Big move and more!

Just a short update (and also to brush off the cobwebs on this page!!) from our end. 

Last few months were busy with more R&D and also planning for our big move to a new home. We’re now located in Buangkok and have a dedicated corner to host people for tea appreciation and for classes. 

With a more conducive space, we’ve also found ourselves to be more productive. We managed to snag the limited edition packets of Singapore clay from our teacher. The clay was dug up in the 80s from Ang Mo Kio all the way to Tampines, kept safely in our teacher’s warehouse and now in our hands for some experimentation. Last week, we released an edition of 10 and are extremely happy to share that they’ve all been adopted! 

We’ve also been having some friends up to test the teapot. Here’s what Kyarazen (@aloeswoods on ig) shared about the performance of this clay : “…and preliminary experiments and tastings intrigued me tremendously. It recedes the fire/roast of freshly roasted tea, allowing the finer core aromatics to show through, smoothening the body, and most interestingly enhances 回甘(huigan) extending it.” 

If you’re interested to own a piece of SG clay tea ware, we still have some 盖碗 (gaiwan), also edition of 10, available.

 

Check out (below) some of the other tea wares we’ve made recently!

Busy few weeks ahead preparing for our next open house in Mid Oct and for the Yellow Ribbon Art Exhibition 2018. But happy to be busy and also for the new friendships and camaraderie that pottery and tea has brought me. That being said, whether you’re from Singapore or overseas, we’re happy to host you for tea. Write to us!


What we’ve been up to

Been a super busy last few weeks which saw us preparing for many events!

Conducted the last leg of our Lake to Land community project with the BoLA boys and Taman Jurong residents. Its been a year long project, kindly supported by People’s Association, National Arts Council, Taman Jurong CACC. We definitely couldn’t have done it without the coordination and good heart of the Zone C committee including Kim Leong, Gladys and Wee Liang; also Ashley and Elaine! 

We started this project hoping to create a community art piece involving the residents as well as empowering the BoLA boys to become facilitators of the program. The idea was to paint impressions and/or memory of Jurong Lake Park onto huge pebbles, which would then be installed at a grass patch outside Taman Jurong Shopping Centre. 

One and a half year on, this project is now complete and you can view it outside Taman Jurong Shopping Centre, near 7-11 & the mosque.

In March, we had the great honour and privilege to present commissioned teapot sets for the Tea Masters Cup Singapore held in Marina Bay Sands Expo hall. Exciting event with many tea experts, from Singapore and abroad coming together. 

We also took part in Human Library Singapore the next afternoon. Despite the downpour, the event saw good attendance and we had a good time answering questions from other Singaporeans who were curious about life as an ex-convict. Participants had to reserve slots to speak with ‘books’ on topics they were interested about. It kind of felt like a mass interview session but always happy to share my experience with others. They had other pretty cool ‘books’ to check out too - like paralympian Theresa Goh, burn victim Sandhya, death penalty activist Kirsten Han etc. If you’d like to check out their next edition, you can always follow their facebook page.

Last event to cap off the busy few weeks was the Jurong Art & Music Festival (JAMFest) where we were invited to set up a Qi Pottery booth and conduct hand pinching workshop for festival attendees. Interested guests could sign up for slots to hand pinch their own wares. We then brought home all wares to bisque fire and for glazing. Few weeks later, all the wares would go back home to their rightful owners. Quite a lot of work to be done but I don’t think there’s anything like seeing your item come to life - from a ball of clay to a functional vessel! 

Handmade items are severely underrated and under appreciated and it is only through experience and time committed into making your own wares that you will grow to understand the value of something handmade. 

We’re also thankful for the waves of publicity & awareness articles and videos that have been making its way around social media. Going to compile them here for easy reference + keepsake. Go check them out if you haven’t and hopefully you will be inspired or come to realisation that when you cross the most difficult period of your life, life can be a beautiful too! 

