In a Victorian terrace on William Street in Paddington you’ll find Elph Store, a hub of local ceramics, linens and homewares. In contrast to the stark black exterior of 10 William St next door, Elph’s facade is white and bright, framed by dark filigree details.
Inside, warm lighting illuminates muted gray walls and wooden shelves that carry items from makers from across Australia. A border collie named Emily may or may not be resting by the door. Out the back there’s a small dedicated ceramics studio where Elph’s own products are made.
The store was created in 2016 by Belinda Rankine and her daughters Sophie and Eloise. Eloise established Elph ceramics after studying fine arts at the National Art School.
“I was just enthralled by this function/non-function dynamic that ceramics have as an art, but also in real life,” Eloise tells Broadsheet. “So I started [the line] to explore making things in a way that was freer; I could make what I wanted to make without having to think so much about the conceptual side of things.”
Shoppers can sometimes see Eloise working on new products out the back. “When I can, I work at my studio and you can have a look,” she says. “You can even see my wheel through the window, which is kind of cute.”
The store also hosts lessons, and there’s the option to book a private “Date Night” session too. And on the weekend of August 17 and 18, customers will be able to try their hand at Eloise’s wheel for free as part of Australian Ceramics Association Open Studios. The countrywide event sees more than 120 potters and ceramic artists around Australia open their doors to the public, giving curious punters the chance to peek into their workspaces.
Budding ceramicists can book 15-minute “Try the Wheel” slots during the open-studio weekend. They’ll be presented with a ball of clay to turn into a piece of their choosing. At the end of the session Eloise can finish the piece – drying, firing, glazing and a second firing – for a fee of $30. The finished piece can either be picked up at the store or delivered when it’s ready in three to four weeks. “It’ll be really messy, but really fun,” Eloise says, smiling.
Aside from Elph’s in-house ceramics, the store stocks homewares, goods and other ceramics from 20 other makers, designers and artists from Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. There are dinner sets inspired by paper from Marrickville’s Hayden Youlley, loose-leaf teas like chai and English breakfast from Tippity Tea, linen throws and tea towels from independent brand Cultiver, pastel vases and coffee pots from Melbourne-based studio Ghost Wares, and delicate hand-pinched porcelain from emerging artist Holly Macdonald.
The Rankines believe it’s important to support artists at various points of their careers, from those just starting out and creating one-off pieces, to more established makers who are able to produce full lines and fulfil larger orders. They tend to stick to functional, serviceable items.
Elph’s stock can also be bought online, but there’s something about the bricks-and-mortar shop that feels special to the family. “[Our] passion is really to be able to come in, pick everything up and touch them, and really get an idea of how it feels between you and the object,” says Eloise.
“There are so many amazing makers in Australia, and seeing [their work] in real life changes how you interact with the world, and I think that’s really beautiful.”
12 William Street, Paddington
(02) 9332 2689
Mon, Wed to Sat 10am–5pm