Handcrafted with Love

pottery-singapore-asobi

At Studio Asobi, we believe that there is a place in this world for beautiful creations crafted by hand – slowly, lovingly and uniquely.

Our clay vessels each bear a name and a little haiku, and just as we have enjoyed making them, we hope that they bring the same joy to whoever holds and uses them.

The pictures below are a glimpse of our pottery works and creative process. Larger sculptures and installations can be found here.

We welcome you to join our pottery journey too, with our individual workshops, corporate sessions, regular classes, or volunteering.

Every new day brings with it a huge buffet of choices we can make in our lives. Among them is the choice of whether to do the same thing again, or to try something new. Both can be equally valid and life-giving, but this picture represents one of those days where we decided to try something new, and got immensely rewarded by it!

What you see here is a simple tea set for a family of 5, minus the 公道杯 ("fairness cup") which I forgot to include in the photo. They are our new friends from our new church, and the first group we've hosted at home for a pottery session. 

Teapots are one of the most complex vessels to make, because not only do they have 5 different parts to attach (body, handle, spout, lid, lid handle), they have to be formed and matched precisely enough to ensure a smooth pour. Even now, we are still experimenting and learning about this challenging vessel! So when we teach, teapots are usually made only by students who have spent many weeks with us, and even then, usually stretches two sessions to complete.

But when our friends suggested making a tea set, it just sounded so nice - one family, sharing a family of vessels that they made with their own hands. So even though it sounded like quite a daunting project, we thought, let's just see how it goes! And so we plunged in, and after a lovely afternoon full of teamwork between parents and their little children, a beautiful tea set of seven vessels appeared, in time to welcome their new child!

Through this cosy little afternoon, we have blessed these new friends with a lovely gift, and they have in turn blessed us with an opportunity to sit back and watch them take humble lumps of clay into their inexperienced fingers, pressing and shaping and carving them into something so beautiful.

Every new day brings with it a huge buffet of choices we can make in our lives. Among them is the choice of whether to do the same thing again, or to try something new. Both can be equally valid and life-giving, but this picture represents one of those days where we decided to try something new, and got immensely rewarded by it!

What you see here is a simple tea set for a family of 5, minus the 公道杯 ("fairness cup") which I forgot to include in the photo. They are our new friends from our new church, and the first group we've hosted at home for a pottery session.

Teapots are one of the most complex vessels to make, because not only do they have 5 different parts to attach (body, handle, spout, lid, lid handle), they have to be formed and matched precisely enough to ensure a smooth pour. Even now, we are still experimenting and learning about this challenging vessel! So when we teach, teapots are usually made only by students who have spent many weeks with us, and even then, usually stretches two sessions to complete.

But when our friends suggested making a tea set, it just sounded so nice - one family, sharing a family of vessels that they made with their own hands. So even though it sounded like quite a daunting project, we thought, let's just see how it goes! And so we plunged in, and after a lovely afternoon full of teamwork between parents and their little children, a beautiful tea set of seven vessels appeared, in time to welcome their new child!

Through this cosy little afternoon, we have blessed these new friends with a lovely gift, and they have in turn blessed us with an opportunity to sit back and watch them take humble lumps of clay into their inexperienced fingers, pressing and shaping and carving them into something so beautiful.
...

On the right is an unprocessed lump of recycled clay, and on the left is the same recycled clay nicely wedged with the Japanese technique of spiral wedging, or kikuneri (chrysanthem wedging). Not only is this a really beautiful way to accomplish a mundane task, it is also very effective - systematically cycling clay particles through the clay body, creating a very consistent mix while expelling air pockets hidden in the clay.

Without this process, the clay cannot be properly formed on the wheel, and even if a form is created, it will not fire well.

There have been several seasons in my life where, looking back, I realize that God has just been working His way through my entire being, forcing me to face and overcome my flaws and sins, even if it wasn't accompanied by any visible progress in my life. Sometimes these periods can just feel so painful and grinding, having to confront myself over and over again. Like those painful break-ups I had to go through before finding the right partner for the rest of my life. Like the trauma of drawn out family conflicts, be they in my physical or spiritual families. 

Looking back, I certainly witness and appreciate the growth that God has given me through these "wedging" experiences in my life. But I wonder, can I not also appreciate the beauty of God's work in me, even as I go through these trials and tribulations in the future?

