We look inside the Windsor warehouse where ceramicist Mike Lepre is helping provide meaningful employment for those experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
On a typically warm Brisbane morning, designer Mike Lepre is getting his hands dirty at his ceramics studio and social enterprise, Bertonni. Inside the Windsor warehouse, Lepre stands alongside two co-workers stirring slip – a liquid mixture of clay and water – testing its consistency with a finger. The slip will later be poured into plaster moulds and eventually join the many other pieces that line the surrounding shelves in various stages of completion.
“I’ve always loved really nice European homewares … always bought really nice ceramics, Waterford crystal and Wedgewood – brands like that with history and beautiful craftsmanship,” Lepre says. His own designs have a “nerdy” simplicity. “It’s all about lines [and] angles. I want to let the material speak for itself and create something that would stand the test of time and wouldn’t be a fad or trendy.”
Bertonni porcelain is designed and made in-house using high quality Australian clay. “As a designer it’s very important for me, using Australian materials and being as local as possible.” Other Australian brands often import their clay from Limoges, France – a city famous for its porcelain. “From what I’ve heard Limoges is easy to work with … I never choose the easy things, unfortunately,” Lepre says, smiling.