Part-time potter, full-time architectural assistant
Could you tell us more about your story and how you got to the place where you are now?
I am architecturally trained in NUS and am currently working in a boutique firm called Bhatch Architects. During my internships, I realised architectural practice differs greatly from school. Work is definitely very interesting and challenging(though painful at times), the creative input of an architect is restricted by many different forces such as authority guidelines, clients & contractors, your work is not really yours but a cumulative effort of the parties involved. Understanding that I can never truly own and control my work through architecture I started to wonder what I really loved doing during my years of growing up, plus allowing me to have total creative freedom and ceramics popped into my mind. That is how I ended up working with buildings during the day and clay at night.
What led you to work with ceramics? Are you self-taught or have you learned it from someone else?
Honestly, I was too young to remember. I was 10 years old when I was offered the opportunity to do ceramics in my primary school until graduation. I loved it so much that every Friday was the highlight of my week. It was a time when I could dip my hands into a whole bucket of slip(watery clay) and stir. I really enjoyed getting my hands dirty and the freedom clay offered.
Fast forward 14 years later, fresh out of architecture school, I decided to invest in myself and took up classes at Mudrock then eventually at Blackjack studio. Both studios taught me important lessons about clay that had helped me endlessly.
Eventually, I got my own wheel as a gift from my partner! Best gift ever ever ever.
Can you describe your making process?
There are several major steps in ceramics, throwing, trimming, glazing & firing.
A pot is conceived through throwing, which is the act of shaping the clay on the wheel. The wet piece is then left to dry to become leather hard which is a semi-dry state. After which, I would trim the pot to its desired detail and shape. The piece is brought to the kiln and fired at about 900-degree celsius for it to be ready to glaze, then fired at 1200 degree Celsius to achieve the final glazed product. It is quite a process.
What’s the most repeated song on your playlist?
It’s probably Nature Boy, the version by Aurora or Teach me by Keaton Henson. I can’t decide.
Do you come from a creative background? How did your family and the place that you come from shape you?
I remember I was a very odd child, I didn’t really like to talk. In fact, I still don’t like to? All I did was to lock myself in the room and draw mangas because I was slightly obsessed with sailor moon, thankfully, I did not have judgemental parents.
So I guess, I was always given the opportunity to pursue my weird interests.
In addition to not having judgemental parents, I could have possibly emulated my mother who was always up to something creative. She used to have a store that tailored dresses for women and somewhat saw herself as a small-time designer. I am always very impressed with whatever my mom does. Now at the age of 63, she picked up ceramics and is doing very well.
What is on your mind when you are shaping the object?
The final form and how I should move my fingers to coax the clay into moving the way I want it to.
It is not possible to think of anything else besides the clay that is in front of you and perhaps because throwing requires 100% of my concentration it takes me to another place and out of what is around me.
The colors and design of your pieces are pretty unique – how did you develop your own color palette and design?
Thank you! I think it is a response to my occupation which is architecture. I do mostly small houses in the firm and it is very rare that an owner wants a pastel pink, yellow or even a white house. It is due to our climate that white or lightly painted walls don’t age very well. So, I am very colour deprived (haha!) which explains my light coloured pots. I look towards Lucie Rie for colour inspiration because she is a master.
I am also slightly obsessed with curves. Contractors lament a ton when we draw curves in our buildings and it is hard to get them to do the exact desired radius which can be frustrating. In ceramics, I am in total control of the form and only have myself to blame.
What, in particular, do you want your finished projects to express?
More than anything, I want to bring out a slight madness that we can find in every living creature. Deep down everyone’s a little mad, don’t you think?
What are your days like?
I usually start my day with preparing lunch and breakfast. Go to work from 9.30am to about 7pm, head home and have dinner then start working with the clay from 9.00pm to about 11.30pm before I call it a day. Repetition and having a fixed routine to me is key to achieving what I have in mind.
Do you have a dream project that you would love to realize someday?
Vases that are so big that people can walk through and experience them like architecture. Or architecture that are almost like vases.