Shelby Sherritt is a ceramic artist from Ballarat, Victoria. She uses the medium of clay to create functional, purposeful pieces of pottery - with a pottery wheel, hand building, and slip casting moulds.
Here, we chat to Shelby about her journey on YouTube and what she hopes to share and achieve.
When and what got you started?
I started creating pottery after I was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 20. I always had a love for art and found solace within the creative process. When I first started playing with clay at this time, I found something that put my grief and worry in the backseat allowing for my hope, wonder and tranquillity to take the driver's seat. Ever since that moment, pottery really stuck as a medium and I couldn’t stop working with it.
I just have an undeniable passion for pottery. I always admired artists on social media who could do just one medium and be really good at it. I never thought that would be me as I tried all the different crafts, arts, hobbies to find something that stuck.
Pottery was that thing for me that just connected with my heart, mind and fingertips.
It was a passion that made me excited to see what I could make next, an anticipation for the next project's results. I keep wanting to learn more and grow in the skill which was a reaction I had never felt working with other art mediums. There is just something so special about the way you can shape and sculpt clay and be patient with its stages to create a finished artwork. It has so much purpose and intention which I connect with more than other art forms.
And when did you know it was more than a hobby and could be a business?
I knew it was more than a hobby when I struggled to keep my artworks on my website. I was working full time at a nine to five job and I was coming home every night to work on my pottery. I noticed that I was spending all day at work thinking about what I was going to make at home that night, I could never keep up with the demand and I was burning the candle at both ends trying to give my 100% to both my day job and the pottery side of things. I made the decision to go full time with my pottery in March 2020 right when the pandemic hit. I was worried as I gave up a secure job, peak lockdowns and unemployment. However, that didn’t impact my pottery at all and it in fact became bigger as I reached new audiences.
What kind of content do you share on YouTube?
My content is all about my pottery but I am most known for my Mystery Mould Series. This is a series where I have found vintage pottery moulds dating from the 1960s through to the 1990s. I have about 300 moulds, and each week I unveil one and give it a makeover in my art style. It is like unwrapping a Christmas present whilst enjoying the creative process and magic of the pottery process.
How long have you been creating content and sharing it on YouTube?
This is my first year on YouTube. I didn’t think people would want to watch me or even care for what I had to say. Now, it’s a big part of my content creation process and I look forward to posting every week.
Why did you choose to share videos on YouTube?
A lot of my followers on other social media platforms encouraged me to do it. I never really thought people would want to watch me for more than 60 seconds. I had started creating a lot of short format videos so I think people just wanted to see more, a bit more of an in-depth process and footage of everything I was making. This encouragement led me to start my YouTube channel.
The thing that made me stay is that YouTube is one of the only content platforms that gives back to their Australian creators in monetary ways so that helps me to keep making content when I know I will get something back from the platform as well.
What does long form videos and YouTube allow you to express that’s different from other platforms?
The long form videos allow me to talk more about the pieces, have a deeper connection with my lovely subscribers and show more of the process from start to finish. I feel like sometimes the shorter form content can be a lot of noise, it is so easy to quickly scroll through hundreds of ideas, thoughts and expressions in a matter of seconds. I find the longer format videos allow a moment to just focus on the one concept, really take it all in and appreciate it for what it is. It feels more intentional and purposeful.
I treat my long form videos like a weekly released TV show that you are waiting to tune into.
It creates a schedule that is familiar, secure and safe which you don’t regularly get with the shorter style content.
You also share Shorts on YouTube - what’s your approach for different types/styles of content?
My approach with my short style content is to create a story that is either educational, relaxing, fun, or provides an insight. I create content in this way as I am not thinking about myself and what I want to share, rather what would be helpful to a beginner potter or someone who doesn’t know much about the craft.
I want my content to have purpose.
My educational content might come from showing someone a bit about the process, how to make something, what something means in pottery lingo. It shares knowledge and allows others to learn. Relaxing content might be carving some pottery, some painting footage, anything that gives the viewer a moment of pause, a good brain scratch, a little ‘oh that was satisfying to watch’. Fun content is a bit of a laugh - it is just meant to spark a little bit of joy and a smile, while my content providing an insight is everything in between, it’s the stuff you didn’t know you needed to know or some process behind the pottery I make.
You talk a lot about challenging yourself and pushing yourself creatively, why is that important to you?
I think it is really important to continue to challenge yourself as a creative person. I find it has given me a push to uncover thoughts, skills and concepts I would never have visited if I just stayed in my comfort lane.
It allows for growth, development and new muses. It makes everything feel fresh, it keeps you feeling excited about your medium. Nothing ever becomes flat or mundane, it always has a fresh breath that makes you wonder about what could be. Challenging myself is a very personal journey but I have found that it has also helped keep my content exciting and enjoyable. It always has a new depth, angle or dimension to it as I challenge myself to make content based on my subscribers ideas and concepts. It helps me adapt to trends, themes and move my content to new levels.
