Teapots and double-walled vessels are still the most nerve-wrecking for me to make. Even after completing the forms, so many things can still go wrong. Will the spout pour properly? Did I narrow the air pocket too much during trimming and squeeze out all the air? Will the air pocket explode during firing?
This project has both a teapot and a double-walled vessel, and I'm making it in the midst of trying to figure out what exactly went wrong with our recent matte glaze formulas, causing them all to turn semi-glossy. Was it a measurement mistake? Was it a variation in the raw materials? How long will I take to fix this?
Sometimes I wish I was an excellent potter, who can make the perfect spout, whose vessels don't break or warp, who can look at a defective glaze and know exactly what's wrong. But only sometimes. Tonight, I'm just going to switch off and go play Lego with my son!...
This little vessel came out of our kiln just in time for my cousin's housewarming!
In the midst of completing commissions and running workshops, making these simple pieces feels almost like a restful pause.
On a separate note, meeting my cousins these days makes me feel so old! It seems like ages ago when we were all jumping into drains and playing with sparklers - now everyone is grown up, even our kids are growing up so fast!
Back then, I was one of the more straight-laced kids among all the cousins. Who would have known that after all these years I would end up being the one playing with mud for a living?...
According to @nparksbuzz, these are commonly known as the Trumpet Tree or “Singapore’s cherry blossoms”; a perennial tree that grows to about 18 to 35 m tall.
"Its flowering is induced by a dry spell, usually in April and August. The flowers are five-petalled, trumpet-shaped and grow to about 5 to 8 cm. These bloomed flowers last for several days before they start to wilt."
Years ago I lamented to a Japanese friend about the transient nature of the cherry blossoms. How I wished they lasted a little longer. But he said - that is the point isn't it? That their briefness invites us to pause and appreciate their beauty. If they are always with us, we will grow accustomed and blind to their sight.
Today is the last day of this meaningful exhibition initiated by @healthservesg featuring various artworks made by migrant brothers.
Seeing these pottery brought back fond memories of our monthly sessions pre-COVID days where volunteers came alongside to have fun therapeutic time with those who bore injuries and were unable to work.
Through the conversations, we learn of their stories, aspirations and the families they left behind to seek a better life here. They are truly heroes! Do remember to smile and thank these migrant brothers who pass your way:)
The exhibition is open from 10am - 10pm at ION art gallery if you wish to check it out!
We wrote a devotional and prayer titled "Entering God's Rest" for this incredible labour of love - ‘Poets & Prophets: Songs of Justice’, a debut album by @micahsingapore . Locally produced, there are seven songs paired with devotionals exploring themes of justice, neighbourliness, Kingdom, and the Christian’s response to the challenges of living in today’s world. Love it! ♥
"Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep." - Psalm 127:1-2
I was listening to the Song for the Sabbath this morning as I did an early morning cycle and musing over Elizabeth Elliot's words about doing the next thing when things are overwhelming.
Life is demanding and there is no doubt about that. How then shall we hold in balance doing the work that find its way into our path and staying rested in our inner beings? That is a worthy pursuit and thought for my week ahead.
You can listen to the album and read all the devotionals (scroll all the way till end of page) via the official website. Be blessed!
It has been intense for the past week or two, and I am especially grateful for this breather of respite at @apartmentcoffee.
To be able to sip from our studio's handmade cup on beans grown in faraway Panama; each step a labour of love and care from all involved in getting this handbrew to the table.
It is fitting that I am also chewing over the words of @iamfujimura, who has recently put forth a new book relating to the Theology of Making.
Mako has been a source of inspiration for us and the aroma of culture care permeates through his paintings and reflections.
To paraphrase something that he said, each day we are either creating culture or consuming culture. It is not about waging cultural wars; but to see culture as a garden to be cultivated.
This moment sitting at a cafe with a book is idyllic and not part of our everyday work. But today, it is my little way of tending to the garden of my soul - to nourish it with fresh thoughts so that what we do can continue to be cheerful and purposeful.
May you find that space to tend to your garden too:)
Those of us who are parents can probably identify with the joy of watching our children create something or achieve something. But in our self sacrificial giving to our children, do we also realize what immense joy it also gives a child to watch one's parents achieve something?
