Behind the cute koalas
TWENTY-three-year-old Shelby Sherritt understands the value of art therapy deeply.
Following an appendix and bowel cancer diagnosis in 2016, creativity became a major coping mechanism for her.
“Art therapy was a really big healing thing for me, and it led onto me studying social work,” she said.
Moving between Sydney University and her home in Ballarat to complete her degree, Sherritt wanted to stay in touch with the world of art therapy, but from a new angle.
“I saw that you could do ceramics as part of the degree. I’ve always been passionate about art, so I thought, that sounds like a good thing to try out,” she said.
“I wanted to take my art further. I did that unit, fell in love with it and just kept going.”
Exploring the theme of Australiana, the former Damascus College student enjoyed following a process of sculpting, under glazing, glazing and wheel throwing, creating little pots covered in a flowering gum motif, and some sculpted koalas.
This iconography really resonated, and her creations progressed beyond the class. Sherritt started an online Etsy store and engaged with the ceramics community on Instagram.
Now with nearly 5400 followers, she has become known on Instagram for her bespoke handmade koala pots with illustrated Australian flowers on their bellies. She also creates rainbow pinch pots and gum leaf necklaces.
“On Instagram, you can really present a folio of your work and put your values across. You can show the behind the scenes process, and connect and collaborate with other makers, so it’s a really beautiful, accepting community,” Sherritt said.
She recently launched a Kickstarter to buy a kiln which was fully funded by her online supporters. Enough extra money was raised that Sherritt could afford a second-hand pottery wheel, which she bought from a ceramicist in Bacchus Marsh.
The Koala pots are best sellers and Sherritt said this is probably because they’re so relatable.
“They’re just the most chill animal. All they do is eat, sleep and hang out. They’re such a fluffy, cute animal, like a teddy bear, and everyone knows about them all across the world,” she said.
“If I was to say that I was any animal, it’d totally be a koala on the weekends.”
Sherritt gets a kick out creating things for other people’s homes and is excited by the photos her customers share online when they receive their koala, pinch pot or necklace.
“It took me a while to find my niche area, but I really enjoy it, and I’ll probably end up doing it full time for a little bit once I finish uni,” she said.
“We’ll see what happens.
“People take different things away from health adversities, but for me, it was really empowering. I wasn’t doing this beforehand, and it’s just been life changing,” she said.
Head to Shelby Sherritt’s Etsy store at etsy.com/au/shop/ShelbySherrittArt and follow her on Instagram for store updates at @shelby.sherritt.art.