“I have a crazy life” mum of two Emmeline Kwaan tells me when we meet in her Plymouth workshop. Emmeline started her business, Totally Potty, just under three years ago. It has grown from offering pottery painting in Plymouth Market, to running hands on pottery workshops and experiences in the City’s Business Park.
As if that was not enough, Emmeline has also recently started a three year full time Batchelor of Arts degree in 3D Designs Craft! “I wanted to learn more and I have a ten year plan” she explains, Emmeline’s long term goal is to establish a rural retreat where arts, crafts and creativity combine with a strong sense of caring for the environment.
It marks the latest phase of Emmeline’s eclectic career. Previously she has worked in retail, as a party planner and as a nursery teacher in the Middle East. She has always been creative and taught herself pottery with a little help from You Tube.
Incorporating these passions with nursery teaching lead to the pottery painting start up idea. As Totally Potty took off, Emmeline soon ran out of space and needed a studio to take the next step of running pottery workshops.
Today, workshop participants get to mould their clay designs by hand before firing in the studio kiln. Pottery painting and sand art are also on offer and Emmeline caters for all ages and abilities.
The remarkable thing about Totally Potty is the transformation when you walk into the studio. From a bustling business park environment, you enter into a relaxing safe space where creativity flows and thrives. Emmeline coaches and empowers creativity without prescribing particular methods or conforming to accepted norms.
She tells me, “When I started the pottery painting, some parents would bring their children and watch over their every move to make sure the kids were doing it ‘properly’. Well, you know what? It’s okay for kids to paint their frogs purple! I would occupy the parents so the children could be left well alone to let their imaginations run riot and be really creative”!
Celebrating individuality and all its imperfections runs deep here. Emmeline shows me reusable Christmas gift tags she has crafted, a brilliant idea in these environmentally conscientious times. At first, I fail to notice that the tags of the same design have slight variations due to being hand crafted.
Yet, far from being a detraction it really works! Flawless, mass (mechanically) produced tags would have soon become boring and lost their appeal whereas these remain charming.
A brightly coloured Christmas bauble catches my eye and at Emmeline’s prompting I see a child’s hand print forms part of the decor. “This was made by a six year old” Emmeline proudly tells me.
Before I know it, we have chatted about family life, dogs, and the therapeutic value of arts and crafts. “People offload when they’re doing the clay work” Emmeline explains and I can see how appealing the workshops are for those seeking to de-stress, try new experiences and make the most of precious free time.
Recently Totally Potty played host to a 70th birthday party. Three generations, from Nan through to the grandchildren, all took part and produced a variety of models, bird feeders and planters. Emmeline has also accommodated people suffering with their mental health and is keen to highlight the benefits of clay modelling to dementia sufferers and those with restricted mobility.
All this and yet she still manages to find time to offer bespoke commissions and repairs to broken pottery items! Emmeline is constantly on the go. Even as I start to photograph the studio, she is picking up a piece of clay and working it in her hands.
“Hey look! I’ve made a tennis ball, it’s hollow inside”! The perfectly round spherical shell has a hole made to enable firing whereupon Emmeline’s mind springs into action again. ‘‘If I make some more holes this could become a scent diffuser” and there follows a whole list of limitless possibilities for what was a minute or two ago a humble lump of clay.
Totally Potty? Totally brilliant and inspiring more like!
Emmeline sells vouchers for workshops which could make a craft lovers Xmas or a happy birthday for someone special. For more details of the vouchers, workshops, items for sale and possible repairs find and follow Emmeline’s Totally Potty Facebook Page.