I’m not sure if it’s a ceramicist thing, but of the few I've been lucky enough to meet recently, they all seem to have certain things in common - namely, a sense of serenity and steady focus. Perhaps it’s their vocation and the patience it demands, but the calm purpose that tends to exude from their being seems uniform. Kim Wallace is a great ambassador for this ceramicist code of zen.
When I interviewed Kim a couple of weeks ago, her studio was one of the most fascinating spaces I have been to here on the coast - the softness yet clarity of the light was amazing, ethereal almost, and the elevated view stretching out over the bush was like a quiet exhale. The morning I met Kim she was busy ramping up for the Brisbane Finders Keepers market, with two new ranges scheduled to be on display in addition to her existing range, and the ordered piles of platters, bowls and the like were obvious signs of an industrious business. However when she generously took the time to sit down and chat with me, the whole experience was so very insightful and, well... calm! And I am not exaggerating when I say Kim made me one of the most incredible cups of tea I’ve ever had…
Kim’s work has a definite handmade quality to it, and I stress the word ‘quality’ here - there is nothing mass produced about her pieces, which is part of their resilient charm. All three of her current ranges are unique in their own way. Kim’s ‘Aves’ range is a collaboration with the talented illustrative artist Renée Treml, with the graceful shapes of her pieces working to highlight Renée’s intricate drawings. Kim’s newest range ‘Ebb Tide’ leans more toward a contemporary style with its organic lines and rich, bold tones inspired by the colours of the Sunshine Coast. Her third, and most successful range to date, which has been featured (amongst others) in Frankie magazine, Home Beautiful, Gardening Australia and most recently Australian Country Style, is the Vintage Lace Collection. In this signature range Kim imprints vintage handcrafted doilies on to her pieces and then glazes the patterns in soft tones, giving them a beautiful sense of old world charm. When I fleetingly visited Kim at the Finders Keepers markets in Brisbane on the weekend she was super busy, with customers flocked around her stall. It was fun to stand back, blend in and listen to the murmurs and comments of the browsers and buyers, all of whom were full of praise for Kim’s various designs.
Tall and slender with a warm smile, Kim is currently pregnant with her second child. Soon, as well as raising her young daughter and running a thriving business, she will have her time monopolised by her new arrival however this doesn’t seem to phase her. She is a woman who seemingly has her priorities right and the business, rather than suffering, seems to be flourishing because of it. Perhaps it’s the symbiotic relationship of calmness and creativity which equates to success, on several levels… The ceramic code of zen? Or perhaps just the calmly confident code of the very talented, and very lovely, Kim Wallace.
What’s your Sunshine Coast story Kim? What brought you here and how long have you lived on the coast?
We’ve been here about a year now, and before that, we used to live in Brissy. I’m Dutch, born in Holland - we had to go back overseas a little while back for family reasons, and were there for about 9 months with the little one. We’d always dreamt of moving to the coast... When we returned to Australia, Greg wanted to start a new company and I wanted to go back into ceramics, so we thought if we wanted to do it, we should do it now - the whole house was packed up in boxes and we were free to look where ever we wanted. We considered other places in Australia but we decided we wanted to be close to Brisbane. We’ve always loved coming here on holidays so we started looking around. We drove back and forth to Brisbane, talked to friends, camped out everywhere, then found this place and we were sold. It’s such an easy and beautiful place to live... We really wanted a nice place for the little ones to grow up - the outdoor life style here is just fabulous for them.
So, what is your design background - what was it that inspired you to become a ceramicist?
