090 the ceramist I

it was just one of those days where you are working on a dreadful Monday.
i woke up with a smack of realisation that i had two articles due to be published, and an interview at 3pm.

by the time i reached the office, my editor’s email greeted me: two articles – try to send by noon. noon kept ringing in my head and being flustered i dived straight into writing my article. it was such a busy morning.

my afternoon interview was located at boon keng, i figured: “by the time i am done with my interview it should be 4pm, then i will head straight home and relax.” honestly, i was excited to be on my way home early more than anything else.

little did i know, i was so so so wrong.

– – –

the gallery

standing  before a row of beautiful houses of townerville, i swore i fell in love with the setting of the whole estate. i would never have guessed that this part of serangoon looked like that.

a row of polished pale orange and red roofed terraces were new on lease, it was a modern cosy terrace i would say.

i called michelle and she opened her gates to let me into her gallery – mud rock. immediately i blurted out: “this place is amazing and beautiful, i have never seen such a lovely place before.”

and guess what, she lives right above her gallery-cum-studio with her partner.

in the next room, supposedly the dining room, a large working bench was covered with clay and tools strewn all over. seok, michelle’s partner, was busy with a ball of clay working on fat piggies and hedgehogs.

after settling down, we started on the interview. together, they gave me a fifteen minute crash course on the process of making a cup. i can oddly and safely say, chemistry is art. without it, i think these ceramics are just functional items, but with chemistry, it becomes art.

in the midst the interview, adi, the founder of a local brewery of jungle beer, dropped by to deliver his beer for mud rock’s opening this weekend.

seok and michelle were just telling me all about the different flavours and how amazing it is to support local, even the beer! they ended up offering beer! i mean, how can you turn down local beer?! (besides tiger beer)

we picked up from where we left off and michelle went on sharing about learning the ropes of becoming a ceramist and her love for the clay. besides her passion, i think the certain words she spoke of really struck me.

the sense of urgency

michelle understands that when it is the time and need to advocate for a cause, she would fix that on her mind and start on it right away. i think it is her spontaneous attitude and appetite to continue stirring a positive change in this community that has caused hunger among others.

“when you do this from the heart, people will see and feel your sincerity towards it and naturally they will come to your side and support you.”

she is the founder of awaken the dragon festival (a local annual festival for appreciating ceramics).

she asked for no volunteers, but people saw her heart for ceramics and initiated to help and support her.

that support gave her strength and hope that this was indeed a cause worth fighting for.

embrace support; be it good or bad

i could see michelle’s gratefulness for all the support she received from people.

when she embarked on her degree in ANU, she was discouraged within the first two weeks of school. with no prior knowledge on how to work the clay, it seemed as if giving up was a plausible reason. but the phone call to her sister built her up and it had set her foot on solid ground once again.

her classmates and lecturers encouraged her and no matter how the clay would not cooperate, that support meant a lot. eventually, six months into her learning journey with the clay, she had her first exhibition!

that was about four years back but when you look at her gallery now, i was curious to see how her first exhibition looked like. it is unbelievable that today’s results started out from baby steps with the guidance of everyone around her.

she shared that if she were to look back to those days, she would remember the support from the people around her instead of her challenges and obstacles.

“i remember the difficult period not because it was difficult but because I had the support. I remember the support more than how difficult it was. ”

the ceramists’ father is a lawyer, with the hopes of having a successful daughter who followed in his footsteps, but she persisted on with the passion for clay. instead of having swayed her towards his side of law, she swayed him towards the appreciation for ceramics. he is now a proud father of a daughter who is independent and using the her passion to make a rice bowl out of it (pun possibly intended).

on the opposite end of the support line, her late maternal grandfather felt otherwise. a conventional man who believed a basic certificate would have brought her far enough to support herself with a stable job would suffice. but michelle understood his concerns but she just shrugged and said “everyone has their view points right?”

– – –

goodbye was not easy. seok offered me desserts, hoping that i would stay, but i politely declined. i would stay, but i thought two hours did pass by fast and i should knock off anyway.

the last few conversations with michelle felt like she was appreciating me. before i left, she said to me: “young people like you give me hope. and that’s enough, i believe that it is enough to spur the attitude of this generation some more.”

an interviewee appreciating the interviewer? almost impossible but it happened.

i would go on but, another time. another time about her works.


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