Merri-bek is home to thousands of artists and creatives. Now, you can benefit from their expertise by visiting some of these creative spots to learn from the professionals.
From ceramics and life drawing classes to toy making workshops, learn more about these studios, gallery spaces and toy stores and download the new Trail Map At Your Leisure to find your way there.
Northcote Pottery Supplies: A haven for ceramic lovers
Nestled in a vibrant artistic belt of Melbourne, Northcote Pottery Supplies (NPS) has become a beloved local hub for ceramicists and pottery enthusiasts alike. Led by Ray Laurens, the establishment is a treasure trove of clay, glazes made in-house and other ceramics essentials.
Originally part of Northcote Pottery, the business ventured on its own path, settling in Brunswick. Under Ray’s skilled guidance, NPS has become a haven for artists seeking inspiration and tools to bring their visions to life. Supporting Ray at NPS is a team of ceramic enthusiasts. Together they represent the power of art to bring a creative community together.
At the heart of NPS is an extensive education program that welcomes over 200 students each week. Whether beginners or seasoned ceramicists, individuals from all walks of life gather to learn the art of throwing on the wheel, hand-building, and exploring the possibilities of clay. Education offerings also include teacher PD, excursions and a holiday program.
Beyond supplying materials and knowledge, NPS nurtures the local artistic community in other ways. A community-run firing service supports local creatives without kiln access at home. Local artists also have an opportunity to showcase and sell their work via shopfront gallery space, ‘Small Pieces’. Another noteworthy initiative is the artist-in-residence program, which operates four times yearly. From local talents to those hailing from further afield, NPS welcomes a diverse array of guest artists, such as Claire Ellis, who memorably crafted 100 plates – one per day – during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Once a year, NPS throws open its doors to showcase the magic happening within. Enthusiasts, students and curious visitors converge to celebrate artistry, community and a collective love of pottery.
Nestled in the heart of Coburg, queer-run Pink Ember Studio is a not-for-profit cooperative dedicated to providing artists with spaces to create, connect and access a vibrant community. Since its inception in December 2018, Pink Ember has been committed to cultivating an inclusive hub that supports artists and offers accessible learning opportunities.
The driving force behind Pink Ember is a collective of individuals determined to create a space to reflect their values and provide a sense of comfort and belonging. The co-owners – Aoife Billings, Aaron Billings, Frances Cannon, and Germ Flack – shared a vision for a queer-focused haven where artists could thrive, express themselves freely and forge connections.
Initially starting small in their first space, Pink Ember quickly expanded, eventually relocating to new premises in December 2022. Today, the studio boasts 14 artist spaces and is home to a diverse group of artists including directors Aoife, Aaron and Frances. This collaborative environment fosters a sense of community and shared exploration. Artists working in the space include Leili, Ariana Rodríguez Días, Eliana Lopez, Ele Jenkins, Gem Stone, Sophia Ashbury, Sorcha Wilcox, Samuel Ferguson, Nellie James, Arrow Bisset, Maddi O’Kane, Georgia Howard, Lorelei Fountain and NeeNee Fitzgerald.
There are two venues for workshops and classes, promoting skill-sharing and providing accessible avenues for artistic growth. The front space is used to host artist markets, live music and other public events. Regular life drawing classes and reading groups are also held there. The back hosts a regular program of ceramic workshops – ceramic sculpture, hand building and wheel throwing workshops are taught multiple times a week for the local community to join in.
Pink Ember also knows how to throw an event. Clay life modelling, zine reading nights, drag performances and the beloved Great Queer Pottery Throw down – a playful competition complete with coveted trophies – all attract a diverse crowd.
Pink Ember Studio prides itself on being a democratic institution, offering a refreshing alternative to traditional higher education. The studio acts as a conduit for resource-sharing and collaborative creation. The team is passionate about providing opportunities for members to develop their teaching skills and confidence to share their knowledge and experiences with others.
This is Not a Toy Store: This is much more than a toy store
Brunswick East is home to a curious establishment, This is Not a Toy Store (TNTStore). Part retail outlet, part gallery, the opening of the hot pink building in January 2022 was hotly anticipated. Originally housed in the city, the move north was driven by a desire to expand and create a space that could accommodate the growing needs of the business.
TNTStore is more than a store; it’s a creative haven encompassing various artistic endeavours. Upstairs, a gallery space showcases an ever-changing array of intriguing exhibitions. From fringe and eclectic art to works by mainstream artists, the gallery provides a platform for both established and emerging Australian talents to showcase and sell locally made art toys. Behind the scenes, nestled at the back of the store, lies a workshop space that serves as a hub for artistic exploration and creation.
TNTStore is the retail arm of This is Not a Toy Company, formed in 2022 by Cipta-Croft-Cusworth (Chipta), Alex (AJ) Dinsdale and Fletcher Andersen (Facter). Initially, the founders established an artists’ collective, This is Not a Toy Scene. Through pop-up shows in Melbourne and interstate, they cultivated a community of like-minded creatives, with over 40 individual artists contributing to their exhibitions. When the opportunity to open a physical storefront presented itself, they seized it with enthusiasm.
The vibrant pink hues of the store’s exterior instantly capture attention. Inside, a myriad of treasures awaits, defying categorisation and pushing the boundaries of traditional toys. From action figures and soft plush toys to reworked creations, dioramas, miniature figures and mind-bending puzzles, the range of offerings is diverse. Each item holds a touch of whimsy and the spirit of artistic exploration.
TNTStore also fosters a sense of community and artistic growth. Workshops are held most weekends, inviting individuals to learn the art of creating their own art toys. This interactive and educational approach has cultivated a vibrant community and nurtured talented artists who now contribute their creations to the store. Twice a year, TNT Store hosts custom shows of toys that actively involve the public and draw enthusiastic crowds. These highly anticipated events serve as a testament to the store’s impact on the artistic community and its ability to ignite a deep fascination among visitors.