Our country is like a jewel that shines from a million facets. We’ve got skyscrapers and the state-of-the-art buildings with stunning modern architectures. At the same time, we’ve got rustic forested areas which would transport you back in time to the fifties. We’ve got urbanites taking part in the rat race as well as our everyday heroes and kind souls which worked selfishly for our society. For that matter of fact, our nation is truly unique.
The kind souls are working among us. They often go unheard of because their voices get drowned by other businesses which are largely driven by profits. Organizations who see value in making a social impact in our society are termed as social enterprises. They are driven by the sole purpose to make improvements in human and environmental well-being. They run sustainable businesses that often raise awareness about social issues within Singapore. It’s heartening to know that there are a growing number of social enterprises in Singapore who see the value of helping out other communities in Singapore. To help render support this community of social enterprises,
It’s heartening to know that there are a growing number of social enterprises in Singapore. To support this community of social enterprises, raiSE (Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise) was set up in 2015. Since then, raiSE has helped raise awareness and render support to over 400 social enterprise members. Center Pottery is also part of this family of social enterprises within Singapore. I had the opportunity to visit their Pottery studio to find out how they play their part in making this world a better place.
Center Pottery was founded by Joan Huang who has expertise in Medicine, Pottery and Japanese studies. Pottery is beneficial for patients with mental health issues so she has decided uses her knowledge in pottery and health care to promote the benefits of clay, ceramics, and pottery for mental health in Singapore. The clay workshops offered at Center Pottery are open to both the general public and mental health patients.
A couple of days back, I was there to attend their ‘Find Your Center’ Adult Clay workshop which was conducted at Jalan Bahar Clay Studio. It is a 3.5-hour class and it is suitable for those with or without experience in pottery. During this workshop, we learnt how to make our own pottery pieces. We can’t bring back the pottery pieces on that day itself because the pieces would still need to go through glazing and a couple rounds of firing. This process will take about 4 to 5 weeks. A long and tedious process indeed but it would be really gratifying to see how your own pottery pieces after all the hard work you’ve invested in.
The workshop started with an introduction to pottery and a tour of the art history and heritage of their Dragon Kiln. The moulding and kneading of the clay require skills but that’s not the most difficult part of pottery making. The process of glazing and firing also requires experiences and a lot of patience.
Working on the potter’s wheel is the most intriguing part of making your own wares from clay. How each pottery pieces appears would depend on how you manipulate the clay with your bare hands. And each piece you mould will never be identical. Each piece is beautiful in its very own way.
“Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” – Isaiah 64:8
Joan shared that there are currently only two of such Dragon Kilns left in Singapore. It is a long thermally insulated chamber made of bricks and it is used for firing clay wares to make potteries.
This particular dragon kiln at Center Pottery is no longer in use so we could actually enter the tunnel and explore the grounds within.
Surprise, surprise. The bricks inside the kiln were covered with this glossy surface that glistens under the light. It seems like the bricks are naturally glazed by the clay wares under the intense heat and pressure. The fire which has blasted through the kiln from the ‘fire-breathing mouth’ can reach up to 1300 degrees Celsius!
As we examine the brick walls close, we saw that there were some glittery specks covering the bricks as well. It was such an intriguing sight!
After the tour, we finally get to play with the clay and get our hands dirty! We sliced ourselves some clay then mould and knead with our fingers. To prevent cracks from forming in our clay wares, we have to knead in such a way to avoid air bubbles from forming. If there are air bubbles trapped in the clay, the pottery would crack during the firing process.
It seems easy at first but when it was our turn to mould the clay on the potter’s wheel, we struggled. It was difficult shaped the clay as it is quite delicate. If you are not careful, the clay could go out of shape. I totally understood the bible analogy of God as the potter and us being the clay after going through this workshop. I could imagine how much effort God has put in to carefully mould each of us. Each of us is indeed beautifully made.
Joan demonstrated to us on how she moulded the clay on the potter’s wheel. Under her experienced hands, a rough ball of clay has turned into this gorgeous and symmetrical clay plate. We were all marvelling at her work and how easily she turns something from the ground into an everyday functional object.
You could be drawing up a whole lot of principles on life as you are work on your pottery. It’s a philosophy of art in itself. Everyone should learn pottery at some point in their lives. It’s no different from travelling. Pottery should be taught in schools!
My mother, who loves to do handicrafts, was highly engaged during the workshop. It was a truly enjoyable session for the both of us. A great time to bond and at the same time, picking up a new skill and learning how to appreciate this form of art.
If you would love to find out more about Center Pottery, you could hop down to the upcoming FestivalForGood 2017 which is opening on 19 August from 12 pm to 10 pm at lyf@SMU. The Festival will feature socially-conscious products, interactive workshops and live performances from over 70 social enterprises across diverse sectors. Center Pottery will be setting up experience capsules where you can participate in their air-dried or fired type clay workshops or join their fun activities to make your very own plates or bowls using air-dried clay. It would be a meaningful day of fun for all and I will be there too. I would love to meet you guys there. Hope to see you!
97L Lor Tawas
(within Jalan Bahar Clay Studios)
By MRT: EW27 Boon Lay
By Bus: From Boon Lay Interchange, Bus 172 or 199 (Stop near CleanTech Loop)