Making a difference with Fire & Clay

March 21, 2018 Dean_James_Monica_Adrian_Helen

A registered Australian Disability Enterprise (ADE) employing more than 30 people, the talented team at Fire and Clay produce an array of handcrafted pottery and ceramic garden products.

Walking into the factory shop at Fire and Clay’s Lilydale HQ, you find yourself surrounded by hanging birds, wind chimes, mandalas and bird baths. These are just some of the range of products developed by the talented team at Fire and Clay. This registered Australian Disability Enterprise employees more than 30 people with intellectual, neurological and physical disabilities. Over the last year, the team have also created their own line of labelled herb sticks, perfect for identifying herbs in your indoor and outdoor pot plants or herb gardens.

Their work is growing in popularity, but it’s what is happening behind the scenes that is its own success story, for Fire and Clay workers and their customers alike.

Dean, a supported employee at Fire and Clay since August 2012, values the opportunities for learning and engagement most of all. “When I started, I didn’t have a background in pottery, so Fire and Clay has also been a place for me to learn that.”

“And I love that I get out of the house!” adds Dean. “I want to be doing something and to be connecting with other people.”

For Helen who has worked at Fire and Clay since 2011, she looks forward to having the chance to be creative and to work alongside others.

“I love the team,” states a smiling Helen. “The people are just beautiful. I love to make the pots with the swirls on them, and lots of beads and herb sticks.”

When ill-health meant Nick could no longer continue working in the car trade, he didn’t know what he was going to do.

“Being here at Fire and Clay, it gives me that purpose again,” says Nick. “It’s a place that just lifts your spirits, and gives you a whole family of people in the process!”

Over the last 8 years with Fire and Clay, Adrian has made and painted a variety of products, but what he enjoys most are the friendships he has made along the way.

“Fire and Clay has great people,” shared Adrian. “I enjoy their company and we are always willing to help each other out in different ways.”

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Pictured here are some of the Fire and Clay team – Dean, John, Monica, Adrian and Helen.

Monica has been a supported employee at Fire and Clay for more than 12 years. While completing a TAFE course, Monica’s teacher recommended she do her work experience placement with Fire and Clay.

“I just really enjoyed it, and I think my supervisor at Fire and Clay noticed that, and asked me to stay on as an employee! I’m so glad they did.”

When asked what her favourite things about Fire and Clay were, Monica laughed, exclaiming, “How can I answer that question with just one thing! There are just so many good things! The people, the tasks, the singing we do. I love it all.”

Along with the products John has been making at Fire and Clay over the last five years, he is proudest of his creative pursuits.

“Our Fire and Clay warehouse is connected to an Art Studio, and I’ve loved making various mugs and vases there. It’s great to have that opportunity, as well as learning the pottery craft.

“Our supervisors are fantastic, and very supportive too. We’re a tight-knit team here, and this has been a great program to keep us in the workforce.”

“Our mission is to give our workers the chance for meaningful employment,” says Sue Gannon, Manager of Disability Community Options at Uniting Wesley. “We give them the opportunity to socialise and engage with others, while also helping to empower them through economic and personal independence. What matters most to us, is that they are given the dignity they deserve as important members of our community.”

You can view the range of Fire and Clay products at their show room at Lilydale, or catch them at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show between 22nd until 25th of March 2018.

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