Bett & Michael Taylor
Could you give a brief description of your current practice and the number of years you have been involved in ceramics?
We are retired and made our living in the art scene, fine arts and pottery from 1965 when we established The Channon Craft Shop. We then moved to Whian Whian and established Whian Whian Pottery and Gallery from approximately 1974 to 1984. We then moved into Whian Whian State Forest and established Minyon Makers School of Art which was a teaching studio and didn’t involve pottery.
When and why did you move to the Northern Rivers of NSW?
I am (Bett) fifth generation in this area but we moved here in 1964 when Michael took up a teaching position at Lismore High School and introduced Matriculation Art to their curriculum.
What part(s) of the Northern Rivers have you worked in and can you tell us about the type of work you have delivered?
We held private painting schools – 3-day and week-ends in painting and pottery and Michael worked at Lismore High School, Lismore, McLean and Grafton TAFE and Northern Rivers college of advanced education (now the Uni). Michael taught at Grafton Art Fest Camp creative and we
travelled as far south as Coffs Harbour and out to Moree doing painting schools as well as in capital cities Sydney and Brisbane and Melbourne.
Has living and working in a regional area defined your arts practice parameters? Have you considered your location restricting or motivating?
One always reflects one’s environment – our pottery was organic in some instances with the rims of pots up and down to reflect the hills and valleys and the glazes were made from local basalt dust (brown glaze) and ash from our fire place. We made all our own glazes for our domestic tableware and Shino was our favourite glaze – ball clay with nepheline syenite and ash and carbon inclusion during the firing – a crackle Chinese glaze but with brown reduction iron coming through.
Has your practice undertaken major changes/challenges in your more mature years?
We are talking history here – we haven’t potted for nearly twenty years and often see our pots (or our kids do) in op shops etc. as they are distinctive and have Michael’s crest on the bottom.
I’m afraid because of the age factor now, whilst the mind is still willing, the body, both mine and Michael’s are restrictive in the physical things we can do with bits of us working and other bits not co-operating. One just takes on other things – like I have written and published three books and now Michael has his painting studio and workshop in the house instead of down the paddock.
How have you maintained your passion for your practice over the years?
We never followed fashion, but developed our own style over the years and our children had their own display areas in our shops of their pots over the years – mainly figures – when they got boobs, so did their ladies! And our 3rd daughter did a lot of bands, ACDC players and Michael put all their creations onto wooden plinths to display them. Our second daughter, now an Arts Teacher in Melbourne has taken to making fat ladies, she is very talented and doing very well financially with them.
Do you use social media platforms as a useful resource for your work as an artist?
We did when we were active, but not now since retirement. Michael Entered and won all the painting prizes down the East Coast of Australia in our day. Has paintings in prominent places, Brisbane Art Gallery, Holbrook and Hertz Collections and all the Councils as well as many private collections.
Are you concerned about sharing your skills and knowledge with the next generation of artists in your field?
Many of Michael’s students are doing very well in pottery and painting and living an honest lifestyle. They get in touch from time to time.
How do you see the future development of your arts practice?
Kids cashing in on the store of paintings after our demise! Our children are all sensitive to the arts so hopefully our value system has been passed on.
Any other comments you would like to make?
Primarily we are an alternative family of five and brought our children up to be sensitive human beings and practised our creativity through pottery, painting, writing, teaching and lifestyle. We never relied on the government to support us as we were always independent in our chosen field and worked very hard but very enjoyable in our activities – we supported the community (building pottery kilns and teaching primary children in schools) and the community supported us.
Photography by Allan Chawner