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take a peek inside one of perth’s most vibrant ceramics studios

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Meet Sharnah Abbott and Charissa Schlink. They’re the clever (and very busy) Perth duo behind the colourful ceramics brand Chimerical Homewares and painting workshop business Little Paint Co. We recently popped into their rad new studio space, Unchecked Creative, to chat about the growth of their businesses.Tell us a bit about yourselves. Charissa: Sharnah and I met while studying fashion design at TAFE and became friends over our slightly embarrassing love of country singer Johnny Cash. We then discovered we were born almost exactly 24 hours apart!

How did Chimerical Homewares begin? Charissa: We worked at Sharnah’s family’s pottery-painting café, where we taught kids to paint. We loved it and started painting fun homewares together, but soon we had too much to keep. I had been running market stalls for my clothing label, so we took some pottery along to sell, too. We kept painting casually for the next year, occasionally ran stalls and were stocked at local small-business collective Common Ground.

When the pottery-painting café closed, we decided to take a leap of faith, buy a kiln and start a business. Sharnah completed numerous ceramic courses and we spent a lot of time learning, experimenting and developing our own quirky style. We were overwhelmed with the response to our work, which included a wholesale order from Aspects of Kings Park – a Perth icon for art homewares.How did opening your own studio change the way you run your business? Charissa: We needed a studio to house our kiln and started out with a tiny shared warehouse space (although we always painted at home). We took over a second space there once our Little Paint Co. workshops gained popularity. As our business grew, we gave ourselves more regular working hours and tried to build more structure. This helped us treat our business seriously and not just as a hobby.

We haven’t officially opened our new studio yet, so we have our fingers crossed it’s going to work out as planned! So far, we have taken on more workshop bookings and larger groups than usual for the end of the year, which is amazing. We have a second room for small group workshops as well as our main studio. There’s so much more space so we’re able to fit more stock and streamline jobs, like packing orders. We have a room dedicated to Chimerical now as well. We cannot wait to spend time there painting!Why did you decide to start running workshops in addition to selling your products? Charissa: We always planned to run workshops, but we never expected Chimerical to be more than an artistic outlet. We thought we’d have to run kids’ parties to cover the costs of owning and running a kiln!

We started adult workshops because our friends loved hanging out at our studio and painting. The first one we ran was teapot painting and it sold out. We were so excited that I spent heaps of time preparing a high tea for the attendees. Now we host bridal showers, too, which are always fun. Sharing our art form with guests has become such a passion. Opening the kiln to see how everyone’s pieces turned out is the highlight of the week; it’s like opening a birthday present!You recently moved studios. What was the reason behind the move? Charissa: We wanted to create a space that we felt at home in and inspired us and our workshop attendees. We also have four studio spaces in our new premises that we’ll lease out to other creatives, so we can create a little community. Running a small business can be very lonely and it’s important to have that collaboration and support.

We had well and truly outgrown our previous studio in the shared warehouse. We had boxes stacked up to the ceiling and pottery in my parents’ garage. Plus, it had no temperature control.

How have you stayed on top of your business while setting up your new space? Sharnah: Delegating jobs and asking our fantastic friends and family for help has been the best possible way for us to get everything done. We are so lucky to have amazing support. It’s so important to learn that you can’t do everything by yourself.What’s the best thing about your studio? Sharnah: It feels like a second home already and we are loving the renovations. We removed a few walls to open up the rooms and chose light wooden flooring to brighten the space. It gives it a beautiful, relaxing feeling.

We also painted a mural on our main studio wall. It’s our favourite thing and we are so proud of it! We incorporated shapes of things that are meaningful to us, like our pets and star sign, to make it personal and inspiring.

What kind of equipment do you have? Sharnah: Paintbrushes, underglaze paints, acrylics, clay and tools – the usual ceramic and art supplies! We also bought a pottery wheel quite a while ago that I still haven’t used. There wasn’t space for it in our old studio so it’s on Charissa’s patio. We can’t wait to have a place for it! Our most important piece of equipment is our large paragon top-loader kiln. When filling the bottom of it we have to use a step ladder to place the pottery in.What does a regular day at work look like for you? Sharnah: It starts with a cup of tea and looking over our plan for the week, as each day can be quite different. Our favourite days are spent painting or trying new ideas while listening to music or watching a great TV show.

I update our Instagram every day, keep up with trends and ideas, and put on a kiln load of ceramics twice a week. Charissa paints, answers emails (there’s always so much to reply to) and does a lot of our computer work, from banking to designing fliers. The rest of our time is spent making content, painting or working on other projects.

Ordering and securing stock has become a large part of our work in the past year. Like most industries, COVID has created shortages and we’re always chasing up suppliers for clay, glazes and ceramic bisque wares.

We have an assistant who works one to two days a week. She cleans up and sets up our workshops, sorts customers’ pottery and packs orders. We try to end our days by tidying up, but this hardly ever happens! We usually go home and relax for a few hours before getting into more painting or researching.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to open their own studio or store? Sharnah: Do lots of research, have an opening goal to work towards and start planning for it! Don’t be afraid to ask for advice about what you’re not sure on and remember that you don’t have to do everything yourself.To stay up-to-date with strictly business news, register your email over here.