* Profiled on The A List - Singapore’s Art & Culture Guide 

*Profiled on SkillsFuture SG

*Beautiful video produced by the Ministry of Home Affairs, as shared by Minister Shanmugan


Journeying on

We are now more than halfway into the first month of 2017 and it is also about time that we dust the cobwebs off from this blog that we update with little regularity.

It’s been a good six months since we’ve decided to plunge full time, head in into this business and craft of pottery, and maybe we should share about our journey thus far. Its not rocket science for one to know that starting your own business is never easy. We’ve met with quite some resistance and had mountains to climb; but things too are working out slowly and beautifully. 

Starting your own pottery studio, or any business for that matter, means incurring initial fixed cost like buying a kiln and electric wheel which easily costs more than half a grand. Material in Singapore like clay, tools and glazes are astronomical too when you compare with what you can get in the region. When we were in Korea, the Korean potters were surprised at just how much we had to pay for those basic materials, when theirs would cost 1/5 the price. 

To keep our pockets from bleeding, we decided the way forward was to keep cost lean by utilising the living room at home as a studio. This way, we would save on rent and commuting time. But until the day we own our own property, we would have to live under the rules and prescriptions of the home we’re living in now - which includes no operation after 10pm, small working space etc. Not the easiest regulations we have to abide by, but we have to make the best of it if we choose to be economical. 

The first few months were rocky but we were mentally prepared for months of financial insecurity and we had some savings to tap on, so that eased some burden and stress. We spent a lot of time brainstorming ideas, concepts and tried to figure out the market, until we finally decided the best way through that, really, is to keep making and making and making. Once we started producing more tea wares and cups, we were able to generate some interest and it was through all these experimentation that we were able to identify what the market liked, and what they didn’t. 


Six months on, we daresay that our wares have improved quite a fair bit and are a lot more refined from when we first started. We now have our signature driftwood series and am still in the product development stage for our black gold series. When we choose to look at things on the micro level and lament and wallow in our missed moments or unsuccessful experiments, which for your info we have a lot of, we lose a lot of precious time which could otherwise have been paid forward to making even better items. We work towards making our wares light weight and refined and in the process must have broken hundreds of teapots, but we truly believe that only through our mistakes can we learn and progress to greater heights. Sounds very cliche, I know, but each time our pot cracks, our heart bleeds a little, but we just keep fighting on, even more determined than before. 


Business wise, we are growing slowly but steadily. We have a lot to work on - new ideas, more product development and we also count our blessings knowing that we are gradually expanding our work beyond our own circle of friends. Hurray! Just last week, we sent out our first overseas pre-order to Denmark and we see a lot of new faces for pottery classes. So thank you, you and you for being such great supporters of handicraft and all things home-made. We will strive to update this blog weekly so stay in touch and stay tuned for more!


Thank you.

Thank you all for coming by our Christmas Sale yesterday. It was nice catching up with familiar faces and also making new friends. We still have a couple more items left, and can also do some pre-orders for wares you really love but are currently unavailable, so let us know if you’d like to come by or get something special. 

 In line with the festive season, we’ve decided to open ten slots for couples/friends/pairs to make your own Christmas mugs at an exclusive rate. Classes will be held at flexible timings, from 20 Dec 2016 to 15 Jan 2017 at our home studio. Hear from y’all soon :D 


Terracotta mug

Pottery is like marathon, most will finish the race, some will not.
First and fresh batch of toasted terracotta mugs; also known as Earthenware, are out of the kiln this morning. 

There were 10 of them but only 8 survived. It is an 80% chance of surviving because we are firing our mugs at 1200 (normally terracotta is fire at 1000) degree celsius to change its properties from earthenware to stoneware. This enhances its durability and high fired glazed to make it waterproof.

A closer look at the surface of the terracotta mug.
When my teacher told me about the art making, he said, “At the end of the day you must be able live a simple and peaceful life doing pottery. In order to do so, you need to learn how to make your stuff by your own hands, earn a fairly decent amount, and the most important part, do not go into mass production and do molding and casting.”  

There will be people who appreciate durable and high quality handmade pottery, there will be… Arts take time and time will tell.



