Random Clay Talk | Sally May Mills | Episode 671


Sally May Mills | Episode 671

Life was very different for Sally before she discovered clay. She lived a slow and simple life on a beach in a remote Indonesian village where the rhythm of the tides punctuates the day. A camera was her artistic choice, working as a lifestyle and food photographer throughout Australia and Bali. She began her ceramics study in Japan, and was then awarded an internship at Gaya Ceramics Art Centre in Bali. Clay became her focus, and she returned to Australia at the end of 2017 to set up a studio in her hometown of Busselton.


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Potters do a lot of experimenting. What the weirdest thing that you have actually made as a potter so far?

One of the more unusual things I was asked to make was a slow dog feeder. Which is normally made of silicon and it’s like a maze that you jam the food in and the dog has to use its tongue to get in and around and it slows them down from scarfing their food. I was asked to make a couple of those out of clay instead of plastic so that was kind of fun. I had to devise what I thought would be a challenging maze for the dog to stick its tongue in and then try and make it out of clay which involved lots of little pieces and it took me ages. I don’t think I want to go into production of making them. But they seem to work and the dogs like them.

What’s a piece that you thought was going to be a flop but ended up being a raging success for you?

Generally if I think they are going to flop, they do. (Laughter) I don’t feel like I have had a lot of time. I sort of jumped in the deep end with getting ready for the big open studio events down here and teaching so my chance to push the boundaries of experimenting and therefore have big flops, I haven’t done a lot of that. I did some wood-firing when I was at Gia that they definitely ended up crushed up in the driveway. They were flops. The more you push the boundaries, the more disasters you are going to have and at the moment I am not pushing too many boundaries. So maybe in the future.

How do you get the word out about classes that you are teaching? How do you market yourself?

A lot of it down here is word of mouth and then via social media and Instagram. But a lot of it word of mouth and then  also a big event for me with sales and for promoting the teaching is the Margaret River Open Studios which we just finished on Sunday. It’s the biggest event of its kind in Australia. Over 100 artists open their studios and people come and it’s a free event and they visit as many studios as they like. SO for me I had over 600 people visit over 16 days and a lot of them come and they have never seen a pottery studio and they have no idea about the process. I get to talk to them and show them and through that I pick up a lot of students. So that is a really good promotional even both for my work and for my classes.

What is your favorite social media hack?

I love Instagram but I also hate it. I’m sure we’re all a bit like that and I find stories really fantastic for sharing behind the scenes and getting people interested in how it works and seeing the process which I think demystifies it for them. And then they are interested to come and perhaps have go and think they might be able to do it. Or not and they might think, Oh, I never realized what was involved in that. Therefore I am prepared to pay 40 dollars for a mug.  So I use stories a lot and I like that it is not as curated and polished but I can’t think of an actual hack off the top of my head.

What’s your favorite social media platform to use?

Instagram by far. Absolutely.

From your perspective why is it such a great platform for you to use?

Well, it’s visual for one. I think anything in the arts lends itself more to the visual platform. The kind of people who are interested in my work, they are also using Instagram. I love photography so I get to share through images. And I just like it as a platform. I’ve always found Facebook pretty ugly. The interface I just find busy and ugly. You can curate Instagram a little bit more to what you want to see.

Has there been a positive thing that came out of Covid for you?

Well, for me. I have been very, very, fortunate that it had very little impact on the way that I live my life. You couldn’t be in a better place, I don’t think, than Western Australia. We are so free to roam here.Yet we had a few months where things were a little bit tighter but I have space around me and the day to day for me didn’t change. And I think , coming out of the other side, there was so much hunger for people to do something, but it seems like there’s more hunger to do something that is more meaningful and slower and people are just so interested in coming to do classes. The open studios event was a huge success this year because I think people want to travel in their own state. So Western Australians who would normally be oversees came down south to see the studios. So I was able to share my space and my values with so many more people because of Covid. It’s actually been quite positive,  as positive as it can be.  We are very, very, fortunate down here in our little pocket.


Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher



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