Clay Beehive for SWC Heirloom

Frills and dimples. Earthy speckles and peek-a-boo cutouts. Scallops and curls. What’s not to love about the personality-infused designs dreamed up by Australian ceramics studio Clay Beehive?

In addition to their showstopping forms, the pieces are lovingly crafted with functionality at the fore. Once we realised that a handmade oil burner and water pourer would be the perfect accompaniment to Southern Wild Co’s new Bush Remedies essential oil range, we knew Clay Beehive would offer perfect measures of practicality and organic prettiness with a dash of charming quirk.  

Ceramicist Mel Eliades from Claybeehive in her studio

Mel Eliades is the happy maker behind Clay Beehive’s charming creations. The ceramicist and delightfully grounded human lives and creates on a small acreage in Milawa, Yorta Yorta country in North East Victoria, with the majestic Mount Buffalo as the backdrop and birds and bees as the soundtrack. She discovered her love of ceramics at a local community clay centre while working her day job as a medical laboratory technician. Mel says this first encounter with pottery was a type of homecoming that inspired her to follow her heart and turn her full attention to hands-on creativity.

Mel’s devotion to the making process is evident in each perfectly imperfect outcome. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of ceramics, as there are so many avenues to explore and learn about. It also marries so well with my love of simple everyday rituals, like picking flowers and arranging them in a vase I’ve created, she shares. Read on for more beautiful insights from Mel and learn about our very special Clay Beehive SWC one-of-a-kind collaboration.

Southern Wild Co x Clay Beehive oil burners and water jug sets

Where does the name Clay Beehive come from?

Finding a business name can be quite an undertaking, but it came quite easily in this instance. I really adore bees, including our honey bees but especially our native blue banded bees. I'm always busily thinking up new ideas, and I can find it hard to sit still for too long. Bees never seem to stop, and I love that we share that. I see my ceramic studio as a little beehive brimming with pots and ideas waiting to come to life.

Mel Eliades from Clay Beehive carving essential oil burners in her pottery studio
White clay with hands

Watching your videos on Instagram is a super calming experience ’we could watch you carve into clay all day! How does working with clay make you feel?

I'm so happy to hear you enjoy the videos. Carving into clay is as relaxing as it looks, and its so meditative I get completely lost in the experience. You also get to be super creative, its amazing how varying the depth or movement of the tools changes the finished look of the pot. I do find it a very addictive process, and I highly recommend anyone thinking about taking up a pottery class to do it, even if its just for carving into leather hard clay. Its very rewarding to create something totally unique to you.

Could you please describe your garden and studio and how they tie into your day and your inspirations?

My studio is in my garden. The structure itself is a shed that originally housed our tools and gardening equipment but, bit by bit, they needed to find a new home as my clay obsession grew. The setup is rather simple but houses everything I need to create. Ive lined most of the inside to make it a little cosier and pretty it up.

I've set up a corner by the roller door where I take most of my photos of my pieces as it's flooded with light. I have the roller door up most days so my two dogs can come and go, and I also have a resident king parrot visiting the studio, often in search of food’ he can be very cheeky knocking over pots. I have my work table set up close to the open door so I'm able to watch and listen to the beautiful birds as I work.

Each morning I’ll walk around the garden surrounding my studio and pick a bunch of herbs, flowers or leaves to bring into the studio. I find it very inspiring just looking at their forms, textures and colours. They often inspire me to create a particular vase depending on the length of the stem or style of bloom, along with the colour palette or silhouette of a leaf or flower when I'm glazing.

Southern Wild Co Heirloom Clay Beehive collaboration

We are so excited about our collaboration and the beautiful oil burners and water jugs you created for us. What was the brief and what were your initial design ideas and inspirations?

I was excited to be approached by Tania, as I loved the idea of creating the oil burners and little jugs. These kinds of collaborations are very special and I really enjoy the process.

Tania made it very easy for me in that she gave approximate sizes and shapes of how she'd envisage them to look and we discussed various clays and finishes. We decided on a simple design as the carvings would add some lovely texture. Keeping things white, along with the exposed raw clay, gives a nice earthy colour palette that’s in keeping with both of our aesthetics.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I love the process of carving, and the textured look is very beautiful. It sits at home in most interior environments, and I knew it would be perfect for the oil burners and jugs. The carvings remind me of textured bark, its really gorgeous.

Our oil burner set is about celebrating slow rituals, such as taking the time to light a little beeswax tea light and pour water into the little bowl on top before dropping in the oil blend and inhaling the beautiful Australian fragrance.

What slow rituals do you partake in?

I love taking the time to brew a delicious tea and drinking it from one of my handmade ceramic cups, savouring the taste and experience of holding a handmade item (I have a nice ever growing collection from some of my favourite artists).

It’s also a daily ritual for me to walk about in my garden and pick a few things that are flowering, or some lovely foliage, and arrange it in one of my many vases, some that are seconds or experiments. It really sets up my day ahead and makes me happy when I look at them as I’m working.

Southern Wild Co Our Place candle

A cheeky question: whats your favourite Southern Wild Co scent and why? 

Each candle is absolutely beautiful and so original, and I always get comments when I burn them. My hands down favourite would have to be ‘Our Place’, as it reminds me of my childhood. Its a blended scent unlike anything else, and I truly love it.  

Whats next for Clay Bee Hive?

Once I have some time for more experiments, I’m excited to bring in a little more colour to my range. I have a few ideas in mind, and I think you'll love them, along with some new surface designs and patterns. Of course, there will always be more quirky vases coming to life – I just cant stop dreaming them up.

Were there any technical difficulties or things you had to keep in mind when designing the oil burner?

I’d not created an oil burner before but was excited when Tania asked me if its something I’d be interested in doing. I used a clay body that I know can deal with the thermal shock of being heated up as the clay surface can get quite warm underneath the flame from the candle. I needed to make sure the opening was wide enough to be able to put the little candle inside.

What is your creative process? Do you sketch ideas or just play and see where the clay takes you?

I’m always thinking about clay and my next creation, and its certainly a case of too many ideas and not enough time. I have to balance the making side for sales versus creative playtime.

Bringing new ideas to life most often starts with an idea I’ve had coming to me as I’m walking with the dogs or about to drift off to sleep. If I’m not in a position to get into the studio when inspiration hits, I'll draw out my idea very roughly.

My drawings are terrible and I can’t really visualise things properly in this way – it needs to be in 3D. I'm much better at bringing new ideas to life by experimenting with the clay directly. This allows me to instantly see whats in front of me, and often the original idea Ive had will literally morph into something else entirely. The clay certainly has a way of knowing what it wants to be but often an idea I have in mind takes many experiments and reiterations before its something I’m entirely happy with.

SWC X Clay Beehive Bark Burner Set is available now.
Discover Clay Beehive.


Interview by Jessica Bellef.
Image by Southern Wild Co and Clay Beehive.

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