Lead poisoning pushes return to pottery wheel
LEENA Shearman handcrafted her very first piece of pottery when she around four years old.
She has fond childhood memories with her Nanna doing pottery and now after 20 years of being a chef in resorts across the nation including Great Keppel Island and working as a private chef for Peter Bond on Dunk Island, she has picked the wheel back up.
This story is another addition in The Morning Bulletin's Home Grown Series where we go behind the farm gates and showcase the faces of small businesses around the Rockhampton and Capricorn Coast region.
Ms Shearman is the face of Earth Bakery, a new pottery business emerging on the handmade scene.
Her love for the art comes from her Nanna who taught her the foundations when she was growing up in Gracemere.
Her very first pottery piece was a portrait frame with a face and spaghetti made from a garlic press.
"That was just a fun activity to do with Nanna," she said.
Then when she was a teenager it sparked her interest again and she joined up with the Capricornia Pottery Group to do classes to get back into it.
Her teacher was Tricia Greinke and they were held at the Walter Reid Cultural Centre.
Dabbling in it for a while, she then started a chef apprenticeship before achieving the qualification when she was 21.
She then worked in the resort when it was still operating at Great Keppel Island before moving away from the region for 15-20 years.
She had her own cafe in Adelaide and lived there for a few years and also worked on Dunk Island when Cyclone Larry and Yasi hit.
Her interest in all things creative never faded but there was never time or space for them.
"Where I lived was always a motel room or a studio apartment so I could never really do my hobbies, furniture restoration and pottery... and cheffing is long hours.. 14-16 hour days," she said.
About seven years ago, her and her partner decided to move back the region and they bought a big block just under a hectare with a shed out the back.
She took up a role at the CQU teaching hospitality but also pursued a creative passion in furniture restoration and had a business, Twigs and Twine, for about three years.
This ended quickly after she contracted lead and arsenic poisoning from the antique paint.
This pushed her to come back into pottery.
So she returned to the Walter Reid Cultural Centre to attend the Capricornia Pottery Group classes, like she had 20 years before.
To her surprise not much had changed. The pottery was moved up to the second floor but Ms Greinke was still the teacher.
"It was a little bit like riding a bike but I found I was a bit more fearless the first time," Ms Shearman said.
"The first time I wasn't scared to experiment anything and everything....this second time I was more reserved and wanted everything to be perfect."
She has now found herself letting go of that and leaning towards the "rustic nature and earthiness of pottery again".
She started off with wheel-work which is known as one of the harder types of pottery as opposed to slab pottery, pinch potting or coil pots.
Ms Shearman uses stoneware clay in her products, preferring it over terracotta or a grey clay.
She says it is a smoother clay, a lot finer and dries white.
She also uses glazes on the products that have more of a matte finish rather than a gloss.
Another reason she was led back into pottery was as a chef she was seeing a lot of food going back to being service on "beautiful urban pottery".
This has become her main products she has been making with functional tableware from bowls, plates and dishes.
Keeping up with what is popular, she also makes succulent planters and jewellery.
It can be quite time consuming, working the clay, sculpting the shape, baking it twice, painting it and more.
"Pottery is one of those hobbies where you don't get rewarded for the hours you put in," she said.
A lot of thought and concentration also needs to go into it.
"Pottery is a science... there is just so much to learn," Ms Shearman said.
"Things will depend on the clay body."
While it does take a lot of work, Ms Shearman has dreams of one day going into pottery full-time,
She hopes to be able to buy her own kiln next year and do classes.
She also hopes to be able to do more markets, events and pop-up shops once she has stock up.
If you have a story tip for The Home Grown Series email Vanessa at email@example.com