The talent of Peter Wallace emerged long before he left boarding school in New South Wales in the early 1970s.
Leaving the lights off in the school pottery to avoid prefects on the prowl for those avoiding homework, Peter spent night after night practising his new craft.
A teacher, Michael Conlon, spotted his potential and so arranged for the lad to skip military cadet training on Friday afternoons to spend his time turning a wheel rather than left and right on a parade ground.
Back in his home town of Broken Hill for his final years of schooling, Peter Wallace built one of the first gas kilns ever seen in that remote mining centre.
There were no natural clays in the area but one of the minerals mined there, zinc, was later to become an essential element in the production of the exquisite crystalline glazes that have since become his professional trademark.
The great Australian artist, the late Pro Hart, lived in Broken Hill, and young Peter Wallace gathered up his courage to introduce himself.
"He was extremely encouraging,” Peter says, recalling the artist’s generosity in materials, equipment and time. “I would go to his place and hang around and meet artists and gallery owners from Melbourne. Pro showed me it was possible to making a living as an artist."
However, Peter’s journey to professional excellence was just beginning. A five-year stint in his own pottery at Bathurst was the next stage. Then, after a move to Brisbane, he came in contact with one of the fathers of pottery in Queensland, indeed of Australia.
Carl McConnell, who had worked alongside the greats in Japan, took Peter under his wing. “He taught me quality and real finesse of form -- and a lot of technical tips."
It was then time for Peter to pay his dues in hard labour. He joined Beechmont Pottery, a production pottery staffed by Americans who had come to Queensland partly for the work, partly for the surf. One of those was John Durand, who was to have a significant influence on Peter’s development as a potter.
"For every potter who wants to throw, starting in production pottery is best. You learn to minimise your movements," Peter says. “When I arrived I could make only 100 coffee mugs a day,” he says, adding that he can now produce that quantity in just two hours. Through practice -- he handled three quarters of a tonne of clay a day--- his natural abilities were stretched and honed. His reputation for throwing clay into perfect shapes was established.
Later he established a pottery at nearby Nerang where he pioneered a white glaze with a green and pink spray. It was in striking contrast to the sombre Japanese-influenced hues that then dominated Australian pottery. Fast forward to current day where Peter has moved north up to the picturesque Sunshine Coast, opening a studio in Gympie.