On the right is an unprocessed lump of recycled clay, and on the left is the same recycled clay nicely wedged with the Japanese technique of spiral wedging, or kikuneri (chrysanthem wedging). Not only is this a really beautiful way to accomplish a mundane task, it is also very effective - systematically cycling clay particles through the clay body, creating a very consistent mix while expelling air pockets hidden in the clay.

Without this process, the clay cannot be properly formed on the wheel, and even if a form is created, it will not fire well.

There have been several seasons in my life where, looking back, I realize that God has just been working His way through my entire being, forcing me to face and overcome my flaws and sins, even if it wasn't accompanied by any visible progress in my life. Sometimes these periods can just feel so painful and grinding, having to confront myself over and over again. Like those painful break-ups I had to go through before finding the right partner for the rest of my life. Like the trauma of drawn out family conflicts, be they in my physical or spiritual families.

Looking back, I certainly witness and appreciate the growth that God has given me through these "wedging" experiences in my life. But I wonder, can I not also appreciate the beauty of God's work in me, even as I go through these trials and tribulations in the future?
...

SHELLS
Soaked, scrubbed, smashed open
My heart's poison-laced armour
Never did faze you

Not many people recognize these, and neither did we for most of our lives until some good friends introduced them to us. They are the hard and cyanide-laced shells of the buah keluak nut, whose tender and delicious flesh is only accessible after a long and tedious period of cleansing, followed by some skillfully executed hammering to crack open their tough exteriors.

These few weeks, as we witness another type of shells raining down horrifically onto innocent and precious lives, I am just astounded by what humans are capable of. On one hand, we pour our creativity, skills and perseverance into making beautiful works of music, art, literature, cuisines, architecture, medicine. On the other hand, we create lies, poisons, tanks and bombs to kill, steal and destroy. Of all the living things on this planet, we are the most intelligent, powerful, and deadly.

What about me? What am I going to do with the gifts (and the time) that have been bestowed upon my life?

SHELLS
Soaked, scrubbed, smashed open
My heart's poison-laced armour
Never did faze you

Not many people recognize these, and neither did we for most of our lives until some good friends introduced them to us. They are the hard and cyanide-laced shells of the buah keluak nut, whose tender and delicious flesh is only accessible after a long and tedious period of cleansing, followed by some skillfully executed hammering to crack open their tough exteriors.

These few weeks, as we witness another type of shells raining down horrifically onto innocent and precious lives, I am just astounded by what humans are capable of. On one hand, we pour our creativity, skills and perseverance into making beautiful works of music, art, literature, cuisines, architecture, medicine. On the other hand, we create lies, poisons, tanks and bombs to kill, steal and destroy. Of all the living things on this planet, we are the most intelligent, powerful, and deadly.

What about me? What am I going to do with the gifts (and the time) that have been bestowed upon my life?
...

DANCER IN A BLUE DRESS
Twirling in the wind
Tumbling in an endless sea
Between your fingers

This vessel was co-created with a guest at our Potter's House spiritual retreat, where we spent half a day moulding clay in our hands while experiencing how we too are moulded by our creator. It started off as a normal vase, and its complex and dynamic curves were actually formed from just a split second on the wheel. Does it look like a accident? Or does it look like an advanced pottery technique?

It's hard to tell just by looking, but if you've worked on the wheel before, you would probably know that it could be either! And in this case, it's actually a bit of both.

How then do we look at ourselves? Our bodies, our emotions, our personalities? Am I an accident, a random permutation of circumstances beyond my control? Or am I, with all my apparent flaws and weaknesses, a beautiful and beloved and painstakingly sculpted masterpiece of God? Needless to say, there's really no way to know for sure while we are alive on this Earth. But we will nevertheless go through our lives with our own unique set of beliefs about who we are and why we are like this, and these beliefs will greatly shape all the decisions we make in life.

I'd like to believe that it's a bit of both.

DANCER IN A BLUE DRESS
Twirling in the wind
Tumbling in an endless sea
Between your fingers

This vessel was co-created with a guest at our Potter's House spiritual retreat, where we spent half a day moulding clay in our hands while experiencing how we too are moulded by our creator. It started off as a normal vase, and its complex and dynamic curves were actually formed from just a split second on the wheel. Does it look like a accident? Or does it look like an advanced pottery technique?

It's hard to tell just by looking, but if you've worked on the wheel before, you would probably know that it could be either! And in this case, it's actually a bit of both.

