The first thing that drew me to the eclectic store Berrima Village Pottery, was the ‘spinny things’ creating a visual symphony on the lawn of the bakery-tuned-pottery-and-homewares barn.
I made a beeline for the front counter, albeit a very slow one. It was impossible not to stop several times. The store is literally brimming with unique and stylish homewares. Think: handcrafted ceramic mugs, plates, bowls, vases and dinnerware, as well as other fab fancies like furniture and firewood holders.
By the time I finally made it to the counter, I was greeted by co-owner and operator, Louise Bruce, who along with a paint-stained apron was wearing a bright, beaming smile.
“How much are the spinny things the front yard,” I enquired, adding quizzically, “are they even called spinny things?”
“I do believe that is their official name,” laughed Louise,” as she rattled off the extremely affordable prices of each piece of striking garden art. With my eye on a particular silver whirling universe shape, I vowed to return the following week when I had a larger car to transport it in, and carried on a lively conversation with Louise.
Louise, 53, and her husband Paul, 63, have called Berrima home for almost 28 years now and they say they couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.
“We actually met on the Gold Coast,” she reveals. “Paul had a pottery business, I was singing in a band, and we met at a gig. I didn’t realise I had a love of ceramics until I met Paul.”
After moving to Sydney, family soon came along and the creative couple realised it was time for a tree-change.
“It was 1993. We had a young family and wanted to have a more rural life for ourselves and our girls,” explains Louise. “We put a pin in the map that was 1:30 mins from Sydney. The Southern Highlands fit the bill. We drove down and decided this was where we wanted to live. At the time our source of income was Paddington Markets, so we wanted to be able to commute back to Sydney for the Saturday market.
“We first lived in a house in Old Mandemar Road, making pottery for Paddington Markets and also Canberra Markets. A move to Jellore Street in Berrima followed, and then we opened our Shop and Studio in 2001. We actually even had one year down in Berry, but found we missed the Highlands, so relocated to our current location and re-opened Berrima Village Pottery in 2015.”
Berrima Village Pottery is a fully functioning ceramics studio, as well as an emporium of local arts, crafts, homewares and gifts. One could get lost in there for hours, admiring all the stunning wares. Which is exactly what I did.
The building comprises two ground-level rooms, overflowing with lust-have items, a vast open verandah and front lawn showcasing the aforementioned “spinny things” as well as other magical pieces of garden art. On the lower ground level, is Paul’s pottery studio. You’ll find him here most days, ‘throwing’ pieces, accompanied by their jug, Stella.
Artistic Dream Team
Louise and Paul are both highly involved in the creative process when it comes to the ceramics they offer.
“Paul began his journey in the 1970s,” explains Louise. “He got a job at Lilydale Pottery in Victoria in the 70’s and then another production pottery called Badgers Creek. This is where Paul developed his skills. I didn’t get involved in the making of pottery until one day I innocently asked, “can I have a go at decorating a pot?’ Next thing, I had a job!”
Each piece in the store has been worked on so intricately that the buyer will be taking home not just a functional object, but a piece of art that has been lovingly laboured over for several hours, or sometimes even days.
“Each step in creating a piece is relatively quick, but there are several steps,” explains Louise. “So, an individual pot needs to be thrown and then finished, which means the handles are attached and the pot is trimmed. They are then bisque fired, glazed and then fired again in the kiln. So, yes, every piece is very labour intensive.”
“At the moment we are managing to fire a kiln every week to stock our shop. We are pretty much producing at capacity – as much as two people can do in a working week in any case. We make all the functional pottery in the store. At one time Paul also would make a lot of the furniture and pieces that display our pottery, but he is too busy making pots these days.
“So, I buy in all our other homewares. I try to surround myself with beautiful pieces, given we spend a lot of time in our shop and studio. My hope is that these pieces will also appeal to my customers! We are also very fortunate to have this gorgeous space to work with. The Old Bakery has beautiful bones! We have also just bought a new kiln and hope to be glaze testing and having some new lines in the New Year!
Meet And Greet Gal
Of course, no business in the Highlands is complete without a canine companion, and for Louise and Paul, Stella the Jug is not only their best furry friend, but the store’s official ‘meet and greet gall’.
Louise laughs: “Stella is our little constant companion in the shop and store. We call her our meet and greet gal – she thinks that everybody who walks in our store has specifically come to see her. She is often right!”
Favourite Highlands’ Haunts
Of course, every person we profile here at Southern Highlands Style gets grilled on what they love most about our gorgeous region, so Louise wasn’t getting away without spilling the beans on her top spots.
“Definitely spring! I find all the new life in the garden, and the warmer days, so energising!”
“The Surveyor General Inn of course! It is literally across the road and a stumble home. The staff are delightful and the food is great!”
“We are blessed with great cafes and restaurants in Berrima . I love The Berrima General Store. Diego and his delicious pastries and coffee are dangerously close by! Our most recent new cafe is Schmokin. It is up there as Paul’s fave local hang, with its motorbikes, music and good food.”
“Eschalot and Josh’s Cafe are my two favourite restaurants. They are quite different to each other, but again spectacular food and lovely people with an emphasis on local and seasonal.”
FAVE CHILL OUT SPOT
“My verandah at the end of the day, with Paul, having a vino.”
FAVE PLACE TO GET ACTIVE
“Paul takes care of all the activity in this household! He is a keen cyclist and mountain biker – basically anything with two wheels!”
FAVE PLACE TO SEE THE SUN RISE AND SET
” I never see the sunrise – hahah! The setting sun … I love seeing it over the rolling hills on the drive from Bowral to Berrima. It’s quite lovely.”
FAVE PLACE TO STROLL WITH STELLA
“Stelly and I love the Stone Quarry River Walk. It is just at the end of our street. In the warmer months, she likes to have a swim in the Wingecarribee River. We are very lucky to live in Beautiful Berrima and all she has to offer.”
Berrima Village Pottery is located at the corner of Old Hume Highway and Wingecarribee Street, Berrima NSW.
Words: Shonagh Walker
Pictures: Paul Suesse