I remember when I was a child, my parents were my superheroes. They could do so many things I couldn't, and they taught me everything I knew. But as I grew up, I started learning in school, and gradually knew more than my heroes. My heroes started scolding me more than they affirmed me. And the more I learned about life, the more I discovered the weaknesses and flaws in my heroes. For a teenager and young adult, that can greatly destabilise one's world. And this isn't the fault of anyone - it's just life! I know for sure that Tobie will one day experience this as well.
But now, as an adult, I am beginning to admire my parents more and more. Sure, the flaws are still there, just as my own flaws will continue to be more obvious with age. But when I see my parents learning piano in their 60s, when I see how they persevere in teaching my 3 year old son all sorts of challenging concepts, when I see my dad create this beautiful Chinese painting on clay, it makes me so proud!
So parents, let's continue to learn new skills even as we teach our own children what we know. Let's continue to do good to others, even as we devote time and energy to care for our own children. Let's continue to dream and create, even as we encourage our own children to dream and create. Because in this often depressing world, children (even adult children) need to have heroes. And what better heroes to have than those who have been there since day one?...
Sometimes we just have to retreat into our minds and imagine our feet sinking into powdery snow, our eyes squinting at the sunlight reflecting off the surface of an icy lake, our faces caressed by a wintery breeze, and a cup of hot chocolate waiting for us back at home.
FLOWER IN THE CLEFT OF A ROCK
I could not have known
The last time I clung on for life
That you would bloom here
This little burst of colour isn't something that would usually come to my mind when I glaze a vessel (I don't quite possess that kind of courage), but I really love how it turned out! Makes me want to keep looking at the whole set again and again, to check if that bloom of pink is really there!
This is a gift for our dear friends getting married this weekend. Both are avid hikers and rockclimbers, and so may this little Flower In The Cleft Of A Rock remind them of the beautiful surprises that they discovered in each other, and that they will surely discover along this exciting adventure through life!
7 years ago, in this same Lent season, I spent 40 days in Japan; primarily for a programme in a pottery studio.
I didn't intentionally choose Lent nor 40 days; but I chose Spring. It was only while I was filling out my travel insurance form that I discovered the trip was exactly 40 days long, and that there was a church in the city where I could attend an English Easter service. What a pleasant surprise! Yet, this is an example of how I have experienced grace - the undeserved discovery of God's fingerprints over my little life on earth:)
Winter turning into Spring was a delight to my soul as I live in eternal summery Singapore. We mark the passing of time through public holidays and financial quarters.
Having just celebrated New Year's Day with everyone else around the globe on Jan 1, we are still in the midst of the Chinese New Year where we bless one another with auspicious greetings and wishes. Yet by this time, often times our calendars have started to fill out and studies or work demands have quickly set in. Hurrying along, we can easily lose track of time and priorities yet again; as the resolutions fade like the falling of leaves.
I decided on a social media fast 7 years ago while in Japan and it did extremely well for my soul. Avoiding the easy entertainment of what was on my screen, I paid attention to what was before my eyes. It is perhaps funny I should write this via social media but this year we are on another social media semi-fast (from consuming posts as we are still sharing reflections).
If you wish to recenter your life on what is of essential importance to your soul, I would like to commend to you to avoid saturating your free time with social media too:)
Who knows, a fresh new wind of life may blow off the dross, and we all can have clear sight of the road to life set ahead of us:)
Added a little "公道杯" (fairness cup) to our tea set using a beautiful vessel that wasn't chosen by our client. After 6 years being a potter, I've come to embrace the fact - yes fact - that not being chosen does not have any bearing on a vessel's intrinsic worth, or, for that matter, one's worth as a person.
I remember that one of the most memorable achievements in my life was being chosen to play for my junior college's volleyball team. It had such impact on my self-worth at that time that I don't even think I felt that same kind of feeling when Huiwen said "yes". I mean, we both chose each other right? 😁
I played the setter position, which greatly secured my place in the team mainly because it was a difficult position to train, and so my coach had no bandwidth to find a second setter within a year. Plus, the tall players were much more valuable as spikers and so I had little competition anyway. But that didn't stop my coach from threatening me time and again, with a "don't think I cannot drop you from the team ok" whenever I played badly. And so I spent most of my 17 year old life worrying if I was good enough, even after being chosen. I still dream about this from time to time!
