Shelby Sherritt opens a 'paint your own pottery' studio in Ballarat

Shelby Sherritt opens a 'paint your own pottery' studio in Ballarat

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Ceramic artist and TikToker Shelby Sherritt has opened a 'paint your own pottery' studio in Ballarat, Victoria. Shelby says the idea for The Pottage came to life after receiving numerous requests for workshops and studio visits.

"The decision to open up The Pottage has been a long time in the making," says Shelby.

"I was always doing pottery and sharing the joy for creativity and making things with joy, and would often get asked, 'Do you do workshops, do you do sessions, can I come to your studio and learn how you do that or even paint the pieces myself?'.

"I knew it was something worth looking into and I wanted to do it, but I was always constrained by funding. I finally saved up enough money and decided to finally do it and open up a workshop for people to come and create their own pieces."

Understanding the economic climate and the challenges faced by bricks and mortar stores, Shelby has adopted a strategy to minimise risk by offering intimate session bookings rather than walk-ins. This approach allows her to gauge demand and manage the workshop's resources effectively.

"There's always a risk with it especially with news about the economy and seeing a lot of brick and mortar shops shutting down.

"But for this space, I wanted to make it more of an intimate session booking where you can book your time and come in rather than a walk-in store.

"This way we can guarantee who's going to come in and the hours that we need to be there. I'm able to minimise the risk and also be able to assess the demand and supply that we need to work for the space.

"It was very nerve-racking, but I've tried to plan it in a way that we can monitor and gauge whether it's been successful before fully leaning straight into being open all the time."

The Pottage offers a variety of different services such as groups, workshops, hire spaces and their signature 'Paint Your Own Pottery' sessions. 

Behind the scenes, a team of three have been busy making a variety of items for attendees to paint including mugs, jars, trinkets, bowls, platters, and figurines.

"It's taken a long time. We've been working on it for months now, trying to backlog all the pieces and make sure that we have a array of pieces. And behind the scenes, we've also been doing pre-orders to keep that cash flow rolling in.

"We set down a tally of 10 pieces per thing to open. And out of those things, I reckon we've hit 50 options."

With an Instagram following of 340,000 and almost 2 million on TikTok, Shelby attributes much of her success to her savvy use of social media and her approach to branding.

By providing the behind the scenes look at her process and connecting with her audience on a personal level, Shelby has built a strong community around her brand.

“It is really hard to build a sustainable pottery business because a lot of people don't realise how much actually goes into the making of that simple mug that you drink your morning coffee out of all the time," says Shelby.

"I attribute my success to marketing and branding myself as a brand just as much as I am an artist.

"I'm using social media as a really valuable tool to drive interest and traffic, but not just about promoting my work and saying, 'I've got this ready, this is what I have, this is what I'm selling', but giving a behind the scenes look and creating a connection and a deeper evaluation of the item that people are watching me create.

"That might be through a behind the scenes blooper of something going wrong where you see that there's a human that's really trying their best to do some amazing work and it doesn't always go right."

"I'm also showing those success stories and showing off the highlights of the business and mixed in with just funky content that people can follow along and it's relatable and easy to digest."

The Pottage is not just a business venture for Shelby. She hopes to fill a gap in the market and provide a service that has been missing in Ballarat, potentially boosting local tourism and contributing to the city's reputation as an arts hub.

"I am hoping that it will put Ballarat on the map, and we will be recognised for our arts program and our arts initiatives. We have a lot of artists that live and reside here and a lot of art programs. I'm hoping that it will reach a further market for that as well.

"I really want to connect with the local Ballarat community because a lot of the time we often have to travel to Bendigo, Geelong or Melbourne to do certain activities. Hopefully I can grant that sort of access here in Ballarat through The Pottage."

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