Ian “Ox” McColl | Episode 807
Ian “Ox” McColl “discovered” clay when he was 15 to 16 years old at school and was hooked after his first try at using the wheel. Ox went to university at Bendigo in Victoria, Australia. After graduating Ox went into pottery straight away as thrower. For a few years Ox worked in the pottery industry and became a teacher in high schools since 1995. In June 2021 Ox resigned and has been back running his own pottery where he is now full time potter. Recently Ox bought an old gas station and has spent 2020 renovating it where he is now running classes and has a gallery.
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Did you test your teaching studio idea before you jumped into it with both feet?
No, is the answer to that. I just decided to do it and I started with about four students in my first studio and four wheels and in the back shed which wasn’t set up, it had all my junk in it. That was probably the only thing that I did.
At what point did you know that it was going to be a viable business by having a teaching studio going on?
Every time I announced that I had classes they were full and that was four or five students. I think I got up to eight students at one point. I added an extra class at a different time and it just kept rolling and rolling and rolling and getting bigger. Sometimes I would have ten or twelve students who were trying to get into each class. I couldn’t fit them in and so I just kept adding and adding and it got better and better.
Do you see yourself bringing on other teachers that could carry the load and to bring more students in the door?
Yeah, I have another teacher who I went through university with and she does some classes for us on a weekend so that I can teach at my other studio.
Do you have a curriculum that you bring students through from start to finish?
Generally I don’t because I really like the passion of students learning what they need to learn and so I tend to run my general weekly classes as Come and make things and if you get excited about something make lots of it and really enjoy that process. I do run sessions for sort of mid-level potters so that they can get more production skills that I have built up over the last few years of being a potter. I think it’s about forty now. I really like being able to give them those skills.
When you provide classes do you provide all of the materials in the cost of the classes?
Yeah, I am an all inclusive price kind of person. You pay one fee and everything is there. I include firing, clay, materials, and tools. Everything is there and that’s how it works.
How do you mix in teaching with your production pottery and balance the two out?
Yeah, good question. I haven’t quite worked that out fully yet. (laughter) I just do longer hours. Eight days a week.
You have a post on Instagram that says Potter’s Ale. What’s that all about?
A really good friend of mine, who I carpooled with and debriefed from work with everyday, loves brewing beer. I love gardening, it’s part of what we do. We have a big garden and so I grew some hops plants for him to make beer with and the drawing is done by an ex-student of mine who is a fantastic animator and he just decided that he wanted to do this drawing of me and so that has now become my kind of my branding, that good ole caricature. And the beer is very good. (laughter)