Qi Pottery Christmas Sale

We’re are going to have our little Christmas sale on the 18th Dec. If you’re looking for gifts for friends and loved ones, we’ve got an assortment of teapots, cutesy and classy cups, and Christmas magnets! 

 Qi Pottery’s home studio will be opened from 10am to 6pm. Come chill with us over home made ceramics and tea we brought home from Stockholm!


感恩

9 years ago, he was watching me doing demonstration on pottery and that’s when we were introduced. He then helped me to build my portfolio and sent me to pursue degree in Fine Arts. 

9 years later, he was watching me doing demonstration on pottery, in my studio, for an episode featuring him; Henry Chen KeZhan.


Hand brush strokes

If you wonder why I only hand-brush my wares, instead of using spraying tools :

As much as I admire perfect glazing, hand-painted brush strokes is still significant to me. There is something about imperfection that always intrigues my interest. As you look at it over time, I suppose it reflects the traces of human doings and of course, there is only one such piece in the world.
As time goes by, I think people will learn to appreciate handmade stuff because almost everything will be mass produced by machines to chase profits and consumerism.
However, arts is subjective and one hat doesn’t fit all head… 

Celadon glazed with inlaid roses 

 Stoneware fired at 1200 degree celsius


Lessons in life

I suppose this is what is called product development studies… 

 Many times we carve too much, too thin, underestimate, miscalculate..etc, but as long as we keep our positive attitude and treat everything as a learning journey, we don’t lose a thing. In fact, each time we fall, we gain new knowledge.


Pottery class for kids

Over the weekend, we had three lovely kids at our studio dipping their hands into clay for the first time. In this time and age where the iPhones and iPads have taken over much of our existence, it was good to have these kids spending time crafting their own creations from scratch, using their hands and some simple tools. Other than training their hand-eye coordination, it was a solid session in learning how to focus and to express their creativity too. Their youthful energy and inquisitive nature brought a lot of joy to our Sunday morning 

Over the weekend, we had three lovely kids at our studio dipping their hands into clay for the first time. In this time and age where the iPhones and iPads have taken over much of our existence, it was good to have these kids spending time crafting their own creations from scratch, using their hands and some simple tools. Other than training their hand-eye coordination, it was a solid session in learning how to focus and to express their creativity too. Their youthful energy and inquisitive nature brought a lot of joy to our Sunday morning 


Qi Pottery Open House

 In the last two weeks, we’ve been working hard on crafting 25 teapots. This showcase of teapots is also a consolidation of our work after lots of experimentation and heart-work since 2016. We’re happy to share that Qi Pottery will be having an open house on 10th August and all the teapots will be up for grabs. 

This would help to fund our next phase where we leave for Korea for 2 months to learn more about the roots of pottery and to further develop as a potter. If you’ve been following our page and already have a favourite pot you’d like to adopt, please write to us and we will save it for you. 

Otherwise, do come by on 10 Aug and show some love. 

p/s : will send out more information as soon as you confirm your attendance


Black / Gold

Instead of a typical red printed-sticker kind of wedding teapot set, we decided to give it a twist and have it in black and gold. This set is going cross-country to Chijmes this weekend and then over to Malang, Indonesia.


Teacups for a wedding couple

The beauty about handmade vessels is that there will never be two identical wares. A matching pair of teacups for the newly weds with well wishes inscribed upon using an ancient oracle-bone script. This might just be one of our new favourite color combinations for now - matte turquoise and bright bronze.


Lake to Land

Over this weekend, we started on a new community project ‘Lake to Land’. Without revealing too much just yet, we’ll just share this - the first step was to have a three day workshop with the BoLA boys, a group of (used to be at-risk) youths in Taman Jurong whom we’ve been working with in the last 3 years. The boys will in turn become the facilitators/trainers for the next instalment of this project. It is time we empower the boys with confidence and some skills to communicate and reach out to the community.


