It all started in a California high school where Joseph Darling, owner of Oxford Street’s tiny creative venue, The Pottery Shed, took his first pottery course. “Back then they were pushing a lot of these blue-collar skills in school,” Darling remembers. Looking back he couldn’t be more grateful. The art turned into a lifelong hobby.
“I started teaching when I realised pottery was really difficult to learn,” says Darling, “and I knew I wanted to teach a technique that was more digestible.”
At The Pottery Shed classes are designed in single units; first learning how to throw (shape bowl-like pieces) on the wheel. Next students will trim pieces, preparing them for firing, and finally comes painting, glazing, and the rest. These increments allow students to pop in for single-skill courses or make pottery an ongoing hobby. “I remember the first time I got my love for this craft,” Darling says, “and I want to boil it down to something tangible that can be easily remembered by students.”
With a vision for this gloomy strip of Oxford Street becoming one of Sydney’s many creative precincts, Darling purchased the old, derelict garage behind Ampersand Café & Bookstore. Although he’s sad to see Paddington’s luxury shops shutting their doors, “it’d be sadder if these empty spaces weren’t snapped up by creative communities,” he says.
After years of teaching at Darlinghurst Public School, some of Darling’s old students are still regulars at The Pottery Shed. A few have been attending classes for more than four years. For Darling, the most important thing is seeing his students smile and laugh, and knowing that he’s given them the chance to make something they can be proud of.
“Pottery is more than an art or a skill,” says Darling. “There is a meditative value – the rhythm and flow teaches you things about your life that you may have not been aware of.”