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Elizabeth Bell is a ceramic artist and pottery teacher from Melbourne, (Australia). She first took to the wheel in 2015, under the tutelage of Dr Darren McGinn at Studio Made. Since then Elizabeth has completed workshops in Kyoto (Japan), Jaipur (India) and Cappadocia (Turkey), as well as an internship at Illyria Pottery in Oxford (UK). For the past two years she has been based in London, teaching introductory pottery classes in the studio of Jo Davies Ceramics.
Elizabeth specialises in wheel-thrown stoneware, producing functional items with both purpose and individuality. She describes her technique as a product of global influences, and draws inspiration from patterns, colours and textures found in the natural world.
Working with a material that is taken from the earth seems as natural as you can get, but there are so many ways in which you can ensure your pottery studio operates sustainably and produces less waste.
Clay is a plentiful and natural material that has been used for centuries. It has no expiry date and is completely recyclable until it has been fired.
The clay I use is manufactured and distributed from Melbourne, Victoria and I use Australian mined materials for glazes when possible, all from an independently-owned business. This ensures less transport, packing material, and also supports the local economy and workforce.
When I am making, every little scrap of clay is recycled and is done so in my studio, by me. The water used to assist in making an item will settle to the top of the container and can be poured off and reused when I need water next. The clay will sink to the bottom and will be recycled with other scraps of clay after trimming. Any pots that don’t pass quality control can be recycled and that clay reused to make another item at a later date.
There is no hiding that using a kiln and firing it to 1300c uses a lot of energy, however where that energy comes from is really important to me. Solar would be incredible however it is not an option at my current studio but something I will aim for in the future. In the meantime, the energy supplier I use sources 100% from renewables (wind, hydro & solar). I only use the kiln 1-2 times per month at the moment, and try to fire it up on weekends and evenings to take advantage of off-peak energy times. I have several other local ceramic artists that use my kiln alongside me to ensure the kiln is used at full capacity and never fired half empty.
Some ceramic artists choose to make their own kilns with kiln bricks, however commercially produced kilns are considerably more efficient due to manufacturing standards. My kiln was acquired from a retiring glass artist and is a commercially made Tetlow.
Australia’s love for coffee has led to an extra 7,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste from disposable cups and are estimated to be the second-largest contributor to litter waste after plastic bottles. While the manufacturing of a ceramic cup takes more energy than the manufacturing of a paper cup (around 2.2 times), the energy per use for a paper cup remains constant because they are thrown away after one use compared to a ceramic cup whose energy per use decreases the more often it is used. If you were to use a ceramic coffee cup each day on the way to work, rather than purchasing your coffee in a paper cup, you would be saving over 300 cups from going into landfill per year. Many people assume that paper cups can be recycled because they are paper but unfortunately that is not always the case. Most paper cups are lined with plastic or wax to help keep your beverage hot and to prevent the paper cup from dissolving into mush. Because of this, paper cups cannot be recycled or composted.
And don’t forget – most coffee shops will give you a discount if you bring your own coffee cup – win-win!!
Cardboard boxes and packing materials from my own suppliers are repurposed and used to send my customer orders. When I do not have enough supply of these, I use Ranpak which is an eco-friendly packing material and cardboard boxes made from recycled materials.
I send all my parcels with Sendle because they offer 100% carbon neutral delivery. For every tonne of carbon dioxide Sendle releases into the air while delivering parcels, they cancel it out by supporting projects that combat climate change.