I’m a graphic designer by trade. I met Greg while I was backpacking and we wanted to see where that would go, so I decided to study in Australia. I studied graphic design - I thought that would be a good way to go because I’ve always been very creative and done lots of art courses, and I wanted to somehow incorporate that into my career. I thought Graphic Design was a great way to do this but when you get out into the industry... I mean I loved my job, which was in a little boutique design agency in the Valley - we had fabulous clients from retail through to food outlets and it was nice to work with the clients from start to finish. I really loved it but, at the end of the day it’s down to budgets, and you spend a lot more time on the computer when you thought you might be hand-drawing or doing all this really creative stuff - most of the time you’re just stuck behind a computer. I really missed that so I quit my job in 2008... Greg’s always been a bit of an entrepreneur and wanted me to start my own business but I didn’t want to start my own graphic design business - I saw how hard it was and I didn’t want to do it! So I started doing some courses again and seeing what it was that I wanted to do, and I also started Udessi at the time, which is an online gallery. Sadly I’m now shutting it down after all these years. When we got back (from overseas) I picked Udessi up again and I was really keen to get it happening, but things had changed too much - trying to run two business with the little ones is just too hard. The ceramics was only supposed to be a sideline - I was selling some of my ceramics on Udessi and they took off, and then Udessi stalled and went backwards from where I left it before we went overseas. Despite all our efforts, it hasn’t been the same so I’ve had to make a choice because I really couldn’t do them both justice - so I went with my ceramics. It’s a shame but it did need full-time attention plus more, which is not something I could give it at this stage. Also, things have now changed for small businesses - it’s now so easy for artists to setup their own on-line store. When I started Udessi, people really needed an outlet for someone to take really beautiful photographs of their work and present it in a beautifully created website, but now there are so many options out there and people are so good at taking their own photos and can do everything themselves easily. I was actually really excited to focus on my own ceramics that had been taking off, before I had to say no to things because I was busy running Udessi at the same time. It’s been hard to let go of Udessi but now that that decision has been made it’s a good one, and with the second little one coming along it was definitely out of the question!
How would you describe your design style?
I’m quite a clean designer and always was in graphic design. I’ve always wanted to do the grungy stuff but I just can’t seem to do it somehow! I’m very clean and like the use of white space - even with the doilies, I’m very particular about which doily goes where and to leave some white space because some doilies are just way too busy and kind of ugly once you actually imprint them into the clay. They just don’t leave nice impressions. I think it’s to do with my graphic design background where I don’t just plonk a doily on, I really look at the composition and whether it works or not. The colours for the doilies have grown over time as well - the ones that don’t sell, or aren’t popular, you phase them out and stick with the ones that are popular. I’m very excited about the new range. The blue range (Ebb Tide) is inspired by our move here - by a lot of the things that I have found on the beach and also the colours which are from around the coast - the greens, blues, aquas, browns and greys look really great. It’s a move away from the doilies a little bit...
Can you describe the process that takes you from the initial concept to the finished piece?
With the new range (Ebb Tide), for example, I did some sketches on paper but a lot of it is done during the making process - as you’re painting it you might accidentally paint the shape on the piece or do it a certain way and then say ‘Oh, I’m going to stop there because it actually looks good as is’. So it’s a bit of both. You might come up with a really good design and it just doesn’t work. With the doily range, clay can be very sensitive and because the doilies create uneven thickness in the clay, it can cause major problems in the drying and cracking of the clay. So some shapes, combined with where the doily is, just don’t work - even as beautiful as they look, they just keep cracking. It can be hard... like the last few weeks in the studio, we’ve had a lot of breakages and a lot of pieces cracking and it’s not always clear what the actual reason is. It might just be down to the actual batch of clay, it could be the weather, it could be that you’ve changed something slightly, without even realising it, and you’ve just got to figure out what the problem is and go from there. But it’s kind of fun that way too because it leads you in a different path to do things that do work.
Are there any designers/artisans/crafts people that you’re particularly loving at the moment?
