Melbourne ceramics studio finds business support during uncertainty

Known for crafting handmade planters, vessels and lights, a ceramics studio in Melbourne’s north is using a Business Support Fund grant to help meet the costs of rent, utilities and planning.

Bruce RoweSince 2012, Reservoir-based Anchor Ceramics – led by creative directors Bruce Rowe and Claire Hatch – has been creating exquisite, made-to-order ceramic lights and vessels in an array of muted colours, glazes and textures. Coveted by both commercial and private clients, each piece is handmade and embraces the ‘buy once and keep’ maxim.

Sitting alongside Anchor Ceramics’ retail stream is Bruce Rowe Studio, another part of the business, which exhibits works and undertakes public and private art commissions in both Australia and the United States. To much acclaim: Bruce's work was part of the winning entry of 2018’s prestigious NGV Rigg Design Prize, awarded to a Melbourne interior design practice, Hecker Guthrie, for excellence in contemporary design.

Producing original, quality Australian design is at the centre of everything the business does, and it’s an approach that has earnt it a strong following along the way.

“We have so many supporters of Australian design and we’re very grateful,” says Bruce, who practised as an architect before turning his sights to the potter’s wheel in 2009. “Our team is committed to quality and approaches work with care.”

That team, though – and the many local material suppliers and design and architecture firms with which it collaborates – began to do it tough when the pandemic hit.

“Coronavirus has impacted people across the globe: it’s a transformative collective moment in human history,” reflects Bruce. “We will all vividly remember 2020 and our studio will never be the same. Although we’ve continued to trade, we’ve had some orders cancelled since March.”

Working in the creative sector, Bruce says he’s used to vulnerability, risk and uncertainty and adapted quickly to the predicament. “We reviewed our model and made changes to ensure we maintain momentum and are as healthy and nimble as possible. One challenge was to take the time to plan next steps to ensure ongoing sustainability.”

Ceramic piece sitting on a side tableOne way in which they responded was to quickly apply for the Victorian Government’s Business Support Fund initiative.

“The online application process was really accessible and simple to follow: just upload your quarterly Business Activity Statement (BAS) and answer some supporting questions,” explains Bruce.

“The fund will assist our continuity and help us meet business costs including utilities and rent, financial and legal advice and get some support for business planning. It’s a well thought out grant response from the Victorian Government that directly meets the real needs of small businesses like ours during COVID-19.”

Bruce’s advice to other eligible Victorian small businesses who are thinking of signing up to the grant? “Don’t hesitate to apply or ask for support to apply. Cashflow is critical to business continuity during this time. It can also help you to do the important work of business planning through the current public health restrictions and beyond.

"Some practical business tips for getting through this time, that have worked for us, is to focus on what can be achieved. Take action so you keep momentum: do one thing each day that helps your business. Imagine, make a call, review your finances, send an email, refine a plan, pay a bill (it keeps the money flowing), organise your workspace. Accept the support available to small business from federal, state and local government, too."

The Victorian Government has a range of programs, advice and information to support business through the impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19). These can be found on the Business Victoria website or by calling Business Victoria’s coronavirus hotline on 13 22 15.