In your content, you share more than just your art/creative process - why is that? What else are you passionate about sharing?
I have found that the Mystery Mould series in particular has reached people from all walks of life. Not just people who are interested in pottery. I never thought I would interest people that were not into pottery usually.
In my content I sometimes open dialogue about different topics and talk about them in my videos. I love this because it allows me to connect with those audiences that don’t have a massive passion for pottery but are here for the mystery element, or the creative element or to see the piece from start to finish. It allows my content to be more accessible as it is a niche art form but I can talk about broad topics that can be relatable to lots of different people.
I just find it opens up a conversation in the comments section and allows me to have a greater connection with my subscribers.
For example, one of the pieces I created had an artwork based on a movie. I opened up the conversation about comfort movies and reading the comments section after that was such a joy to read the varying comfort movies people have.
What inspires or motivates you, your art and to share your stories?
When I think about this question it is so interesting because I have a brain that constantly ticks about wonderful and exciting ideas I could do.
I sometimes think creative people just have this buzz that is always singing in their mind to create magic.
However, when that buzz doesn’t sing as loudly I do seek inspiration in op shops, vintage markets and old garden books. There is something so wonderful about looking back at where pottery has come from and what it can be today. Seeing what past creatives have done fills my cup up to explore again.
I find the most inspiration in nature - which may seem very cliché but it's true. I love the way leaves on gumtrees fall with a cadence. The variation of colour from rich green to warm reds. How petals form with synchronism and yet seem very random in variation. Nature keeps me so very humble in my practice.
You do SO much! How do you fit it all in? How and what do you prioritise?
I think it’s an ever evolving balance to create content and also run a business. It comes from a drive and passion that is very hard to dim.
I don’t really have much of a routine as pottery can be unpredictable in its drying times and firing. I do have things I focus on and goals that help with my priorities which then in turn help me do so much.
I have two big goals at the moment which help me prioritise what’s important to getting there. The first is to set up my new art studio, which is a very monetary goal. The second is to grow my YouTube channel. Both in turn help each other.
I prioritise treating my YouTube channel like a weekly TV show. I put a lot of focus on filming this so I allocate some time at the start of each week to film a new video. As each piece needs to go through two 24 hour firing cycles, they need to be completed prior to Wednesday so I have enough time to edit the content and upload onto YouTube so people can watch the video each Friday. The pottery process means that I stay on top of things and get the content organised days in advance as otherwise there just won’t be a video! I also need the kiln to be full in order to efficiently fire it so at the end of the week is where I paint my usual work. I do this so there is enough work to fire the kiln the following week.
All the works I make go up for sale at the end of each month which then helps go towards my pottery studio build. Not to mention the monetisation from YouTube, which has been a major help, and now I am getting some decent income from YouTube, I am starting to prioritise it more and have it a bigger focus of my creative process in 2022.
Do you have any tips for anyone starting out as an artist, or thinking about making their art into a business?
Just do it! Every single person has so much voice and creativity to add to the world. It does take a lot of drive, passion and commitment to make it work full time but anyone can do it.
- Start small, don’t expect to be like your artist idols as all your artist idols have been years in the making. Slow steps forward, with your drive, passion and commitment will help you reach big.
- Keep challenging yourself, challenges allow you to grow and break down your own creative walls.
- Stay inspired, observe the beauty and wonder in the everyday, brick walls, weeds in pavements, flowers growing through fences. Take it all in and don’t be afraid to be inspired by the unexpected.
- Take breaks! This one is so important, don’t be a victim to the hustle culture. It can burn you out and take away that element of joy you have with your craft. As much as you enjoy it, give yourself time away from it every now and then so that you miss it!
Do you have any advice for someone thinking about starting a YouTube channel?
I’m repeating myself, but just do it! If you have wanted to start one, the best place to start is to give it a go.
Post your first video and see how it goes, share it with friends, family, whoever you think might watch it. Read your analytics and observe the comments. I say observe the comments because sometimes they can be very opinionated and not on the same trajectory that you want to go. I noticed a few people were giving me suggestions about how I could improve certain aspects of my videos. I changed a few things up because they were fabulous ideas. They made my videos so much better and the viewers enjoyed them a lot more, whilst feeling validated for their opinions.
Analytics also help you to gauge what content is relevant and which content should be carded. As time has gone on I have noticed that my viewers like a shorter form of video. When I started I was creating 15-30 minute episodes. When I trialled a 10-15 minute video I noticed the retention and viewer rate skyrocketed. The analytics helped me change up my content to suit the typical audience retention on my channel.
What is your most popular video? Why do you think that is?
My most viewed video actually surprised me a lot because (just between you and me) it was an artwork that was my least favourite in the whole series artistically, but the most fun I had with a design. This video was Mould 46.
