Mindful Recreations

Conversations in Clay- with Deanna Roberts


Autumn- warm sun through the window, the air chilly outside, and deciduous trees everywhere in a riot of colour.  I was on my way to meet Deanna Roberts, one of my fellow Treefern Potters.

We meet at Deanna’s house and studio- looking towards the Dandenong Ranges. I am immediately at home.  Deanna has two creative spaces downstairs and one upstairs… Oh! The jealousy, but Oh! What fun! I was there to explore her pottery studio in particular but I would have loved to explore the other spaces too. I have an inkling that her cupboards are full of supplies to make my fingers tingle, and my mind boggle.


Deanna has always been a creator of things. She used to seW with her mother on Saturday afternoons, after the family restaurant was closed for the day. I have a picture of mother and daughter pawing over fashion magazines, heading out for supplies, and returning with parcels tucked under their arms- ready for their afternoons activity. What a beautiful and special gift. It makes me think of how I could do things differently with my own children.


Deanna’s mother used to say, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”, and Deanna has taken this to heart. Indeed her portfolios from when she was studying her Diploma of Art – Ceramics demonstrates her thoroughness and attention to detail. I have another inkling- if Deanna turns her full attention to something it will be done well. This leads into a deeper conversation about the satisfaction of knowing you’ve done something well, which makes us feel good about ourselves. And how it feels even better when people like and appreciate what we have done. We also talked about that niggling feeling that happens when you know something is just ‘not quite right’ and you have to fix it. Ahhh….. someone who understands.


At 26 years of age Deanna had ‘the dream job’ as a Project Manager. However it was her theatrical activities outside work that were her real passion.  When it comes to pottery, Deanna said as a teenager she saw a potter demonstrating on a wheel at an outdoor market and remembers thinking “I’d like to do that”. A class at the local community arts centre many years later, and she was hooked. And by ‘hooked’, I mean ‘Hooked!’. She went on to do a series of short courses through Holmesglen TAFE, then a certificate level course (which the TAFE a ran specifically), then another. This went on for two years. As Deanna talks I realise that this remarkable event, the TAFE running a course in response to the students request, took place during the Kennett era of ‘slash and burn’ education. I wonder if the course if still going…


I have a sense that Deanna doesn’t do anything by halves. As I watch her work on the wheel she tells me about working full time, studying her Diploma of Art-Ceramics, and then undertaking first a Certificate IV in Workplace Training, then a Graduate Diploma, and finally a Batchelor of Education on weekends. Nothing like filling your spare time – I think we agreed that ‘spare’ time was sleeping. Even now, post studies, Deanna’s hands are never still. She sees inspiration in lots of different places- watching the back drop that gives a story authenticity in a movie, the choice of colours or patterns in an advertisement on TV, and she is frequently sketching ideas and thoughts into a journal. I forgot to ask to look at THAT journal. Doh!


As we talk about the busyness of working and following creative urges, we reflect on the process of getting older and wiser, and how sometimes separate roles in our lives seem to come together- the circularity of life. Deanna’s work experience, her theatrical pursuits, and her creative endeavours have all come together- she’s written a book, sets up websites, does presentations, and pots, amongst other things, and there is a huge amount of overlap. I wonder what other circularity will follow…

With my usual ability to ‘talk the leg off a chair’ I ran out of time to explore the rest of Deanna’s creative spaces. Another time perhaps. On my way out we did stop to look at a few of Deanna’s favourites on a shelf nearby. There were some tiny little bottles with a crackle glaze, her first handbuilt piece (a dragon), and in the corner, the star of her days as a pottery student. A tall, narrow necked, burnished vase made from terracotta in the gorgeous reds and blacks of a sawdust firing. Deanna said she made this at TAFE, fans fired it in a rubbish bin out the back, next to the train-line. She had to stand watch to make sure no sparks took flight. She smiles with pleasure when we talk about the amount of time spent burnishing the piece. I don’t think she’d ever part with it.

As I drive away the image of the gorgeous vase with its hours of burnishing and glowing colours, speaks to me of Deanna’s passion and dedication, and her mother’s phrase “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”.


You can find out more about Deanna and her endeavours at http://www.thinkinpictures.com.au. Or on the Treefern Potters website.treefernpotters.com.au

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