Move south was not so potty after all

HER move to Tasmania is down to her daughter, says Lisa West. She hadn’t even been for a visit, never mind upping stakes and moving her life 2,500 kilometres south. But the well-established Brisbane workplace educator was getting fed up with her job, and her husband was ready to retire.

“And it was too hot, frankly,” she says of Queensland. “I never thought of myself as a person that flings caution to the wind, but then our daughter mentioned Tasmania as a possible university choice. “So we decided to come south for a look around – our first visit down here.”

It was 2013, and the trip to Tasmania led to Lisa becoming a regular visitor on the website as well. “Property prices here were still reasonable, specially compared with Brisbane,” she recalls. “It was on a second trip to Tasmania we found this old house called Stanton, a 1817 convict brick place with some land, just enough. It was perfect.”

The whole venture, from when Lisa first thought about leaving Brisbane to moving into Stanton was about six months. “It was all very quick,” she now says.

The previous owners had run the Magra property as a bed and breakfast, so Lisa kept that going. Then came 2020 and Covid, which took a major chunk out of the visitor business. “But I’d been taking pottery classes at the Tasmanian Ceramic Society’s workshops in Glenorchy,” she continues. “Working with clay became something I could do while I was waiting for guests, between bookings, something I could do in my kitchen and clean up quickly when people came. “It suited me, it suited my lifestyle.

“At first I worked in porcelain clay with small things, like earrings. And as I started to accumulate equipment and a kiln to do bigger work, this part of my life began to take over, including one of the outbuildings here as a studio.”

Today, Lisa brings together her teaching skills and pottery smarts into regular workshops for small groups of people. The workshops, most on Saturday and Sundays, and are stacked back to back if it’s busy. And it is. “We’re even working into the weekdays,” she says. “It’s been going gangbusters.”

Why did she name the studio Leap and Wander? “It pretty much describes me,” she laughs. “I can leap with great energy and an enthusiasm for things but I can also be bone idle and wander aimlessly. It’s also my initials!” And her workshops allow her to continue her own learning about ceramics.

“There’s so many things… how to use and shape clay, how to create glazes. Clay keeps surprising you, so even mistakes – and I’ve made lot – are part of that learning process. “Sometimes those mistakes take the piece in an entirely different direction,” she says in her typically open, direct fashion. “The whole thing keeps me interested.”

And the Covid pandemic turned out to be good for business. “When Tasmanians couldn’t travel, they started to look around for things they could do locally. We’re thirty minutes from Hobart – so close that people come from all over Tasmania for the workshops.”

Lisa lost her husband four years ago, but her family is now nearby. Her son Baden has moved here, and his sister Rhiannon – responsible for bringing up the idea of Tasmania in the first place – has settled in New Norfolk with her own family. “We love this place,” Lisa says. “We’re here to stay.”