Of course, there is value in improving our skills and our strengths, and striving to be valued by others is also a good way for us to be useful to our friends, family and teams. But my sense of worth cannot be tied to the values of people, because people come and go. At the very core of my existence, I am a child of God, and God sees and loves me in a way that is deeper and truer than anyone can.
So back to pottery - we have lovingly made things for the most mundane of purposes, and we have treasured things that have been rejected by others. Our client also didn't reject this vessel because it was ugly - he just happened to choose one design over the other. So may I continue to fix my eyes on the One who created me, so that I live my life with a deep confidence in my worth, and also recognize this worth in everyone around me!
Faint rustling of leaves
Bear clandestine messages
Tree to silent tree
In these strange covid times, we have become more and more like silent trees, standing at a perpetual safe distance from one another. Yet across the invisible airwaves, we are chattering incessantly, even broadcasting our thoughts to the world (like now). What a strange juxtaposition! Really makes me wonder how our lives will be like 20 years from now. Will we still sit in cafes, sipping our coffees, leaning close to each other so that we can whisper across the background noise?
Who knows. But for now, here are five little pourers for the folks at @apartmentcoffee , as they do their work of calming nerves, lifting spirits, and soothing the palates of the sojourners coming in for a little pause in between adventures.
What a thrill to fish these test tiles out of the kiln! Matte, slightly shiny, with a network of small craters, but what is really special is that this is glazed with unprocessed marine sediment from Pulau Semakau!
Can't wait to study its constituent minerals more deeply and see how they give rise to this rich tone and texture.
Mondays are our rest days, and over the years this rhythm has become indispensable to the health of our marriage and our studio.
Today started with Huiwen riding out at 5am along Serangoon River to catch the sunrise, and ended with Kenneth completing this mural on our chalkboard.
In between, we had a lovely breakfast together, and talked about the implications of the RZIM revelations on our spiritual journey. We repented of our own lack of self-control, and of the hours we have wasted letting our minds be dulled by our media feeds. We listened to a powerful and penetrating sermon that spoke to our spirits. We resolved that 2021 will be different. We played our guitars, and harmonized an original song. We discarded some things at home that didn't spark joy. We poured tea for each other from a teapot we made together, and enjoyed the new year goodies that our families have blessed us with. We played and laughed with Tobie, and showed off our in progress "夕阳" to him. He loved it!
We're still slowly discovering the meaning of the Sabbath, but today finally felt like the kind of rest that we have needed for a really long time....
Here's a beautiful and evocative creation from one of our handbuilding intro session participants.
Most of us would recognise the form of the Monkey God's headband "紧箍" draped around the neck of the vase. In the novel Journey To The West, the monk routinely uses a curse that causes the headband to shrink, giving the loyal Monkey God an excruciating headache and compelling him to follow the monk's well-intentioned but often misguided orders.
I have no idea what was in our participant's mind as she made this vase, but as I gazed at it fresh out of the kiln, I was reminded of all those conflicting voices in my heart, constantly fighting for my attention and action. Some of these I often listen to, others I routinely suppress. Perhaps this is a gentle nudge for me to review some of these mental reflexes, and see if anything needs changing as we drift quietly towards the fifth decade of our lives!
Last night as I thought about what Valentine's Day means to me this year, the phrase "不吃力" (i.e. not tedious) came to mind.
We fell in love in 2009, married in 2011 and so this year we will enter into our 10th year of marriage! ♥️
不吃力 can also be translated as effortless, but I wouldn't use that translation because while it is not tedious, there is definitely effort put in on a daily basis to keep our love growing strong. However, just like tending to your garden blooms or using your hands to craft, the effort is necessary for the outcome, but it is enjoyable at the same time.
As I mused further, I thought of another phrase to describe our relationship, and that would be "力量支援” （i.e. energy giving). I am really thankful for having a strong partner to carry what I cannot carry on my own; to hold my hand as we explore this world together:)
I thank God for bringing us together and for giving us our bundle of joy who cracks us up with his humour and who soothes us with his sweetness.
Just like the bubble tea that we rewarded ourselves on this special day, may your days be filled with moments of 小幸福 too! ♥️♥️♥️