Ayusha in Katherine's studio

REAL Social Impact Design: Katherine Mahoney on Mentoring.

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller.

A design, a cause, a campaign: they are all crucial components of the REAL Social Impact Design Program but on their own, they are unlikely to effect a measurable social impact.

There is no perfect formula for success but we firmly believe that every successful social enterprise is above all a collaborative process between people – designers and mentors, entrepreneurs and social activists, manufacturers and consumers – who are all indispensable links in the chain towards positive change.

Over the next few weeks, we will ask each of the people involved in the REAL Program how they are helping to shape a new generation of social enterprises. Today, we start with one our mentors, Katherine Mahoney.

Katherine Mahoney is an established potter based in Sydney, NSW. Her hand-thrown pieces are both sophisticated and practical, perfectly at ease exhibited in galleries or cherished within the home. Parallel to her own ceramic practice, Mahoney is a respected teacher and mentor who guides her students with a steady hand and a gentle touch.

What do you try to offer as a mentor ?

I think guidance would be the word.

A mentor is somebody who acts as a sounding board. Somebody who has gained wisdom through experience which they use to guide rather than teach.

I try to offer unbiased advice about direction and let their creativity shine through. I then help to facilitate the execution.

I believe that you cannot express yourself creatively without some skills. A painter who reaches paint for the first time can dab some paint on a canvas and be moderately pleased with what he does but once he has learned his craft, only then can he truly express himself.

Who are you mentoring at the moment and how?

Ayusha has this wonderful image in her mind but not the practical knowledge to know how to bring it to fruition.

She is doing textiles and graphics at COFA and she is creating a range of homewares. She thought it would be good to extend her brief with a range of pots but she didn’t have much practical experience with ceramics. She came along to see if I could help her put this vision into practice and I think we are achieving it.

She is coming up with the most brilliant ideas and I can show her step by step how to achieve them, and she is just running with it. She is a wonderful, creative, practical, inspiring young woman.

©Photos courtesy of Katherine Mahoney

How do you try to make a positive impact with your own practice ? 

On a practical level, I mostly use Australian clay and natural pigments, and I use a very high-tech kiln which uses the minimum amount of electricity.

But on another level, I think that producing work in a mindful way makes a positive impact.

People who appreciate pots tend to be very mindful people. They are making that choice of buying something that is individual and unique and handmade as opposed to something that was made mechanically in a factory without much part or soul.

Katherine, what is your message for humanity ? 

Be prepared to follow your passion against all odds so that  your creativity is not lost to the world. The world never stops turning, leave something worthwhile in your footprint.
You can support the REAL Foundation by purchasing any product from our ‘Hands’ range which includes limited edition ceramic pieces, jewellery and graphic Tees sporting the ‘Hands’ participants ‘Messages for Humanity’. Proceeds go towards the development and implementation of our REAL Foundation programs, like the COFA one.