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Emma hand-builds whimsical ceramics that tell a story while serving a functional purpose

18 July 2019

Designer Spotlight: Little Snail Studio

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Art teacher & Potter, Emma: ‘The important factor in a handmade item is not perfection: but it is the idea, the passion, and the originality that goes into that item that is what speaks to people’

Hi, my name is Emma, and I am the one-man-band that is LittleSnailStudio. I create an ever-evolving range of whimsical ceramic items, both functional and decorative.

Quirky polka-dot ceramic planter pot with tiny house, balloons and clouds scene on rim by Little Snail Studio

I am a little bit obsessed with the limitless possibilities this medium offers, and a lot of my inspiration stems from experimentation with different techniques and materials.

 Emma hand-builds whimsical ceramics that tell a story while serving a functional purpose

I’m lucky enough to have grown up on the beautiful north-west coast of Tasmania, and I still reside here with my husband and two young children. Having children has renewed my love for this unique place, as I get to experience it through their eyes; this has created a lot of ideas for my work.

Sister’s Beach in Tasmania: ‘Having children has renewed my love for this unique place, as I get to experience it through their eyes’

I’ve been driven to make 3D ‘things’ for as far back as I can remember – my Grandmother was a very talented (and very humble) cake decorator and she would let me make little creatures out of scraps of royal icing.

I remember fashioning little pinch-pot bowls out of my Grandfather’s putty, which would take pride of place on the windowsill until they crumbled into non-existence.

A ceramic hanging planter with quirky caravan scene by Little Snail Studio: ‘I remember fashioning little pinch-pot bowls out of my Grandfather’s putty’

I also remember concoting my own version of self-hardening clay from cornflour and baking soda and boiling it up in my very patient mum’s aluminium saucepans at home. I was an avid reader and would make little creatures or scenes based on whatever book I was reading.

A selection of rings featuring tiny 3-dimentional ceramic scenes by Little Snail Studio

My family has always encouraged my artistic endeavours and supported my decision to study Fine Arts at University, (where I majored in Ceramics), as long as I completed a teaching degree as well – ‘something to fall back on’. I currently teach art part time at my local high school, where I have been teaching since 1999.

Bowls of coloured ceramic beads wating to adorn pots and vessels as tactile, decorative polka dots: ‘The idea for my earlier commercial work was sparked by a lesson plan I had created for my ceramics class’

The idea for my earlier commercial work was sparked by a lesson plan I had created for my Ceramics class: to hand build a bowl and melt marbles in the centre, and create a scene that interacts with the melted marble “water”. My class loved it and I became fascinated with the whole idea and process.

Close up of miniature house sand mushrooms around a pool of melted marble making up the tiny scene on a handcrafted clay and driftwood spoon by Little Snail Studio

I have been a Madeit member since 2011-ish, and started by selling hand-knitted items. I was not confident that my ceramic work would appeal to other people, and I believed that objects had to be perfect for people to buy them.

Hand-crafted clay and driftwood spoon by Little Snail Studio: ‘I have come to accept the wabi-sabi or perfectly imperfect nature of hand-building with clay’

Thanks to Madeit I gradually realised that the important factor in a handmade item is not perfection: but it is the idea, the passion, and the originality that goes into that item that is what ‘speaks’ to people. I have come to accept the wabi-sabi or ‘perfectly imperfect’ nature of hand-building with clay, and to see the beauty in it.

Tall, whimsical flower bud vases, close-up of clay mushrooms, and close-up of coloured polka-dots set in clay vessels by Little Snail Studio’

Now that both of my children are at school full-time, I am able to devote more time to designing and making my own work and have been able to stock my Madeit shop with my ceramic items. I sell on two other platforms: Etsy and Handmade in Tassie, and also sell my work locally at Devils @ Cradle (a Tasmanian Devil conservation park) and at Under The Oak, a gallery for local handmade art. It is important to me, living in a relatively isolated area, to have an Australian selling platform to help me reach customers.



Creating artwork from clay is an absorbing and fascinating process, and I can easily lose hours of the day! There are so many different stages, and limitless variations on the techniques and processes I can use. Although I can throw on a wheel, I prefer to use moulds, coils and slab-building techniques to make my vessels.

An array of clay planters and spoons on Emma’s dining room table: ‘I work on a small scale, which is luck as my studio is currently half of our dining room table’

I use paper clay, which is strong and allows me to create very fine details in my work. I use a variety of techniques to make my ceramic work reminiscent of children’s book illustrations.

A hand-built clay jug with blue textured spout and miniature house detail on the handle; close-up of the miniature house detail on a hand-built clay jug handle’

I work on a small scale which is lucky as my ‘studio’ is currently half of our dining room table, but the advantage of this is that my children can sit with me and make their own little clay creations.

Close-up of miniature scene on the rim of a hand-built clay planter, depicting toadstools and a vintage caravan by a blue glassy pool: ‘I create scenes that convey a feeling of safety, shelter, comfort, nostalgia’

I love this quote by Georgia O’Keeffe: “When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else…” I try to create little ceramic worlds that tell a story; that can be held and ‘read’; that the viewer can be completely absorbed in for a moment or two, like someone can be absorbed in a good book.

Arial view of a miniature house and floating clay balloons perched on the rim of a clay planter by Little Snail Studio

I create scenes that convey a feeling of safety, shelter, comfort, nostalgia; a sort of “3D Illustration”. My succulent planters especially are created with the idea that the owner can be part of the story, and can plant a little garden that interacts or reflects the scene on the rim of the planter.

Whimsical ceramic planter pots nestled in succulents, depicting quirky scenes

I love the creative process – I learn something new every day. I also love sharing my work with other people, and I hope it gives as much pleasure to look at it and use it, as it does to create it.



Visit Little Snail Studio to find quirky and functional ceramics: LittleSnailStudio

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