Shelby Sherritt: the Ballarat cancer survivor who became a TikTok pottery queen | Art and design

For years, Shelby Sherritt was referred to as the “cancer lady”.

“All my mates had been like ‘Oh, she’s going via remedies’ or ‘That’s the lady from highschool that acquired cancer’,” she says.

“For therefore lengthy I assumed that my narrative was going to be ‘the 20-year-old cancer survivor’, that’s who she is.”

Sherritt had been featured in movies about younger folks going via cancer, she had written about her story, and she at all times assumed if she became well-known it might be for that.


Now tons of of 1000’s of individuals are following her on-line, however a lot to her shock it has nothing to do with cancer. As a substitute, Sherritt has turn into web well-known for reviving the 70s craze of slip casting pottery.

“It’s now turn into, ‘Oh she’s the artist,’ it’s about my pottery, and I discover that so empowering,” she says with a snigger.

Sherritt has gained half a million followers on TikTok by internet hosting a wildly profitable sequence from her Ballarat artwork shed, the place each week she makes a new piece from a big pile of thriller slip casting moulds she acquired free from a man on Gumtree.

In the one-minute movies, she walks to her big pile of plaster moulds, picks one, and pours in watery clay or “slip”. As soon as it’s dried she reveals the mannequin, often a kitsch 70s mug or backyard gnome. Sherritt then paints it in her signature vibrant fashion.

The feedback part reveals many are trying ahead to those movies each week, describing them as a little reward to interrupt the mundanity of lockdowns throughout the world.

“It’s been completely mind-blowing. Truly, I feel the largest shock has been the reminiscing as a result of slip casting was so huge in the 70s and 80s,” she says.

“There have been so many individuals commenting that they used to do it with their grandpa, a lot of folks going, ‘I’ve this piece’, ‘I’ve seen this piece in the store’… I feel it’s about the thriller, the moulds are so elusive on the outdoors, individuals are identical to ‘oooh what may truly be in that’.”

Her movies now often high a million views, one thing Sherritt says she may have by no means imagined when her life was centered solely on surviving.

“I didn’t anticipate 5 years in the past to be the place I’m right now,” she says.

When Sherritt was 20 she got here down with what felt like run-of-the-mill appendicitis.

blonde woman in glasses holding pottery moulds
“I simply fell again into artwork … I acquired out all my frustration, happiness, anger in the clay,” Shelby Sherritt says.

“I used to be on vacation in Perth and I simply couldn’t get away from bed, I used to be in that a lot ache. After which we went to a physician … and it seems they caught it simply earlier than it burst, however by the time I went into surgical procedure, it had ruptured,” she says.

Throughout the surgical procedure her docs found she was affected by a uncommon type of appendiceal and bowel cancer, and when her appendix burst it probably unfold cancerous mucus all via her physique. They advised her they’d eliminated 30cm of bowel on the spot, and the docs spoke in a critical, quiet tone that stuffed Sherritt with worry.


“They didn’t know the way these type of uncommon cancers react, not to mention in a younger individual. So there was a little bit of guesswork … The scary half was them not figuring out,” she says.

At the time Sherritt was simply months away from enlisting in the navy, one thing that was now unimaginable.

“I just about thought, ‘what am I going to do with my life?’ and had this complete disaster as a result of I clearly needed to put my life on pause,” she says.

“I couldn’t work, I couldn’t research, I needed to simply do the remedy.”

The cancer was surprising however what was extra shocking for Sherritt was the sheer boredom that comes with it.

“It was a lot of time at house, not doing a lot, attempting to get via the six months of remedy … It was identical to Covid-19 lockdown however as a substitute of everybody being in the identical state of affairs you’re watching your pals as they exit and socialise with out you,” she says.

“I used to be simply so sick of simply sitting round, I felt like I used to be losing away.”

In the deepest pits of her boredom, Sherritt says she gravitated in direction of her previous artwork gear that had been gathering mud, portray, drawing, and even sculpting from her mattress.

“I simply fell again into artwork … I acquired out all my frustration, happiness, anger in the clay,” she says.

“My authentic work began off as Australiana items. So koalas, echidnas, possums, paying homage to the bushland.”

As Sherritt’s remedies went on her pottery acquired higher and higher, and after the chemotherapy and extra surgical procedures beat the cancerous cells again she began promoting her work, and questioned if possibly this was her new path.

At the begin of 2020 Sherritt was in a position to make pottery her full-time job, and together with her additional hours started importing movies to TikTok to advertise her enterprise.

“My first video went viral and I instantly was like, ‘oh I get why are you utilizing this. It’s actually good to advertise your work and what you’re doing’.”

Her views quickly grew when she started the slip-casting sequence, and the bump in gross sales meant she was effectively and really making sufficient cash to dwell off.

“I’m so joyful simply doing what I’m doing for the second and simply ensuring that I take it in.”

When Sherritt first went into remission the docs advised her if her cancer was going to come back again, the chances are high it might be in the first 5 years.

However on 18 January this 12 months, Sherritt lastly accomplished that lengthy and nerve-racking countdown, completely cancer-free.

“For me reaching that five-year level, I used to be identical to, ‘wow, that part of my life is type of finished’,” she says.

“I’m actually happy with myself, at how far I’ve come, from being so misplaced and confused and considering ‘why me?’, to now being like, ‘wow, my life is so cool’. I’d by no means have dreamed or thought that I’d be on this place 5 years in the past. It was nearly like life had its function for me and I used to be simply ready to fulfil it and discover what that path was,” she says.

Sherritt says she is now able to say goodbye to the “cancer lady” label as soon as and for all.

“The cancer undoubtedly impressed me to develop, however now the pottery itself that’s my narrative … I really feel actually, actually fulfilled now that I’m on this path.”

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