The first pots that I made were created during my secondary schooling at Scarborough Senior High School. I attended Scarborough High, as it was called by students back in the day, from 1982 through to 1985. Scarborough High was blessed with a very good Art and Manual Arts Department, along with some fantastic teachers who were very knowledgeable in their subject areas and passionate about working with students, like me, who just loved working with their hands. Whether it was metalwork, woodwork, clay, plastic or even automotive and mechanical lessons, I had found my calling at an early age.

Scarborough High was also the local Night School, later becoming known as TAFE, and offered classes in art and pottery. Due to this demand, the art department had quite a few potters’ wheels and two kilns used mainly for the evening Night School classes.

My art teacher, Pat Bandurski, had some experience working on a potters’ wheel and was able to demonstrate how to throw a simple pot. This experience captivated me and for the remainder of my time in Year 11 Art classes, I could not get enough time on the potters’ wheel and I focussed on throwing and making glazes.

It was during this time that I also had the good fortune to meet Robert Cripwell. Robert was living on the coast road about a 5-minute walk from my home in Watermans Bay. He had set up a studio and built a woodfired kiln next to his studio. Robert made a range of woodfired garden pots, and his backyard was full of pots that were available for sale to the public. Robert had a strong work ethic. He was a bricklayer by trade and if he wasn’t making his garden ware he was laying bricks.

I was fascinated by his work and would visit him often at his studio to learn as much as I could about the art of throwing. Robert was a fantastic thrower. He made large garden pots, throwing up to 20 kilos of clay to create large forms that, at that time, I thought I would never be capable of emulating.

Robert encouraged me and was instrumental in firing some of my work in his kiln. That work would later form part of my folio entry into the full-time ceramics course at Perth Technical College where I ultimately graduated with an Advance Diploma in Studio Ceramics after three years of full-time study.

Upon completion of my Diploma, I asked Robert for a throwing job at his new studio and garden courtyard in North Fremantle. Robert employed me on a piece rate system, and I was quick to learn the skills of throwing larger amounts of heavily grogged terracotta brick clay.

It was during this time that I met Ian Beniston who had arrived from New Zealand and was also employed to throw garden pots at Robert’s North Fremantle studio. Ian is a fantastic thrower and I learnt as much as I possibly could from him during the time we worked together in North Fremantle. Ian is now based in Dunsborough Western Australia and his pottery studio is called Sensei Pots.

Perhaps moving directly from making pots at college to throwing large garden pots in a production pottery environment where my wages depended on how many pots I could throw in a day could be called a baptism of fire, but I have never regretted it. It was definitely a sink or swim situation and I not only stayed afloat, but the skills I gained working with Robert and Ian were invaluable.

Succeeding in staying afloat gave me the confidence to pursue a career working with clay.