Umdloti artist Terry Rens has created a studio where women can come together for a moment of mindfulness.
Walking into Terry Rens’ studio in Umdloti is a treat for the senses. It’s surrounded by greenery, the sea is a short distance away, and natural light spills through oversized blue doors, for which the space is named. Terry grew up in the small coastal town, and it’s where she originally discovered pottery as a young mom with two small children, desperate for something of her own. After years of pottery classes, Terry eventually bought her teacher’s studio and equipment. With some encouragement from her sister-in-law, she eventually started her first teaching studio. Her classes gained popularity and in 2011, she opened Blue Door Pottery where she now gives classes to women from Umdloti and surrounds.
Terry teaches her students to craft with clay, a medium she says is really amazing to work with. Her students start with bare clay and are given the freedom to create whatever they want. “This is a creative space but there are some rules, otherwise you’ll be disappointed,” laughs Terry. “I try to let my students find the disappointments themselves. I guide them without forcing the rules. I find then that the creativity really comes out.”
For Terry, seeing her students create and grow is the best part of what she does. “It’s so rewarding to see someone who starts without any courage and ends up creating something beautiful,” she says. “You can’t believe the growth. Some people come and say they’re not creative – they just come for the social side. And then they end up creating amazing pieces. Everyone has their own style and they inspire each other.”
While the classes are about creative expression and learning to work with clay, Terry says the sessions often end up being deeply healing. “Generally, the women who come to classes have been through trauma and they find this is a safe space to talk without judgement. They form friendships, which is so lovely to see,” she explains. “Working with your hands is very therapeutic. You can’t think about anything else while working with the clay.” She also says that there is a special power in women gathering and talking, and knowing that anything shared will go no further than the studio.
As well as teaching, Terry also creates her own work, with a focus on mostly décor pieces and practical items like platters and jugs. She recently completed a kintsugi workshop in Cape Town, where she learnt the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold. When she’s not working in her studio or looking after her grandchildren, she spends time taking care of her hometown, a place that is very special to her. She is a co-founder of the Clean and Green initiative, which works to keep Umdloti a unique and beautiful place through various projects, including dune rehabilitation and water testing. “Umdloti is a jewel in the Durban crown,” she says. “I love the small community and the healthy lifestyle. I’m really blessed that I can live and work here.”
Details: Blue Door Pottery; 084 555 6230; IG: @blue_door_pottery_studio