World-class French-born artist Michele Savoye sits at her potter’s wheel and describes her new clay.
“This one is porcelain and it’s like butter – it feels so good,” Savoye says.
As we chat Savoye makes pot after pot in the same dimensions, appreciating the unique texture as it spins.
“I saw this polar bear with little pups, and the gentleness of it. Tiny weeny half centimetres, just born, and that big polar bear was licking and pushing with her nose. This is the same feeling with porcelain, you have to be gentle, yet you manage to push it.”
After four decades making, exhibiting, and teaching pottery, Savoye is still keen to try new things.
“I don’t use the same thing very often, I like to experiment and try new clays. You have to always try to have a challenge.”
Arts on Alma is like a second home for Savoye, where she makes and exhibits pieces as well as teaching classes for beginners.
Last month her wheel workshop sold out quickly, and the June intake is nearly full.
Savoye describes her process of wheel throwing as ‘hypnotising’.
“I’m totally in it right now. I don’t think about anything else, that I didn’t cook anything for dinner tonight, I just do my pots.”
“This is a beautiful way to escape.”
Savoye studied interior design and graphic design at Versailles College in France before moving to Australia in 1971.
She remembers being mesmerised by a street potter in Poland, where she lived for ten years.
"It was hypnotising. I was fascinated by clay – from a blob of dirt you make a shape. It’s amazing."
In a first class with Savoye beginners learn how to make a cylinder, which can be turned into other forms.
“That’s the main shape, the rest comes naturally. Sometimes you open it a bit too much and get a... nice dish! It’s a discipline.”
Many beginners are attracted to pottery because it looks relaxing, and Savoye encourages this.
“It just takes you away. One lady from the bank said “Oh Michele, this is the first time I forgot about numbers!” And that’s it.”
“Some people come just to relax, to experience something, some people get hooked on it.”
Savoye’s students hang on her every word as she briskly demonstrates how to centre the clay and mould it into a hollow.
“For me, shapes can be anything. The only thing I’m teaching is how to pull, how to centre, and from that they’re going to find their own way.”
“I remember my tutor used to lean on it and break it, so you start again. But I let it go. It’s really up to the student to squash it, or if they love it, keep it.”
“There are little rules, but I try not to have too many rules because there’s so much to remember!”
“Every piece gets much easier, this is why I talk about repetition. For beginners they want to do every shape but you have to sit down later and go “okay I’m going to just do cylinders,” Savoye said
Savoye’s work can be bought at Arts on Alma gallery, and to sign up for future classes check their Facebook page for details.