How then do we look at ourselves? Our bodies, our emotions, our personalities? Am I an accident, a random permutation of circumstances beyond my control? Or am I, with all my apparent flaws and weaknesses, a beautiful and beloved and painstakingly sculpted masterpiece of God? Needless to say, there's really no way to know for sure while we are alive on this Earth. But we will nevertheless go through our lives with our own unique set of beliefs about who we are and why we are like this, and these beliefs will greatly shape all the decisions we make in life.

I'd like to believe that it's a bit of both.
...

5 years ago, we were adopted by two cats, DouDou and DeeDoo, who have really taught us so much about life. Here's DeeDoo nonchalantly drinking from one of our guests' cups during today's pottery workshop, because everything in our house belongs to them. We often have to warn our guests not to drink from their own cups again after leaving the coffee table, because there's a high chance our cats have also tasted their water!

When I see them looking so confident, assured and relaxed, it often makes me think of my own insecurities and anxieties. Why am I so worried about my future, when it says in the Bible that He who clothes the birds of the air and flowers of the field with such splendour will surely take care of us, His children? Why is it so hard for me to seek first the kingdom of God, knowing that all I need will be supplied by my Creator?

I don't deserve any of the resources and relationships that I have been blessed with. And neither can I bring these with me when my life is over. So like DeeDoo, may I learn to give myself permission to enjoy what is before me, to slow down, and to let the future worry about itself, for the present is a gift from God.

5 years ago, we were adopted by two cats, DouDou and DeeDoo, who have really taught us so much about life. Here's DeeDoo nonchalantly drinking from one of our guests' cups during today's pottery workshop, because everything in our house belongs to them. We often have to warn our guests not to drink from their own cups again after leaving the coffee table, because there's a high chance our cats have also tasted their water!

When I see them looking so confident, assured and relaxed, it often makes me think of my own insecurities and anxieties. Why am I so worried about my future, when it says in the Bible that He who clothes the birds of the air and flowers of the field with such splendour will surely take care of us, His children? Why is it so hard for me to seek first the kingdom of God, knowing that all I need will be supplied by my Creator?

I don't deserve any of the resources and relationships that I have been blessed with. And neither can I bring these with me when my life is over. So like DeeDoo, may I learn to give myself permission to enjoy what is before me, to slow down, and to let the future worry about itself, for the present is a gift from God.
...

"I will do this and this when XYZ is over".

Have you ever had such thoughts before? I sure have. Postponing or procrastinating what you desire to embark on, because there are too many other problems and concerns to get over first. 

And then, somehow new problems and concerns pop up. Just as certain as the sun that rises and sets, there isn't a single day where you feel like - finally! A clear day where I can finally embark on that journey! 

Perhaps like Frodo, that start of the journey wasn't decided by you. It was thrust upon you and you just gotta do your best and make it up as you go along. 

Or perhaps, one day you have looked back with regret that you have missed the chances to do something. 

My (Huiwen) mum is in hospital for a new stroke and it is the third time since 2020, when the COVID pandemic changed the world. 

Yet, life has to go on. With hope and optimism and the asking of strength and wisdom from God to "laugh at the days to come" (Proverbs 31:25). 

Even if the pandemic is still going on, even when wars are raging, even when things are not going the way you wish (like my mum's situation and our website that has also been inexplicably experiencing intermittent server down issues), we have been given this day to live. This day and breath of life that perhaps wasn't given to someone else you know. 

This opportunity to be free people who have the ability to act and choose. This opportunity to not squander our days away. To still nurture and raise our children in the most joy filled and peaceful way possible. To still extend care towards others. To still count our blessings. To consider the lilies of the field and smell the flowers. 

May each of us who are struggling find the dose of strength we need! One step at a time and before you know it, you would have covered more distance than you realized. 加油!!!

"I will do this and this when XYZ is over".

Have you ever had such thoughts before? I sure have. Postponing or procrastinating what you desire to embark on, because there are too many other problems and concerns to get over first.

And then, somehow new problems and concerns pop up. Just as certain as the sun that rises and sets, there isn't a single day where you feel like - finally! A clear day where I can finally embark on that journey!

Perhaps like Frodo, that start of the journey wasn't decided by you. It was thrust upon you and you just gotta do your best and make it up as you go along.

Or perhaps, one day you have looked back with regret that you have missed the chances to do something.

