Takeawei Founder Chela Edmunds On Handcrafting Ceramics With Heart

by: Rosie Dalton | 7 months ago | Features

Image: Takeawei founder Chela Edmunds, photographed by Dan Sodertrom for Rented Space.

Chela Edmunds didn’t originally begin her career as a ceramicist. Instead, the Melbourne-based creative started out studying textile design, which led her to work in New York. Logging time with the likes of Vera Wang and DKNY, she eventually fell in love with ceramics when she met a potter in Brooklyn. And this passion ultimately led to the launch of her ceramics brand, Takeawei.

Now based in a picturesque studio in Torquay – on the Surf Coast of Victoria – Chela spends most of her time handcrafting minimal waste ceramics, as well as teaching workshops. Aside from employing beautiful colourways, though, some of Takeawei’s rustic planters and cups also use a recycled glaze, which is a mixture of Chela’s leftover glaze. We are super excited to welcome Takeawei to Well Made Home, so asked Chela to tell us a bit about her story to date.

Rosie Dalton: You originally started your career in textile design, so what prompted the transition into ceramics?
Chela Edmunds: Initially I started ceramics to slow down and get my hands into something real. I had been working for several years in fashion as a textile designer and product developer and didn’t feel that my role in fast fashion aligned with my ethics. I had tried various approaches – designing for different smaller brands, larger brands and freelancing, but I was essentially part of a much larger machine that lacked personal connection. Clay was something completely new for me. It was a way to use my hands and see the design/production process through from start to finish.

Rosie: How does your knowledge of textiles help inform your approach with Takeawei today?
: I love colour and pattern, so that always comes through in my work. I’m playful in my approach and tend to use the ceramic form as a canvas for decorative elements. I see the creative process as much the same for any material I work with.

Rosie: You have worked over in New York as well, can you tell us a bit about that experience and what you learned while you were there?
Chela: I went to New York disheartened with the Australian fashion industry and hoping to find something different overseas. Unfortunately I saw more of the same, but ultimately my experiences there made me believe that I could make a difference and start something small to connect with and share with others. 

Rosie: Why did you ultimately decide to come back to Australia and start your own business?
: I started making ceramics every spare moment and realised how much I enjoyed creating handmade pieces in general. It changed the way I looked at my everyday tableware and I started to question: ‘who made this?’ I wanted the answer to make me feel good. I thought if I felt this way, then there must be many more people like me. So I moved back to Australia and started Takeawei.  

Rosie: Can you tell us a bit about your studio environment – where is it located, what is the atmosphere like and who works there?
Chela: The Takeawei studio is in Torquay on the Surf Coast. We are part of a larger property called Ashmore Arts, with many other artists, so it feels like a community workplace. The atmosphere in my studio is busy but flexible. I like the work to be all things I want for myself in a job – safe, well paid, enjoyable and accommodating of family commitments … oh and good swell. I am the owner and maker, so I work about 5 days a week producing work and 1 day teaching wheel classes at the studio. Gill is the Studio manager and works 3 days; Andrew is a production potter and works from home; Peta teaches classes at the studio; and Alexandra is a ceramics student who works as a studio assistant from time to time. 

Rosie: Why do you believe it is so important to support local crafts such as ceramics? I
Chela: I believe that the enjoyment we receive from using handmade pieces is the best reason to support local craftsmanship. Knowing that they are made responsibly and ethically is really important to me. Supporting local artists also creates opportunity to grow skills and the local economy at a micro level. 

Rosie: Can you run us through the journey of your pieces, from concept to creation?
Chela: Form follows function in my work, it is most important to me that a piece does the job it is made for. Decorative elements such as the glaze reflect my environment, the process of the firing and also serve to make a piece more durable and easy to clean. Pieces are made on the wheel by Andrew or myself. The pots are then left overnight before being trimmed or having handles attached. After a week or two – once the pots are completely dry – they are bisque fired to 1000c. Bisqueware is then ready to be glazed in food safe glazes and we make our own glaze recipes in the studio. The final firing then takes place, which runs for 10 hours to 1280c in the kiln. I have two large kilns at the studio and we do 1-2 glaze firings a week.

Rosie: What is your ultimate goal for Takeawei ceramics and how do you hope that your customers will use them at home?
Chela: I think of myself sitting at my desk job 6 years ago or so and how a nice mug was a simple little pleasure. I hope that my work brings a smile to people’s faces. I think that Takeawei is exactly where it needs to be right now – to work with a small team of people that have enthusiasm for the brand and create ceramics with heart is the best reward.


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