Chela Edmunds rents both a home and studio in Torquay, Victoria.
This coastal location has been Chela’s home base for the past two years. Throughout her life she has lived in Melbourne, the Sunshine Coast and the mid-coast of New South Wales, plus a five-year stint in New York City working in the textile industry.
It was in New York that Chela first discovered her interest in ceramics – a passion she went on to pursue full time upon returning to Australia four years ago. She was drawn to Torquay in particular for its surf – a facet of her life which was lacking in the city.
Today, her studio is the headquarters of her ceramics label, Takeawei, known for relaxed, colourful glazed tableware and homewares, and exclusive items for the National Gallery of Victoria and Jardan.
The Takeawei studio is part of the ever-growing Ashmore Arts community on the outskirts of Torquay. Each Ashmore tenant has their own dedicated space and line of work, with an army of likeminded artists around them. Chela has been renting a studio here since June 2016, and recently moved to a larger space on the site.
“Before that I was commuting probably three days a week to in Melbourne…and the rest of the days working on my porch at home,” she says.
“I’d live out here if I could.”
The studio itself contains large windows with a leafy outlook, exposed tree trunk beams, shelves to display works in process, and glaze tests decoratively hung on the wall. Having this bigger studio allows Chela to host larger workshop classes than previously possible, including one-day classes and ongoing short courses.
Instead of a traditional desk, her admin is undertaken from a daybed built by Ashmore owner, Stewart Guthrie, who constructed the space specifically with Chela in mind.
“He was predicting the move from early on – he knew I’d need a bigger space,” she says says.
Chela’s Takeawei works are subconsciously inspired by her surrounding landscape, with earthy colours, sunset motifs and organic shapes threaded throughout.
Her home rental, which she discovered on the local Facebook page Surf Coast Rentals, is located only a five-minute drive away from the studio. Its compact size is perfect for one, with living spaces on the ground level and a loft bedroom above.
The home was already furnished upon moving in (an arrangement that is not uncommon in tourist areas) but remarkably, still feels personalised. On display in the kitchen are numerous ceramics by other artists Jessilla Rogers, Wingnut & Co., Alison Frith, Tessy King, Niamh Minogue, Peta Armstrong, plus other personal items including surfboards, a framed photograph by friend Pablo Tauler, and straw hats collected travelling.
“It’s perfect for me because I’m kind of a workaholic – I’m always at the studio. When I go home I just want to collapse,” she says.
As well as Takeawei, Chela is the co-owner along with Brooke Thorn and Tao Oudomvilay of the beautiful North Melbourne store, Guild of Objects. Owning and operating a store was not a long-time goal of Chela’s, only coming to fruition when a friend was looking for someone to take over their commercial lease.
“I said, ‘I can’t open a shop, but just show me’…When Brooke and Tao jumped on, that’s when I said yes,” Chela says.
“People always say don’t go into business with friends, but we have the best relationship with it…They have their families and work as well – we don’t have the time to muck around.”
The shop has become somewhat of a ceramics institution in Melbourne, and also hosts regular workshop classes in subjects such as pottery, jewellery and textiles.
Chela is happy renting for now, with no immediate plans to buy a property of her own.
“Why do we have in our heads that we have to own our home? If I’m going to buy a house in the future it will be a block a land somewhere nice that I like, not in some housing estate, and I’ll get a tiny house. I don’t need much,” she says.
“I enjoy making and being in my studio, so I make that my main space. Home is just for being cosy and sleeping.”
Top rental styling tip?
Lots of textiles to cover things. Sometimes rentals come with furniture, especially in Torquay where they may have previously been holiday rentals. I have a pile of textiles from my travels in Guatemala, Mexico, India and Nepal, and then some more that I have picked up at garage sales.
What are your most frequently searched home-related terms online?
Pink velvet couch. I was obsessed with getting a mid-century couch in pink, preferably velvet. I now have three couches, two of which came with the place and another huge leather couch I picked up on Gumtree, so looking for another couch is ridiculous…but the Pop & Scott Dreamer may just break me.
What are favourite furniture and homewares stores?
I don't buy large pieces of furniture often as I feel they weigh me down when moving around and or just become another thing to move or get rid of. I mainly shop at op-shops, secondhand sites or I buy from local makers.
I have a triangle shelving unit I had made for a market by Like Butter which I still use at home. Another favourite is a pieces of the old St Kilda Pier made into a stool by fellow Ashmore Arts residents Romanis Trinham (it was a remnant from a public art project they were doing) and I keep this at the studio where I spend most of my time. I have so many pieces of furniture made by Ashmore mates! The studio table is by Sid Pope and those beautiful shelves and couch are by Stewart Guthrie.
Even though I make ceramics I still collect a lot of pieces from other makers, mostly I buy ceramics from Guild of Objects in North Melbourne, which I co-own, or pick up at exhibitions.
What’s the best thing about renting?
I can afford to live in an area that I want to actually spend time in. I love living near the ocean and close to my studio.
Shop the space
Furniture and homewares in this home are from the following sources…
Labels and independent artists: Variety Hour (cushions), Smalltown (macrame hanger), Rouda (blanket), Brooke Thorn (ceramics), Tortoise (ceramics), Peta Armstrong (ceramics) Lemons (ceramics), Barbara McIvor (ceramics), Alison Frith (ceramics), Nomad Object Co. (ceramics), Niamh Minogue (ceramics), Kirsten Perry (ceramics), Castle, I Love Linen (bedding)
Social media: My Stuff = Your Stuff Melbourne Facebook page
Other: Gumtree, eBay, op-shops, garage sales, and friend’s gifts are the best!