*Without spoilers* I think it did well because a lot of people said the artwork I painted on the object had a very big Lisa Frank vibe. I had painted donuts, fairy bread and pizza all over this object with bright colours. I did it just for fun and it was so daggy and almost cringey, but so cute all at the same time. I think this resonated with a lot of people because it was an attainable and recognisable design and style. This video is the closest I have been to going viral on the platform.
What do you hope people take away from your videos?
I just hope it gives people some excitement, inspiration, joy and wonder. There is something so special about this form of content which is why I am still doing it a year down the track.
It is kind of like an exclusive behind the scenes look at the process of a trade skill. I just really hope people feel inspired to create in their own lives and to explore their own skills in all kinds of mediums. Especially those few individuals that left art behind when they finished school and forgot how wonderful being creative made them feel. I hope they evoke that creative fire inside.
What do you hope to achieve in 2022 or over the next year?
- Finish setting up my new studio and move into it before the end of the year.
- Post more tutorial and vlog content on YouTube. I do a lot of voiceover videos so I want to try and challenge myself to do some face to camera talking and show a bit more of behind the scenes and ‘how to’ content.
- Finally (and most ambitiously), I want to reach 100k subscribers on YouTube!
You’ve created a really warm and welcoming community on your channel - how does that make you feel? How do you encourage this?
When I create content, I do a little bit of it for me. Documenting the process of pieces is lovely because I get to look back on it and see how far I have come and grown as an artist. However, my main objective for my content is to create them for my subscribers. I wouldn’t be where I am today without people enjoying the content and them getting something out of it each week. It needs to feel warm, open and welcoming so that it is a space that people want to engage with.
Particularly, with the Mystery Mould pieces, a lot of subscribers may have had these pieces years ago. Some may remember their grandparents having them, or saw the piece in an op shop. There is a memory, nostalgia and reminisce that is involved in reviving these lost and forgotten pieces. In a way I have big shoes to fill to even compare to some of the memories people have with these pieces I am uncovering. I have found that this element of my content is a big driver to having an open dialogue about the pieces as people share their stories, memories and thoughts about trends been and gone.
I think I was lucky to be in this position, someone else could have found these moulds and someone else could be in this position. I have a passion and a joy for creating, but I respect and appreciate the knowledge, life experiences and perspectives of others that may be viewing the reveals. People have so many beautiful words of wisdom to share about pottery, art, the pieces, and I feel so special that they are sharing those thoughts with me in the comments. I love hearing what people are thinking about different pieces. Art is so subjective in so many ways so hearing others opinions not only makes it very interesting for me but allows me to address their opinions in future art pieces by changing up what I paint and the colours I use to suit a different perspective.
It’s about keeping it open, judgement free, and an always learning mentality that allows for the community to feel really special.
I absolutely love the community so much. I look forward to the comments and reading what people have said or thought about during the videos. It is really inspiring and encourages me to keep going. I get a little buzz and motivation for the next week's reveal as I ponder the potential of what people are going to share about the future pieces.
Is there a moment that stands out to you, where you realised or really understood the impact you were having on other people?
I received a lot of messages really early on and I continue to receive messages that absolutely blow me away. I think I am always reminded of the impact these videos have as new subscribers join the community and share their thoughts and feelings.
I think the global pandemic has been such a polarising experience for everyone that putting out content that was a bit of a distraction, and filled with joy, hope, excitement and passion, resonated with a lot of people.
The messages definitely made me realise the impact I was having. These wonderful people had not only gone out of their way to comment on the video, but to find my email and send me a paragraph (or few) sharing how much they needed this content.
Sometimes it would take me a few days to reply because it would just hit me right in the heart and I needed a moment to process how I would even live up to their expectation of a reply.
Hearing the impact these videos have had on a lot of people’s lives has truly been a big motivator to keep making more content. I never thought these would help people as much as they have and I am just so happy they have found them right when they needed it.
What’s the best thing about what you do?
So many things. To say just one thing would leave so many things out.
I love that I get to inspire and create. I love that I get to do my dream job that doesn’t feel like work. I love that I have a job that supports my health and allows me to take breaks when I need them. I love that I have this beautiful community that gets excited for my creations and I, in turn, get excited to read what they have to say. I sometimes get swept up in the motions of it all that this question has made me all teary about how special this job is to me and how I wouldn’t change it. I hope I get to do this for so much more time to come.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned since you started your channel?
It's ok to share your failures and mistakes. I used to be so scared of showing designs that didn’t work out because I thought that would mean people wouldn’t want to buy my art or value it less.
However, I found showing my stuff-ups, whoopsies and oh no’s helped resonate with my community.
It showed the real side of discovery and it actually gives me more confidence and value on the pieces that do work out.
I now embrace my mistakes and failures as part of the process rather than hiding them.