When Mieke De Deyne turned 40, the talented Queensland artist received a life-changing gift from her husband, Ferre – a pottery wheel. Before long, the then oil painter’s new-found pottery obsession prompted an overhaul of her home studio on the Sunshine Coast hinterland, pushing her paints aside. Her daughter, Charlie, was also left spellbound by the charm of ceramics. “My first time on the pottery wheel, I was 10 years old,” explains Charlie. “My mama showed me how to do it. I loved it because I was always a messy kid; I liked getting covered in mud and I enjoyed being in the studio.”
Mieke’s passion for ceramics in influenced her to undertake a Master of Fine Arts and, once again, Charlie followed in her mum’s creative footsteps. “I enrolled to do a Bachelor of Fine Art at a different university in Brisbane,” says Charlie. “At one point, we were both studying art at the same time!” Graduating with strengthened skills, the pair began collaborating in their home studio and eventually founded the ceramics label Mas & Miek in 2010. “The ‘mas’ comes from ‘mas mas’, a nickname I’ve had since I was a baby,” explains Charlie. “It means ‘little girl’ in my Belgium parents’ language, which is Flemish.”
The duo’s distinctive ceramics style emerged as Charlie immersed herself in the throwing process – perfecting the shape and forms of the vessels – while Mieke developed the natural-made glazes. “There are these really beautiful reactions in her glazes, whether it’s a burst of colour or crystalline effects, or a crackle,” says Charlie. As for a source of inspiration, their Brutalist family home in the gorgeous hinterland has a lot to answer for.
“Our signature colour is turquoise, because Mama is influenced by the colours of nature and the beach, whereas my inspiration is drawn from clean lines and Brutalist architecture,” she says.
Demand for the label’s stunning tableware only grew as friends and clients began asking the mother-daughter duo to run lessons in their beautiful studio. As the small space could never host classes, in 2017 they decided to transform Mas & Miek into a full-blown brand, The Ceramic House, encompassing a studio, store, workshop and cafe in the Brisbane suburb of Newstead. “It became a lot bigger than we anticipated, but we’re happy with the community we’ve created,” says Charlie, who lives nearby. Mieke, who remains on the coast, comes to teach a few days each week.
“I love seeing the students progress over time and how they push their practice in new ways,” says Charlie, who believes anyone can learn as long as they have enough patience for the lengthy process of drying and ring each piece. This slow nature of hand-building clay is a welcome respite from daily life for most of their students.
“The studio means different things to different people,” she says. “For some people it’s to learn the craft, whereas for others it’s their relaxation time and even a little bit of therapy.” For Charlie and Mieke, their pottery practice is evidence of their unbreakable bond – a precious gift that grew from a single pottery wheel. “I’m lucky,” says Charlie, “we’ve always been close.”