Meet Rochelle, the small business owner of Rochelle’s Raku Pottery which sells unique, hand-made pottery products and intimate pottery workshops in Armidale NSW.
Rochelle has enjoyed doing pottery since she was a child and is the President of the Armidale Pottery Club Australia. She decided to bring her business idea to life after experiencing some health challenges in 2017, which made her realise that she wanted to fill her life doing something she loved. Rochelle makes bowls, cups, vases, jugs, plates, spoons, ornaments, jewellery, and sculptural pieces, and one of her best-sellers are her life-like chickens and ducks.
“My Business Coach has helped me improve the setup of my Shopify website and to get my policies up to scratch. She has been working with me to get a grant because I want to be able to approach the nursing homes without a charge to the elderly.”
Read more about Rochelle and her business journey to date.
My business is a pottery business. I am an independent Australian artist and I design high-quality pottery items using different techniques, including hand-building and wheel-throwing bowls, cups, vases, jugs, plates, spoons, ornaments, jewellery, and sculptural pieces. The main materials I use are stoneware, porcelain, and raku clay, and I will decorate and glaze my work. I work from in my studio at the Armidale Pottery Club Australia. I enjoy potting and sharing my knowledge in workshops. In these workshops I can share my passion, experiences, knowledge, and artistic abilities with people who want to learn new skills, have fun and relax. My pieces are 100% hand-made using Australian porcelain, earthenware, stoneware and raku clay. Each one is slightly different to the other, meaning they are one-of a kind and limited additions. There may be imperfections, and they might not look exactly like the one used in the photo. The imperfections do not alter how the product works or looks and are only cosmetic.
The use of equipment, materials, underglazes, glazes, bisque firing, and glaze firing is all included in the workshop! After our workshop day, the art pieces will be dried and bisque fired. Students will return once they have been bisque fired to glaze their piece from a choice of glaze colours and then have their final firing. We will make them at the workshop and then I go away and fire it in the kiln. When this is done, I contact the student to come back and glaze it at my workshop. It gives them the whole experience. It has been hard with COVID-19 because many students have been ill with COVID-19 and so need to catch up on sessions and it draws out the time between their first and second session. I work with them to arrange another date to make up the workshop once they are better to finish hand building or glazing.
I am a member of the Armidale Pottery Club and currently the President. We have our end of year Christmas sales on the first and second weekend of December. I sell the ornament’s, jewellery and holders, sculptures, tea pots, life-like chicken/ducks, entertainment platters, vases and large pots! We are venturing into opening up before Mother’s Day too. It is a not-for-profit organisation, and they receive 20% of my profits from my sales at the Christmas markets.
I worked for the University of New England as a Campus Service Officer, looking after cleaning contracts, waste contracts, asset disposals and purchasing new furniture. I was made redundant in 2020 due to COVID-19. I started my business before I met Nat, my Many Rivers business coach. I was running the workshops between lockdowns, and I had set up my website. Now Nat is helping me to try and build my business up.
I have loved pottery since I was 8 years old when my Aunty bought me my first pottery set. Many years ago, I used to sell my products at the market in Brisbane. Since then, I have just been making things for my friends and family. I have started entering my work in competitions now too. I will just see what happens!
I didn’t register my business until April 2020; it’s been a long journey since then. I met Many Rivers a few months ago. I saw an ad on my Instagram page, and I reached out. I had been doing pottery for a few years before that and I wanted to build up on that and I always had intentions and aims to work for myself. I worked hard to be able to get my own kiln and my own studio so that I could offer workshops from home. This is what I want to do before I retire. My health also kick-started my decision. I became very unwell in 2015 and was diagnosed with a rare condition in 2017. I was in and out of the hospital post treatments, but now my condition is under control. It was a very frightening time of my life. It made me want to try and live my life to the fullest and be happy with what I do. Pottery is very therapeutic and great for mental health. I can bury myself in my pottery and it doesn’t matter how sore I am at the end of the day; I feel like I have really accomplished something.
Working with Many Rivers
My Many Rivers business coach has helped me improve the setup of my Shopify website and to get my policies up to scratch. She has been working with me to get a grant because I want to be able to approach nursing homes without a charge to the elderly. I would like to run workshops to help with their mental health. She has also helped me learn how to use a cashflow and inventory spreadsheets to keep track of my business and a lot more. We have talked about me approaching outlet shops such as boutique shops.
Just being able to talk to her. We can talk about anything, if I have had a bad day, she can just pick my spirits up. I find her fantastic. I love her guidance and support. We always get back on track. I didn’t know anything about the policy side of things, and she explained how when I put things up to sell, I can keep it simple. I don’t need to overcomplicate anything, and she has made me feel more confident about the photos on my Shopify.
The biggest challenge for me is getting students into my program and working with them during the pandemic when they have been sick and rearranging classes. It was hard last year but harder this year because I have had so many workshops. I have been busy every weekend, and I haven’t been able to run new workshops recently because I’m doing so many catch-up sessions for students who missed sessions because they were unwell with COVID-19.
Being recognised through the Armidale art gallery has been a big success. I had a name there for a while as the ‘duck lady’, they couldn’t get enough of them! They asked me to make some chooks in a similar style, and I have started doing them too. My partnership with them has been the biggest success, it took a couple of years to get recognised there, but I’m getting some orders for large ‘patchwork’ style pots through the gallery now too. My mental health, general health and my happiness have changed for the better.
I hope to still be working for myself in the future, and I have dreams of having a little store where I can have other potters working there too. It would be nice to open another shop to Armidale because the markets sell well, and it would be nice to have a pottery store in town as the markets are very popular.
Are You Ready To Start Your Own Business?
We love to encourage people to take the first step towards kick-starting their small business ideas. Do you have a business idea?