That question is so hard! I know so many people now and that’s something I’m really grateful for - when I began, I actually started with a blog because none of my sites were up yet. It took a long time to build the sites because they were so customised so I started blogging in the meantime and all of a sudden I got to know all these people who you start to mix with. A friend of mine and myself were in bloggers in Brisbane and we got together and did a few social events, and then then there were the Finders Keepers Markets, and even though you're working hard you try to get around and introduce yourself to people and people come to see you and say ‘I read your blog’. It’s really become a great community - from this I know a lot of people and really admire everyone who even has a go. There are a few out there that do just do amazing jobs and I know they do really well and have made a good business out of it. They are certainly the people that I admire. But anyone just having a go at it - making a living out of their creativity... It’s not easy. I just love seeing what everyone comes up with and how creative everyone is at these markets. Even the online world now is just so creative - when I moved here I was missing that and that’s why I started Udessi, because I couldn’t find these handmade pieces - unique Australian pieces. Now it’s just really flourishing. Even though times are hard, people are really flourishing. It’s nice to see that there are so many outlets for people like myself who sell their own work and it’s nice to do that mix because if you just did it online it would get a little bit lonely. And, again, these markets - like Finders Keepers - are a nice way to get out and see customers’ responses. When they pick up your work and they touch it and feel it and comment on it... Obviously they might put things back for a certain reason and you can gauge their reactions at the markets better - again, it’s the combination that is really nice.
Do you follow any particular Blogs?
Yes, there’s a few I really like. The Design Files is probably the biggest blog that I know. There’s a lot of inspiration there. Lucy’s just been amazing. I met up with her years ago when she had already been going for a while - we went to Melbourne and met up with her there, and it’s just incredible to see her grow so much. It’s a huge inspiration in itself, to see how much she’s grown and how she’s made a phenomenial business out of her blogging, not that I’m into blogging as much. Just to see that people can create their own business, that’s inspiring. I love The Red Thread’s blog - nice tutorials and a lot of great design stuff that she finds and again that’s really inspiring. You get to see how other people have grown their business, and you get the feeling that if other people can do it, I can too. Bondville is a great one for when you have little ones. Steph finds lots of great stuff for kids – cute clothes and handmade things which is really nice. She was originally in Brisbane and the friend who I ran the social events with, but she’s now moved to Sydney and is running social events with Lisa from the The Red Thread.
What’s your preferred social media choice?
It’s all shifted a bit, for me, to Instagram with a little bit of Facebook. Instagram just lends itself to my work because I find ceramics photograph really well. It’s not something you blog about but for Instagram, it’s just perfect and people love seeing the process. It’s great that you can quickly take a snap and load it on - I don’t really care too much about my phone getting dirty but I don’t like to get my nice camera out every time because I get clay and dust all over it! Some of the shots I actually play with but a lot of the shots are how it actually ends up. It’s fun and, again, it’s a great community - when I was going through that whole cracking thing, everyone was so supportive and everyone left all these comments. There’s other potters who follow me too and they were trying to offer advice, and others who had no clue as to what was happening, but they said to hang in there too! It was so nice... And now with the new range, normally you have to wait until you get to the Markets but now, just to gauge any response, you take a quick photo and it’s nice because if you get all these likes you think then I’m on the right path, and if it’s not a great response you think maybe not that colour or design… It really helps you decide which way to go even before you’ve produced your range.
Do you have any plans to expand your gorgeous ranges? Any additional lines of business you are keen to pursue?
I haven’t decided, for my new range, yet. I’ve virtually just started playing with it. That’s kind of the danger too with Instagram, that everyone wants it straight away and I haven’t even got any out - it’s just in the kiln now and I don’t know if they’re even going to work - they might not work! They might sag in the kiln or the colours might be totally wrong or they might not be what you thought once they glazed and fired so it’s all quite a massive process at times (NB -This is now Kim’s stunning new range ‘Ebb Tide’ which debuted at Finders Keepers, soon to be for sale online). For example, the collaboration range which I’m doing with Renée Treml has been in the works for months and months and months because of a lot of technical problems we’ve had. In the process, Renée draws all these illustrations and basically, it gets printed on a transparency and to that I apply special ceramics oxide, which is a colouring powder, and it sticks to the printout but not to the transfer. Then you rub it on the wet clay and the powder will transfer to the clay and leave your image... it’s a very tricky process. It doesn’t always work, specially on rounded surfaces. It can be hard to get a good impression but it’s also part of what we want. There are other techniques that you can apply at the top of the glaze which would, technically, leave a more perfect image but it just felt too produced to us and we just love the way this comes out - the colour it comes out - the way it is slightly imperfect. It’s still very much handmade. Renée and I named this range the Aves Range...
