It’s safe to say we all picked up some new skills during the countless weeks of lockdowns last year, but for one father and son duo what started as a lockdown boredom buster has turned into a thriving business.
Creating unique and stunning pieces of pottery, as well as one-of-a-kind artworks from their home studios in Canberra and Wagga Wagga, the duo behind Sterling and Son—Keith and Michael Sterling—make the kind of statement pieces that turn houses into homes and make everyone stop and ask, “where did you get that from?!”
The pair had always tinkered with the idea of selling their creations, but it wasn’t until Michael’s pottery collection threatened to take over his family’s living room that they put their idea into action.
“My dad’s always been a bit of an inspiration. He’s been a creative silversmith for 40 or 50 years, something like that. I liked the idea of a generational creative company,” explains Michael.
However, being a silversmith is not something Michael has ever seriously entertained. Instead he dabbled in carpentry, welding, and now pottery.
“I had wanted to do pottery—just to try it out—for years, and I finally got around to it just before COVID,” explains Michael.
“I finally got around to booking a beginner’s pottery course through Canberra Potters’ Society in that early COVID period, but it was just an idle curiosity. Then in that period of lockdown here, I inherited a pottery wheel from a friend of my parents and had a lot of time to practice because I was at home. So here we are.”
Despite practicing different crafts you can’t deny the creative gene was passed down from father to son.
Scrolling through their website, browsers will be struck by a wave of blacks, blues and greens creating ocean-like waves of colour, but every couple of rows down a bright pop of white will stand out, nestled in with Keith’s creations of timber and silver .
“I’ve started to use a lot more white. I think there’s an opportunity to let the types of clay speak for themselves a bit, and if you use more stark colours, like blacks and whites, then you force the clay body to speak for itself, rather than the glaze doing that work for you ,” explains Michael.
Choosing a favorite item will be tough for those trying to choose what to take home, but for Michael, his space tumblers are currently holding the crown.
“They remind me of some kind of sixties or seventies space-age aesthetic,” says Michael.
And with less than a year behind the wheel, Michael is still learning to navigate all the intricacies that come with taking up any new craft.
“It’s fun and there’s an incredible depth of knowledge to it. There are more angles to pottery than you can imagine. After you’ve mastered one tiny thing, like throwing mugs or cups or bowls, then you discover that there are another hundred ways to do the same thing. It’s just this endless expanse of things that you can learn and things that you can change and tweak and become an expert in,” explains Michael.
With a full-time job in IT, starting an online shop for a craft he picked up less than a year ago wasn’t on Michael’s bingo card for 2021; and in the beginning, he wasn’t even sure if people would want to buy anything.
“It’s hard for a person who makes stuff to get fully appreciative of whether people—other than me—will actually like something or not. It’s difficult because as a person who creates stuff, you know how much effort it was. You can see all the flaws and you know whether it was easy or hard or somewhere in the middle, whether it’s not absolutely perfect or if the geometry’s a bit off,” explains Michael.
“So it’s nice when people come out of the woodwork and say, ‘Oh, I will buy all of these things from you. I think they’re fantastic.’ You’re like, ah, there you go. That’s nice. That makes it worthwhile.”
With their signature trio of dots on each piece, Sterling and Son is sure to only grow.
You can check out their latest creations on their website.