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Meet The Designer

Noosa potters wheel of fortune

summer 13.14

FOR NOOSA ARTIST Elke Lucas, it was love that brought pottery into her life, or perhaps pottery that filled her life with love.
After meeting her husband Ben in a small town in South Devon where she was studying, the loved-up duo travelled through Ireland and South America for a while before settling in the tiny town of Welcombe on the northern Devon coast, where Elke would become part of the local pottery family.
“It’s a tiny little village with about 100 people living there, but it’s one of those spots like Noosa, where people just come on holidays,” Elke says.
“We had a tiny little pottery gallery there but it got so busy in the summer.”
Whilst there was no steamy Ghost-like scene (at least not that Elke is revealing today), the pure act of creating with her hands had her falling head over heels for this ancient craft, passed down through generations.
“The first thing I did on the pottery wheel was a tiny straight-sided bowl – it's the first thing you need to master on the wheel, keeping the sides straight as the clay has a tendency to want to move outwards with the movement of the wheel,” Elke says.
“It turned out pretty good for my first go and I actually managed to sell it straight away in our little gallery that was attached to the workshop for about one pound. It made me feel very proud!”
With a background in architectural drafting – having completed an apprenticeship after high school, before wanderlust and her passion for the environment took over – Elke revelled in the hands-on process immediately.
“I just love the feel of seeing something, from just a lump of earth really, making it into something functional that people can really enjoy and love and fill their house with,” she says.
After eight years in Devon, E lke and her family settled for a six-year stint in Christchurch.
Then, like all good love stories, a whimsical yearning – nothing more than a feeling – would prompt them to make the move to the Sunshine Coast. 
“We didn’t actually know anything about Noosa, but we felt really drawn to it,” Elke says.
“We had already decided we wanted to move here but then we came over for a holiday – we thought we better suss it out before we moved. And we haven’t regretted it. I just absolutely love it here.”
Whilst she now has an extensive and carefully designed collection of beautiful ceramic pieces to her name, Elke was still working as a drafter as recently as a year ago, when the call for ‘something more’ became too strong. 
“The work wasn't very creative in the end, and I felt like I just needed a change in my life,” she says.
“So I resigned and didn’t know what to do with myself and the only thing I could come up with, what I really wanted to do, was ceramics.” 
And just like that decision to relocate to the coast, Elke went with her gut and started working with porcelain – something she says she’d always wanted to do after years of working with red earthenware in England.
“I love the translucency of it,” she says. “And it is a totally new thing for me, but that’s what makes it even more exciting, to just experiment with something new.”
Like all good success stories, it’s been a bit of a rocky road, with more than a few broken pieces along the way. 
“I really just wanted to create a range of work that I could take out there and show people and get some reaction, whether it’s actually something that people would like,” Elke says.
“And that took quite a long time to get to that place, just because I wasn’t set up completely. I didn’t have my own kiln, and at first I didn’t have my own wheel. Before I had to pack everything up – the raw pots – and take them down to Kunda Park. I always lost quite a bit of work on the way. Now I’m all set up and all I have to do is go from my spare room out the back and I can pack the kiln and it’s all done.”
Inspired by the work of veteran potter Lucie Rie and experimenting with less-than-traditional methods to create her own distinctive trademark, Elke has carved out an impressive name in a relatively short time.
“I used cobalt and copper a lot when we were in England and I still use them but I’ve introduced manganese, which runs quite a lot with the glaze so you get drips running down,” she says.
She also draws inspiration from the outdoors, whilst walking along the beach and in the national park.
You can see Elke’s love of nature imprinted in many of her pieces – with leaves, ferns and other plants that make their way home from those walks rolled into her flatware plates, and coloured with hints of copper and manganese.
It’s strikingly Australian and adds an extra layer of uniqueness and imperfection that makes her work so lovely.
After getting her start at the Peregian Markets, where you’ll spot her by her gorgeous mane of black hair every second Saturday, Elke’s pieces have found their way into The Spirit House’s store, Carol Tretheway Design in Noosa and Nook in Brisbane’s West End. 
Her story really is proof that if you do what you love and follow your bliss, success will have no choice but to follow. “I just really feel at peace with it,” Elke says. “Finally I’ve found something that I just love doing and I also hopefully will be able to make it into a success and make a living from it, which is the ultimate, isn’t it, to be able to do what you love doing?”
She hopes more than anything that the love and passion she injects into each piece doesn’t go to waste, sitting idly, collecting dust in someone’s home. She wants people to experience the same level of fulfilment and happiness putting her pieces to good use, as she feels when she creates them. 
“My hope is that people will very much just use them on an everyday basis, really, just because I don’t like the idea of something just being a decorative piece that you put on the wall or something – they are made for people to be using them every day. 
“I get excited when people say things like ‘I’m going to use it for my muesli in the morning’ and you know they’re going to get an awful lot of pleasure out of it, just having it there and using it. It feels really great.”
words celeste mitchell photos anastasia kariofyllidis

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