Five Questions With Penelope Duke

Written by Penelope Duke
on 16 October, 2017

Assorted dipped vases – handmade by Penelope Duke

Penelope Duke is a ceramicist based in the foothills of the extraordinary Dandenong Ranges on the outer East of Melbourne, Australia. Using tactile clays and glazes Penelope makes functional and practical pieces that explore the relationship between light and shade. See more at our Melbourne market (this weekend!) or read on… 

How did you come to be a seller at Finders Keepers? 

I didn’t start out as a potter with the intention of building a business, but through a series of fortunate events it sort of just happened. Initially I started throwing lessons once a week as a means of stress relief, and from there quite quickly things fell into place and before I knew it my relaxing hobby had become a busy business.

Because my studio originated as a refuge from the noise and rush of my busy life I find that now reflects heavily in my pieces, and I’m drawn to making simple and quiet shapes, in simple and quiet colours to calm my mind.

monochromatic bowl – designed and handmade by Penelope Duke

Dipped rounded planters – designed and handmade by Penelope Duke

Talk us through a typical day in the life of Penelope Duke.
My days are typically extremely busy – often bordering on chaotic! I support my partner in his business and our youngest child is not yet at school, so my work needs to fit into any spare time left in my day, usually while the kids are at school / kinder and then again at night while the household sleeps. I’m fortunate to have my studio at home, so I can escape into it whenever I get the chance, but it does tend to become like a sponge which soaks up every spare moment.

Who inspires you and your creative process? 
My family has always provided a great inspiration. I grew up within an intensely creative family, in an interesting home full of design books and sculptures, pottery, art and furniture made by my family and their friends.

The labour involved in the construction of a piece of art no matter which medium has always been evident. Watching my parents, sisters and extended family and now also my partner chip away with perseverance on a project over many hours brought the early understanding that the road between that first idea and finished product is often long and sometimes frustrating, but ultimately worthwhile.

Summertime dreaming planter – designed and handmade by Penelope Duke

Plates and little bowls – designed and handmade by Penelope Duke

Penelope Duke in her studio

Tell us about your inspiration for creativity? Is there a Finders Keepers designer you admire? 
Shadows, light and the open landscapes of my New Zealand upbringing all play a big part in the design of my pieces.

I’m very much inspired by my contemporary ceramic friends, Charmain Ong from Bisuketto Studios as well as the many other “Midnight Potters” in my life who are working late into the night and pushing themselves to the limits while juggling family commitments with their work during the day. It’s an exhausting existence, but watching them persevere and then succeed is so heartening.

What goals do you have for your business over the next 5 years?
I’m currently operating almost at capacity which forces me to turn away so many appealing projects, but as my children grow older I look forward to a future of having more hours to put into the studio. With more time to work as of next year I’ll continue to develop my different ranges, try some new things and build relationships with stockists and clients. And hopefully even enjoy the odd early night!

fluted planters – designed and handmade by Penelope Duke

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