Have you ever made something with your own hands? Whether it is knitting, crochet, sewing, pottery, art or anything else, there is so much such satisfaction in creating. I remember the feeling of clay under my fingers at school, and the meditative spin of the pottery wheel. Art was a passion and still is for me today. I loved using the wood turning machines and even metal work was a joy. As I grew into an adult, art in all its forms has been a steady part of my life, and at one stage I even attended art school with the dream of being a working artist. Creating something yourself brings so much joy.
However, bringing things into your home that have been handmade by someone else, can create just as much joy. There are so many wonderful makers and artists that you can seek to decorate your home with. Launched in 2015, and located in Kallista, in the beautiful Dandenong Ranges, Little Charlie Wheeler is one such business.
A bespoke handmade ceramics business, each piece is handmade by owner, Rebecca Harding. Having served in the Australian Military for over 10 years, and a Registered Nurse, Rebecca started making ceramics as an outlet for ‘me-time’, after having her son. She and her husband, Mark have four children – 20 year old twins, an 8 year old and a 4 year old.
On her very first lesson Rebecca’s teacher, Kevin Somerfield, told her not to expect to make anything much on her first attempt, because nobody really does. Quite surprisingly to both of them, she made three perfect pots that night! “I remember very clearly him telling me that I had natural talent,” she says. From then on, she was hooked. Rebecca’s products are made with love and passion, and with a little part of her which has been forged out of a childhood in the country.
Born in Sydney, she grew up in the Western Downs Region in Queensland, in a little ‘blink-and-miss-it’ place called Hannaford. “There was only a primary school, community hall and post office. It was the best childhood I could have asked for. We didn’t have lots of expensive toys, but we had BMXs, horses, motorbikes, and there was lots of land to explore.” she shares. “I’ve always been attracted to farmhouse style, and simplicity. I remember seeing all the new and modern furniture in the glossy magazines, but was always drawn to what I found in the old shearing quarters, constantly dreaming about how I could ‘restore’ each item and bring it back to it’s former glory,” explains Rebecca.
Like many creative people, there is a family history to this story. Rebecca says her Mum has always been a crafty woman and is creative and inspirational. “She always knew how to make the most of what we had, and she encouraged my sister, Nichole, and I to love second-hand, pre-loved and recycled. She still drags Dad out to second-hand and antique shops, farm sales, etc, to find a pre-loved treasure. Our Dad is the handiest, most talented man that I know. Nothing is ever wasted, or thrown away without consideration to whether it can be fixed. So I know that’s where I get my passion for ‘making’, and ‘making do’,” says Rebecca.
It is this history that drives her passion for ceramics and to create items that are timeless, look great in any house – whether city or country – and to inspire others to turn away from mass-produced, one-season-trend, throw-away homewares.
“I love the feeling of knowing that if I want a particular present for someone, or a new bowl for myself, I can just make it. Exactly how I want.”
Of course like anyone, Rebecca has some pieces that either don’t turn out how she planned, or that have slight imperfections. These are either repurposed into planters, stationery or utensil holders, or occasionally she will pop a few slices or cakes on them to take to play-dates and leave them as ‘thanks for having us’ gifts for friends (which always ends in smiles!). You will often see ‘seconds’ being used in her kitchen at home, including a tumbler that has a slightly misshapen rim – funnily enough this is the only cup Rebecca drinks her black tea out of. “Tea just tastes better in it” she says!.
Rebecca also tries to be sustainable within her business, reusing and recycling as much as possible in terms of packaging, clay and raw materials. All unused clay scraps, and trimmings are recycled. “I get some gorgeous raw clay marbling from using the different clays together in one piece. Any glaze that is in the bottom of buckets, etc is left to dry, then carefully recycled. It’s amazing what great glazes can come out of a mix of leftovers. The only problem is not being able to replicate the finish later. I try to use recycled packaging where possible, so don’t be surprised if your order gets delivered to you in toddler shoe boxes!” she says.
One of Rebecca’s passions that is core to sustainability, is fair trade. She has written a blog on her website about how little the workers of mass-produced products are paid, and how much it costs her to make her goods. “I think we can all do better to encourage fair wages and living conditions for makers globally, whilst encouraging better quality products. I think we’re seeing a change towards this, and it’s refreshing to see, but more has to be done to truly make a difference in people’s lives and towards the reduction of waste,” stresses Rebecca.
As well as this, there is the satisfaction of embracing the handmade. This applies to Rebecca herself as the maker, as well as to the people who take her pieces into their homes. Having something handmade and knowing the person who made it, brings much happiness to you and your home. “I find that I feel most satisfied when I can restore or make something special out of discarded objects. I detest waste in any form, from my business to home in general. I attended a Preserving workshop at Matthew Evan’s Fat Pig Farm a year ago, and since then, I’ve been eagerly making the most of excess produce, and preserving for future use. If you have a chance to visit Fat Pig Farm, I highly recommend it as a great example of living more sustainably and ethically,” says Rebecca.
Rebecca is currently expanding her line to include linen and hand-carved wooden homewares, using scrap wood, and recycled or discarded fabrics. Her husband and children recently bought her a wood lathe for her birthday, so there are plans to do some matching ceramic and wooden bowl sets, as well as ceramic canisters with timber and leather lids. She says to keep checking back to her Instagram account or website for new homewares.