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Potters all fired up

Retirement Living Connectedness Community Health Lifestyle Positive Ageing Residential
  • A group of potters meet each week at IRT Macarthur
  • Resident Michael Bright is the community pottery teacher
  • The resident potters have made pottery murals
  • The murals are on display at the community
19 November 2018
IRT Macarthur pottery teacher Michael Bright with student and resident Rosslyn Eilbeck.
IRT Macarthur pottery teacher Michael Bright with student and resident Rosslyn Eilbeck.

IRT Macarthur residents are getting creative with pottery.

“I enjoy helping people play with clay. I love doing it myself but it’s more fun with other people.”
Michael Bright

Every Wednesday morning a group of enthusiastic residents gets together in the men’s shed at IRT Macarthur to turn their hand to pottery.

Gathered around a couple of tables, they carefully decorate their various pieces as they natter and share a laugh.

The group has been meeting for 10 years, under the watchful eye of their teacher and fellow resident, 85-year-old Michael Bright.

Michael’s a professional potter who made a living from his craft for 24 years. He lived on five acres at Wedderburn, near Campbelltown, and made domestic stoneware in his pottery studio, which he sold at local markets.

He also taught for some years at the University of Western Sydney.

Michael had been “fiddling” with clay since the late 1960s but turned professional after the company he worked for as a national marketing manager folded. Recruitment agencies told him that, at 45, he was too old to get a similar role.

Michael Bright with student and resident Jan Whiteford.

“I thought about it for a while and decided that given the sorts of jobs they were offering me I’d rather do something else, so I became a full-time potter. I’d been a hobby potter before that – I just turned it into a living,” he explains. “I just enjoy making things.”

Everyone is welcome to join his pottery class and he says the interaction the residents enjoy is a large part of the experience.

One of his students is Colina Wray, who is busy decorating pot stands when The Good Life visits.

“It’s very relaxing and also keeps your mind going, because you’re being creative,” she says. “We have a laugh and a chat – sometimes more chatting than working!”

“And Michael’s so patient with all of us,” adds Jan Whiteford, as she briefly pauses from painting a saucer. “I’ve been coming here for eight years and I really enjoy it.”

One of the challenges is to find projects they can all work on. A while back, Michael came up with the idea of making a mural from small pottery tiles.

“The first one we did is based on an art deco greeting card. We enlarged the card and translated it into little tiles, which we then hand-painted,” Michael explains.

That work is displayed outside the village’s community room.

“Once we completed the first one, the group got keen and so we did Sealife, a backdrop to the pool,” he continues.

They’ve since completed a large historical mural, showing some of the key buildings from the Campbelltown area, and are now working on a whimsical fairy garden.

They’ve decided their next project will be a mad hatter’s tea party mural.

“I enjoy helping people play with clay. I love doing it myself but it’s more fun with other people,” Michael says.

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