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Launceston ceramics: a story of revival

Rarely would a day go by where you didn't handle ceramics. A mug, breakfast bowl, teapot, bathroom basin. It's a functional form that many have made a masterpiece out of, such as John Campbell and John McHugh - two craftsman who put Launceston on the map as a centre of artistic excellence.

In the 1880s, John Campbell set up his pottery works at Sandhill at the top of Wellington Street, where clay deposits were plentiful. The works produced pipes and bricks for construction as well as homewares and art pottery.

Campbell's signature boldly glazed pottery - vases, jugs, even fountains - became highly sought-after around the world. The business expanded and was passed to his sons before wrapping up in the 1970s.

Just around the corner was John McHugh's production, which made a similar line of ceramics and wares that were similarly glazed and in hot demand by art aficionados.

Scour a few antique stores around Tassie and you'll no doubt spot a McHugh or Campbell work - an easy check for a hand-scrawled signature on the item's base will confirm suspicions.

The Campbell and McHugh pottery houses may be no longer but the tradition has endured in Launceston, with countless artisans honing their craft and businesses teaching others the trade popping up over the years.

Potters Asya Bell and Julie Perry share more than 30 years of experience between them, and are now inviting northern Tasmanians to learn the craft at Glazed and Confused, an experiential destination for everyone.

"We want that relaxed environment where people can just come and have a good time. They can be experienced potters or they can be new to ceramics, so we just want to make it really accessible to everyone in the community," says Asya.

"It's just about getting in and having a go," adds Julie.

The studio opened mid-year in Launceston's leafy Quadrant Mall and offers classes in wheel and free-form pottery. Two hour workshops are open to individuals or groups and you'll be given the opportunity to spin or mould something truly unique.

Glazed and Confused's mantra of "come in and get messy" is epitomised by flecks of clay on the studio's walls and windows. Asya and Julie clearly delight in introducing new faces to pottery and say they are often surprised at amateur attempts.

"The wheel is quite challenging but some people really take to it!" says Asya.

In the absence of the opportunity to travel overseas right now, Asya says people are looking to treat themselves to an experience to savour.

"Stemming from that, I think people in general are looking more to hobbies and creativity because of their isolation," says Julie.

Aside from the fun and games, the therapeutic spin-offs of ceramics must be remembered and are a reason why Asya and Julie are working with support organisations such as Beyond Blue and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"It's a social outlet too: you don't just have to sit in a bar, you can come and be creative for a couple of hours with your friends," says Julie.

Hobart also has a Glazed and Confused studio, so Asya and Julie are splitting their time between the centres. They say they've been delighting in uncovering Launnie's gems such as the Cataract Gorge, eclectic architecture and eateries.

The two are just starting to learn about Launceston's rich pottery past, but says the future is bright.

"There's such a strong ceramic community here. Since we opened, we've met a lot of ceramicists and potters who work in the area, have their own studios, and sell their own pieces," says Julie.

Bookings at Glazed and Confused are essential: www.glazedandconfusedstudio.com