Family Dinner

Family Dinner is a collaboration between the current inmates at the Visual Arts Hub (VAH) at Changi Prison Complex and Kim Whye Kee, an ex-inmate and this year’s “Yellow Ribbon artist-in-residence”.
The artwork takes the reflection of the humble family meal as its point of departure. Whilst, incarcerated, Kim would reflect on the few meals he managed to partake of with his family and regularly longed for the opportunity to eat a simple meal with them. 

In 2007, six months before he was due to be released, his father passed away, dashing his hopes of ever again being able to sit down for a meal as one complete family. His mother and sister remain important pillars in his life and this work is in part a tribute to them as well as an attempt to inspire current inmates to keep ‘home’ close to their hearts and “to harness the thoughts of their family as strength when they embark on their journey of reintegration into society”. 

The installation comprises a dining table with four bowls as representation of an inmate’s longing for an intimate family dinner whilst a lone chair has been placed at the table as a reminder of the reality that the inmate sits isolated from his/her family. Three of the bowls are halved with texts inscribed on the concave side and are installed such that the writings are reflected and readable on the surface of the highly glossed black table. 

Another highlight of this installation are the ceramics bowls, these bowls, made by the inmates at VAH are broken and mended by Kim using putty and gold paint.
Inspired by the Kintsugi philosophy on aesthetics, Family Dinner aims to locate and celebrate the beauty in, and of imperfection. As the artist explains: ” Instead of disguising our prison records, they are highlighted as a daily reminder to not repeat our past mistakes.”


SAM : In Conversation

Qi’s gonna be part of this conversation in conjunction with the Yellow Ribbon Community Art Exhibition 2015. If you’re interested to know a bit more about the process and inspiration for my ‘Family Dinner’ installation, come on down this Sat, 19 Dec to SAM.


Six postures of throwing

Six postures of throwing : push, press, open, lift, pull and trim. This lifting technique was imparted to me by the pottery masters of Sam Mui Kuang who specialise in this traditional throwing method. It was a conscious step I made to learn from the very best when I decided to reembark on this pottery journey.


Kintsugi

Some time towards the end of the year, I’m humbled to be part of the Yellow Ribbon Art Exhibition at the Singapore Art Museum. Inspired by the Kintsugi philosophy on aesthetic, I seek beauty out of flaws: a way of searching for possibilities in ‘negative space’. Instead of disguising our prison records, we highlight it as a daily reminder to not repeat our past mistakes. 

‘Family dinner’ is an artist-in-post-residence cry out to his fellow friends in prison to keep home close to their hearts; to harness the family as their strength when they re-embark on their journey back home.


Calling

When the calling comes knocking on your door, obstacles will follow up, but only to strengthen your faith. That door, that calling is always waiting for you; to discover your talent. And that talent, is like a candle waiting to be lighted, adding brightness to the dark side of humanity. 

Arts start from home. 

 Home is where love is nurtured. 

Love is where our hearts belong.


Qi Pottery workshop

It has taken us awhile but we’re now finally ready for classes. Yes, finally!! From basic coiling classes (you get to make your own mugs and cups! or even bowls!!) to more advanced sessions where you learn to throw on the wheel. It’s gonna feel like a dirty muddy affair but trust that you’ll feel super excited when your wares come out of the kiln. 



A letter from prison

As much as we inspire you, your letter has given us encouragement to keep fighting to be better men. For all that we have been through, it is definitely worth the while. 

 - Beacon of Life 

 To inspire change


Tools of trade

Same tools yet twenty years later they carry different meanings.
Many years ago, tools were weapons and its function to me was to hurt others.
Many years later, I see tools as an essential role for me to bring beauty out of the muddy clay, to express aesthetics out of a vessel and to carve positives out of negatives.


Teapot set

Simple crackle glaze with a black variant on top. The both colours are chosen because while they appear to be in sharp contrast, they are just like two sides of the coin – they complete each other. Like what is written in the Chinese classic text, 道德经 (Tao Te Ching) : 

 Tao engenders One;
One engenders Two;
Two engenders Three;
Three engenders all things. 

All things carry the yin (femininity)
while embrace the yang (masculinity).
Neutralising energy brings them into harmony.

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