About

THE WINDMILL WAY

All our pottery is made from our own clay that's dug and processed at the pottery.  We are the only boutique pottery in Queensland that does this.  We call it Quandamooka (pronounced kwon-da-moo-ka) Clay after the First Australians who lived in our region. Their totem, the Quandamooka is the name they gave the Dugong or sea cow, a sea mammal like the dolphin. The clay, which was used as body paint by the Quandamooka, is a terracotta stoneware suitable for both forms of ceramic.  Blessed by a Quandamooka elder, it really is a unique Australian product.

Ceramics marked with a single windmill pottery stamp have been crafted by the resident master potter, Paul Holland. The pottery also has visiting artists and protégés working at the pottery.  Their work displays the pottery stamp along with their own individual signatures. Here at Windmill Pottery, we are dedicated to creating Australian pottery from scratch - from digging up the clay right through to glazing and exhibiting. The Windmill way makes our pottery unique in Gondwanaland and we invite you to become part of our tradition.     

Take a look at the classes we offer, residencies, workshops, internship opportunities and ceramic products to find a way for you to be part of the Windmill Way.

Windmill Pottery owner, Paul Holland, has been working with clay over a forty-year period. Since moving to Sheldon on the bayside of Brisbane, he discovered a volcanic clay deposit locally and this has driven his work in an entirely new direction. This clay is typical stoneware with the added property of having a high iron oxide content. At lower earthenware temperatures the clay fires to a rich golden terracotta colour, while at higher stoneware temperatures, it takes on a steely quality that almost shrieks durability and hardness. “I have always longed for a clay that has soul,” says Paul. “Most commercial clays are a blend of imported and local clays. The producers are more concerned with predictability than character.”

Windmill clay is more like the clay used by the Japanese masters who prepared their clay and stored it for at least two generations to allow the development of bacteria to condition the clay. Windmill clay’s organic content is high, promoting bacterial growth. This gives the clay a living earthy quality allowing the potter to feel close to nature and to the old potters of yesteryear.

“This has led me to look for a different way of expressing who I am and where I have come from through my work. I am now consumed by a desire to produce pottery that is unmistakably Australian, not through the selection of images such as our native flora and fauna or by trying to copy European or Aboriginal Art, but by developing a look or feel that is reminiscent of those origins. I want my work to come from our unique topography and unusual blend of cultural influences. I endeavour to do this through my selection of subjects and colours. I want to mirror the ambience, which is typically Gondwanaland along with iconology that reflect our multicultural origins. All this is set in an enigmatic landscape that is a spiritual character reflected in the Dreaming of the first Australians. To this end I am not looking for a smooth commercial mass-produced look. I want the observer of my work to see the construct – the finger marks that shaped the ware – the processes that go into each stage of a piece’s development and an appreciation of the earth from which it comes. Of course, in the end I hope my work gives pleasure to others regardless of the motivation behind its creation.” 

Windmill Potteries explores the relationship between the human and the environment in the most basic sense, i.e., from dust we were made and to dust we return.  It’s said we were metaphorically molded from the clay itself.  True or not, it can be argued that the earliest sculptures representing the human form were made from clay before more sophisticated tools made it possible to cut stone.  Eventually, Homo Sapiens discovered heating clay to high temperatures, made it vitrified and stone-like.  It wasn’t long before humans learned to shape clay into useful objects and heating them so they no longer returned to mud when moistened.  It was from this simple act that our ancestors learned they could shape the world around them, making it a more comfortable place to live in.  Before long, these utilitarian objects found themselves as objects of decoration and some becoming objects simply to be admired and enjoyed for their inate beauty.  Ceramics developed a “look and feel” unique to each culture.  That is why ancient Egyptian pottery looks different to Greek or Roman pottery.  African is different to Spanish as Celtic is to Japanese.  What then makes one piece of work culturally so distinctive from another?  The answer lies in the difference in topography, availability of decorative materials, type of clay, technology available and most importantly, the previously established artwork styles unique to that culture.  The process became stylized over time and certain processes became ritualised and accepted as the norm.  Deviations were frowned upon as masters pedantically passed on their skills to apprentices.  Hence a Japanese Master Potter, was careful not to deviate from the tried and proven processes he was taught.  These influences over time guaranteed a look and feel to objects d’art distinctly unique to that culture.

So what does that mean for a country like Australia?  Indigenous Australians did not require pottery as a useful tool.  This nomadic race of predominantly hunters and gatherers required objects that could easily be carried and wouldn’t break if dropped.  To establish a craft like pottery, it was essential that the lifestyle was settled.  It’s impossible to carry a kiln to a new camping ground or to leave a source of suitable clay to go walkabout.  This would soon result in zero production output.  The only pottery used in Australia before the coming of Europeans was left behind or traded by visiting sailors.  None was produced by the indigenous culture.   With the coming of invasive aliens, the bulk of which were Europeans, came pottery making skills.  Over time, multicultural immigration insured noparticular style dominated.  It could be argued that British pottery was most prevalent in the early settlements and therefore styles from the English potters had the most influence.  However, the melting pot of races such as the Chinese, German, Italian and Greek soon greyed that cultural influence.  With the demise of Bendigo Potteries as a major pottery producer, perhaps the most British influenced pottery to date, there appears to be no dominant cultural influence.  Pottery gurus like Carl McConnell were influenced by the Japanese Masters under whom he studied and this can be seen in one of his works housed in the Queensland Art Gallery.  However, even this work could not be said to reflect uniquely Australian attributes.  As beautifully crafted as it is, it has more Japanese attributes than Australian.  Even lesser works of relatively unknown potters have more distinctively Australian features.  This is usually the result of a plethora of indigenous flora and fauna as decorative subjects.  Pilliga Pottery, for instance, has beautifully crafted ware, delicately decorated with Australian flora and fauna.  However, these are the only distinction from origins steeped in European culture rather than those elements that make it Australian.  Australia has simply not developed an Australian “look & feel” to its pottery. Australian potters in the main are still copying other styles. Perhaps this is a result of of our multicultural makeup or due to the greying of the world through rapid and prolific sharing of information.  The fact is, we are a very young country, too young to develop our own artistic ethos.  Windmill Pottery believes this ethos or style will occur, but not until our creative ethos becomes stylised over time.  More than likely, we will be the last to realise it when it does occur, just as we are the last to recognise how distinctively "Australian" we have become because of our unique aboriginal heritage.

Windmill Potteries’ challenge is to find that “look and feel” that is distinctly Australian by exploiting all the elements that give rise to culturally unique and recognisable work.  To do this Windmill explores that final act of creativity that led to ancient decorative pottery.  By preparing our own clay from local sources and using basic elements of design, Windmill Potteries returns to the earliest processes allowing the inate quality and potential of natural clay to form the basis of its work.   The rest comes from allowing all the influences of our Australian environment, colour, iconology and culture or subject matter, seep into the work, be it indigenous or foreign.  As a young nation, we are in the enviable position of exploring creatively without restriction.  Our art and craft is so young in its evolution that no ritual or style or expectation dictates parameters.  Perhaps that will come with time and Windmill Potteries is in the vanguard at a time when pottery is re-emerging as a creative craft from a long time malaize.  In particular, Windmill Potteries recognises the influence of those Queensland potters who have come before, such as Harry Memmott and Mick Feeney.  These craftsmen/artists have forever influenced those who wish to follow their example.

Windmill Potteries produces pottery for those who appreciate their connection with the earth and their awareness of the environment in which they live.  It is hoped that if a visitor to our shores takes a piece of Windmill Pottery away with them, they will know they have something typically and uniquely Australian.