Carla Dinnage is one hell of a multitasker; she manages a myriad of daily duties running her own business, she’s a wife, and also a mother of four children under the age of 11. Her self-titled ‘Carla Dinnage’ homewares brand has garnered a national following since launching in 2014, and after just three years in business, she’s harnessed 6000 fans on Instagram, and she’s stocked in over 30 Australian boutiques.
Working out of her garage studio in the bayside suburb of Brighton, Victoria, Carla has built her business from the bottom up, and her signature ceramic crosses now hang in houses around the country. Her work is bright and bold, yet reservedly chic; a juxtaposition of raw materials and earthen textures, with smooth finishes and luxurious details.
As a wife, a mum and a business owner, an ‘average’ day for Carla is the very opposite of the word, and in between school runs, feeding a family of six and normal day to day responsibilities, Carla somehow finds the time to design and hand make each ceramic piece to perfection.
“A typical day is crazy for me. I have four kids, so five days a week there’s school drop off and pick up, and in between I try to squeeze in some exercise or Pilates to clear my mind. Then from 10 am to 3.30 pm each day is lock-down studio time, with a few coffee breaks of course, and laundry and cleaning in between. When it’s busy, I’m back in the studio straight after dinner. I also work weekends, so it’s a rush to the kid’s weekend sports in the morning, then back into the studio in the afternoons to potter away! To be honest, there’s not much downtime, which I could probably manage a little better.”
Carla’s schedule is not uncommon for modern families, but it’s the painstaking process of each piece that demands a little more from this Melbourne mother. There are no shortcuts or secrets to rush the process, and each piece is individually designed and handmade, hand cut, naturally dried, sanded by hand, and also hand painted. There are three rounds of kiln firing, bisque, glazing, and gold firing – a stage which can take up to seven days alone to complete. Depending on the design, size and complexity of the piece, as well as the season and natural temperatures, the entire process can take up to four weeks from start to finish.
“Good work takes time. I love that each piece is natural and earthy, yet it also feels very delicate and expensive at the same time. I don’t glaze the bottom of my pieces, so you still get that organic handmade feel, and I love the contrast between the rawness and the bling of the gold lustre. It is a very slow process, but it’s important for people to recognise how much work and effort goes into creating handmade objects. When you buy locally, you get more of a back-story, and you know how things are made, instated of just buying a mass-produced dime-a-dozen item.”
This slow and organic process is what defines a Carla Dinnage piece, and you can walk into any one of her 30 stockists and pick her work straight away. There’s a uniqueness to Carla’s colour palette, a certain smoothness to each brush stroke, and always an element of luxury – and it’s because each piece is entirely hers.
“I’m a bit of a control freak, so I hand make and hand finish the majority of my work myself. I think you need to have quality control of your products to ensure each piece is perfect. I want to control the whole process too, to make sure I operate ethically. I load my kiln to the brim to conserve electricity in the firing stage, and I always recycle my leftover clay, working it into smaller pieces.”
These ‘smaller pieces’ – her teacups, saucers, ring bowls and side plates – are just as popular as her signature crosses, and her ring bowls, in particular, are every blogger’s must-have at the moment. Our personal favourite are her swirled pastel plates, which are smooth to the touch and finished with gold rims, and they make the perfect pretty dessert plate. Artistically decorated with gentle strokes and gold speckles, they’re a representation of who Carla is: calm yet clear, directional yet gentle.
“Handmade objects have their quirks and bumps; it’s what makes them so special. I want my ceramics to represent me, and when I’m in the studio, it’s calm and quiet, it’s like meditation. I forget about everything else and just create.”
The Fashion Advocate x