Nice Assets Academy closing for winter (maybe forever?)

Thanks everybody who booked in for a lesson, course, or workshop in the last 6 months. It’s been a whirlwind and a huge learning curve for me not only on how to teach pottery, but how to manage teaching alongside working full-time and my own making.

I’ve really enjoyed getting to know people through pottery lessons and helping people explore the craft. As my teaching for the year (maybe forever?) starts to wrap up, I’ve been reflecting on my journey. It wasn’t planned but I’m feeling very lucky and pleasantly surprised to be where I am now.

About a year ago (May 2021) I put a down payment on a $12K new Skutt kiln, expected to be delivered in January 2022. Unfortunately not too long after, we received notification that our home & workshop was finally going to be developed into townhouses. This is after about 5 years of the landlord telling us it was going to happen ‘next year’ every year or so. But this time she actually gave us notice in writing with specific date – we were told that we have to be out by October. Despite the building literally falling down around us and knowing development is inevitable, we were still unprepared and pretty devastated when we got the news. I panic-decluttered and had several major meltdowns and applied for jobs overseas, thinking with the current housing market our best bet was to get out of NZ. We will be losing not just our home, but our creative spaces, and for Warwick his workspace, and other spaces like it just do not exist in Wellington.

I considered cancelling the kiln order then, but I thought I would get to use it for at least a good 6 months before having to move, so it was still worth keeping the order. I was a little worried because I had ordered a 3-phase kiln, and don’t know if where we end up will have 3-phase power (or how much it costs to get 3-phase power installed!). But I felt like I had committed to the kiln and would have to deal with moving it or selling it when the time came, knowing it would be stressful regardless.

However, fate intervened, and towards the end of 2021 I got a message advising me the kiln production had been indefinitely delayed due to COVID and supply issues. The supplier offered me a refund on my deposit due to the delay. As much as I was looking forward to a new kiln, I was relieved. I decided instead to put the deposit towards buying a set of pottery wheels, to make the most of the space I had while I had it, and thus my teaching studio came into existence.

Around the same time, instead of moving overseas, I quite spontaneously decided to take a new job even closer to home – as the Library & Research Coordinator at Toi Whakaari in Newtown. Taking this job meant I was committing to staying in NZ. After looking at rental options in the area, my plan then became save as much as possible towards buying a house in Wellington. I had been saving for years already, and I never expected to be able to afford to buy anything, but I thought I would try. Teaching provided another income stream that I could use towards a deposit.

I always knew I could only teach during the warmer months. From June – September it’s regularly under 6 C in my workshop and I know that’s unreasonable to expect normal people to cope with. Potting in a puffer coat isn’t for everybody! With the demolition scheduled for October I also know I will not likely be able to reopen in spring. So it was always intended as a short & sweet endeavor to try to help me save towards a house deposit.

In some ways I regret that the only way for me to get housing security was to monetise what previously had been a hobby and craft I enjoyed just for my own interest. There is something fundamentally fucked up about a society that excludes so many people from having basic secure housing. The thought of having to rent somewhere and again being at the mercy of a landlord who could raise the rent or end the tenancy at anytime is terrifying.

So I feel incredibly lucky to have gotten into pottery over a decade ago when there was less demand and it was more accessible, and that I spent so much time & effort developing my knowledge. Finally I have been able to break even and actually earn some money from what previously had been my very expensive and time-consuming hobby!

I never anticipated how overwhelming the demand would be and how much of a struggle it would be trying to meet that demand on top of my other commitments. Even during the height of the pandemic my events were regularly fully booked and when I did have Covid-related cancellations I was able to find people to take the spots quickly.

I really owe a huge thank you to everyone who came and did pottery with me this year – without you I couldn’t have bought my dream house!! But the toll of working 70 hours a week is starting to wear me out and I am looking forward to a break over winter, and getting back to some of my volunteer work, and knitting and sewing 🙂

It’s been so fun teaching, but it’s just not sustainable for me long-term on top of my other commitments. So my plan is to use the next few months to take stock and think about next steps and focus on my wellbeing. I will definitely be continuing to make pottery, perhaps even more now that I will have more time for it. Being around so many people new to pottery has really inspired me, and I’m looking forward to getting back to my clay and having fun and being creative again!

So watch this space! And get in touch if you want to hire a pottery wheel!

xo Nicole

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