereas traditional western pottery is bought slowly to temperature, and cooled slowly also, to prevent the pots from cracking. It was used exclusively for the Japanese tea ceremony from the 16th century.

The initial Raku glazing steps used by Shaz are similar to the western style pottery i.e. 1) make your piece and fire; 2) glaze the piece and 3) re-kiln, for about 8 hours. This third step is different in Raku. The piece is placed into a Raku kiln and brought rapidly up to 1000 C for around 60 mins. Rather than cooling the pots, they are transferred while glowing hot to a reduction chamber containing sawdust and paper, which catch alight due to the heat. The lid is then placed on so the smoke can work its magic on the glaze. After 20 minutes they pieces are removed and left to cool.

The soot is removed to expose the Raku-specific crackled glaze. However, by placing masks onto the pot before cleaning, soot can be left to form any shape you desire. One of Shaz’ award winning pieces has dragon fly shapes, just gorgeous. You can also carve into the soot, as you would for lino etching.

Shaz works from her home studio, ensuring that all the firing is done outside with appropriate safety gear – long gloves, heat resistant aprons and respirators. She and her husband made her Raku kiln from a metal rubbish bin, lined with ceramic fibre.  Shaz impressed upon me the need for safety at all stages and I would encourage any interested beginners to talk to her at Minawarra House or to experienced potters at their local arts and crafts centres.

Shaz has gone well past the humble tea tumbler and has a number of very esoteric, fine pieces. Although her focus at the moment is on teaching at Minawarra House, she also exhibits at Waterwheel Gallery, Bedfordale. In addition to her own art, Shaz also takes commissions.

Shaz is also very adept at other forms of pottery including hand thrown stoneware, pit firing and stagger firing. The latter is like Raku but materials such as wire straw and manure can be added at the bisque stage, then placed in alfoil in a Raku kiln. Many of her pieces are beautiful and practical. The stoneware bowls she has gifted to us are food safe, dishwasher safe and oven safe.

Examples of Shaz’ stoneware pottery

The processes involved in pottery are not for the feint hearted and Shaz’ dedication is to be applauded. You can see Shaz’ gifted items on the CAP Shop and follow her on Instagram to see more of her work. One of her gifts is an Australian snowman, completed with blackened, crackle glazing! Just in time for Christmas in July too.

Don’t forget there is 10% off Christmas in July items and free delivery on orders $50.00 and over within Australia for standard delivery.