What are the best things about being your own creative boss?
For me, at the moment, being able to raise my family and being able to set my own times. It can be equally stressful and hard. Both my husband and I have been around for my daughter’s first two years. We take shifts basically, and the weekends we spend together. Whenever we can we have lunch together. Even those little times are so special. It makes a huge difference and I didn’t want to go back to working full days somewhere else, having to put her somewhere else or missing out on all these things and so, as hard as it is, you have to make up for a lot at night or whenever she’s asleep. You try to go as fast as you can when she’s having a nap! Again, it’s all to do with our move here and changing our lifestyle and really trying to soak it all in because I know it goes so fast. That is something I’m so grateful for. You create your own opportunities. Again, it’s hard, especially, at the moment, trying to get a steady income but it’s also up to you. You’re not reliant on the boss. Whether they are giving you the work or whether they’re sending you home and you’re left with nothing. It’s about you getting out there and doing the best you can and that, again, brings a lot of stress but it also does feel very good when it does work!
Fav Sunny Coast designer/artisan?
I’m still trying to find my way around but, at the moment, it would definitely be Elke Lucas. She works with me in the studio. When first we met she approached me to be on Udessi, which, at the time, was still going and I just fell in love with her work - it’s the kind that I would use in my kitchen. I love working with her and I love her ceramics - it’s been really nice to have her in the studio.
Fav Sunny Coast retail outlets?
There are a few lovely ones in Peregian that I like. I never really went there except for the markets but I was blown away by the shops. There is one called The Romantic, a beautiful little shop with a lot of handmade stuff as well. And in Cooroy, there’s the Twig and Grace which is gorgeous too. I love Cooroy, it’s a really cute little town. The Twig and Grace is a beautiful little shop. They do coffee, cakes and flowers which is a lovely combination of things too. I’m still trying to find them all. I don’t feel at all isolated from Brisbane. I love going to the Post Office up here because they know my name now and are really friendly - I love that!
Fav Sunny Coast cafe/restaurant/foodie paradise?
Again, there are so many but I love Bistro C at the Noosa Beach. It has amazing food and really good coffees. The little bakery at Peregian has amazing almond croissants. They’re really good...
Fav Sunny Coast weekend routine?
I love going to either the Noosa Farmers Market or the Peregian Markets when they’re on - I’ve always loved markets. It comes back to when I was travelling to France with the whole family when we were little. Visiting all these markets Mum and I would browse the markets for hours and Dad would be like ‘Oh my God…!’ The Farmers Markets have so many beautiful products and I am really into food and organic living and that’s right up our alley, going to them. They're full of organic food and great things. It’s a great morning out for the family. I love going to the beautiful places around here. For instance, last weekend we went to the dog beach which is past Noosa, in the National Park. It’s a little calm inlet which is good for our daughter to splash around in. We try to get out and do those things every weekend because that’s why we moved here. It’s so easy to get stuck into work every weekend. When you own your own business, you’re never really done. We really try, especially for the little one, to get out to enjoy those things and then you remember why you moved here.
Fav Sunny Coast icon/landmark?
That’s a hard one. We still feel like there’s so much for us to explore around here yet. There is so much to see. We do love going to the Noosa National Park - trying to spot the Koalas!
Fav Sunny Coast hangout?
I love hanging out at home - we have a beautiful big garden for the dog and little one to run around so we don’t really have to go out which is really nice. We’ve got the avocado trees, and in Summer we splash around in the pool too. So easy to enjoy!
Be imprinted upon...
Kim is a regular exhibitor at the Finders Keepers markets, and her work is available for sale through her website - including her new ranges which are soon to be loaded into the online shop - and via various stockists. For visual inspiration, you can follow Kim on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter :)
NB Pics of Kim's new Aves and Ebb Tide ranges courtesy of her Instagram account