During the 1850s, George Duncan Guthrie was prospecting for gold near Bendigo Creek when he discovered clay that he believed was suitable for pottery production. A former potter, Guthrie used this clay to create the first pieces of pottery that became known as Bendigo Pottery. Over the years of production, many items with various glazes have been produced by the Pottery and early pieces are sought by collectors. Much of the older pottery is unmarked and can only be identified by its distinctive glaze and style. An on-site interpretative museum allows you to experience and learn about the Pottery's history.
If the museum triggers considerable interest for you, then follow it up with a visit to the National Museum of Australian Pottery in Holbrook, New South Wales, where you will find an abundance of early Australian pottery including many Bendigo pieces.
Today when you visit Bendigo Pottery, you can wander around the complex and see the old kilns and beautiful rose gardens, and then go inside to the sales gallery, observe potters at work, take a wheel-throwing lesson, or relax in the cafe. During school holidays, the kids can immerse themselves in one of the clay activities or workshops.
There are also other on-site galleries including the Potiche Gallery, which displays a range of pottery created by central Victorian potters. The Paynter Gallery holds regular arts and ceramics exhibitions. Yvonne George, a well-known sculptor, has her Artizen Gallery and working studio on site.
The heritage-listed stables built in 1873 sit between the Moliagul Store and the Bendigo Pottery Function Centre. Inside the main building there is an information centre and if you like collectables, you can get lost in the Antique and Collectables Centre. The Great Australian Olive Oil Store is also located on the Pottery grounds. Here you will find regional produce including olive oil, olives, chutneys and sauces, and wines.
The annual Bendigo Olive Fiesta is worth keeping in mind. The Fiesta is held in March at the Bendigo Pottery and is conducted by local Rotary clubs. It is a day of fun, music, and food, and promotes the region's olive growers as well as raising funds for Rotary projects.
Clay activities are available during school holidays