My (Huiwen) mum is in hospital for a new stroke and it is the third time since 2020, when the COVID pandemic changed the world.

Yet, life has to go on. With hope and optimism and the asking of strength and wisdom from God to "laugh at the days to come" (Proverbs 31:25).

Even if the pandemic is still going on, even when wars are raging, even when things are not going the way you wish (like my mum's situation and our website that has also been inexplicably experiencing intermittent server down issues), we have been given this day to live. This day and breath of life that perhaps wasn't given to someone else you know.

This opportunity to be free people who have the ability to act and choose. This opportunity to not squander our days away. To still nurture and raise our children in the most joy filled and peaceful way possible. To still extend care towards others. To still count our blessings. To consider the lilies of the field and smell the flowers.

May each of us who are struggling find the dose of strength we need! One step at a time and before you know it, you would have covered more distance than you realized. 加油!!!
...

WE CAN GROW FLOWERS
Where boots have trampled
On shattered pavements and dreams
For the sun will rise

WE CAN GROW FLOWERS
Where boots have trampled
On shattered pavements and dreams
For the sun will rise
...

This character, "遊", has come to represent a huge part of how we aspire to be, both in our family life and our work as Studio Asobi.

For those of you who are curious about the name of of our studio - Asobi is a Japanese word that means "play". The kanji character of Asobi is "遊", which in our native Chinese language means a kind of relaxed and playful journey. The kind that in my mind has no rigid itinerary and no overly burdensome luggage, just a joyful spirit and preferably some good company.

Can this really be what life is about? A wise man once said, and sang, "This world is not my home, I'm just a-passing through." How do I best pass through this world that is not my home? The beauty of our world and of the human spirit is that there are a million ways to complete this fleeting adventure. We've wandered into a path that involves holding the ground in our hands and creating beauty from it, but that's just one small sliver of our journey. Whatever external form it takes, we hope it will be one where every experience is a precious discovery, where every person we meet is a treasured fellow pilgrim, and every moment, whether joyful or sorrowful, is worth going through and growing through.

These seals are new - only the second time we've made new ones since we started learning pottery. They all carry that same word, "遊". And every time we press these seals into the vessels we make, we tell ourselves, this too is what we shall make of our lives.

This character, "遊", has come to represent a huge part of how we aspire to be, both in our family life and our work as Studio Asobi.

For those of you who are curious about the name of of our studio - Asobi is a Japanese word that means "play". The kanji character of Asobi is "遊", which in our native Chinese language means a kind of relaxed and playful journey. The kind that in my mind has no rigid itinerary and no overly burdensome luggage, just a joyful spirit and preferably some good company.

Can this really be what life is about? A wise man once said, and sang, "This world is not my home, I'm just a-passing through." How do I best pass through this world that is not my home? The beauty of our world and of the human spirit is that there are a million ways to complete this fleeting adventure. We've wandered into a path that involves holding the ground in our hands and creating beauty from it, but that's just one small sliver of our journey. Whatever external form it takes, we hope it will be one where every experience is a precious discovery, where every person we meet is a treasured fellow pilgrim, and every moment, whether joyful or sorrowful, is worth going through and growing through.

These seals are new - only the second time we've made new ones since we started learning pottery. They all carry that same word, "遊". And every time we press these seals into the vessels we make, we tell ourselves, this too is what we shall make of our lives.
...

Finally, the last batch of firing for this round of Apartment coffee cups! It's a special batch for us cos they were glazed while sitting on the floor in the middle of covid isolation. Don't worry though, viruses are destroyed at temperatures way below 1222degC!

We know quite a few of you have been enquiring about our cups, having missed the very brief shop opening we posted in early Jan. The next time we do this, we will make sure to give some advanced notice so you won't miss it!

But thank you all so much for loving our lovingly made creations, and for all the photos we received of your cups being used. Please use them! That's what we made them for - to hold drinks, to soothe throats, to share a moment of warmth (or refreshing coolness) with someone you love. They get sad when left on a shelf, so don't leave them on a shelf!

We are going to be embarking on some new projects for a few months, so it will be some time before our next shop update. But these cups will surely be back, so stay tuned!

Finally, the last batch of firing for this round of Apartment coffee cups! It's a special batch for us cos they were glazed while sitting on the floor in the middle of covid isolation. Don't worry though, viruses are destroyed at temperatures way below 1222degC!

We know quite a few of you have been enquiring about our cups, having missed the very brief shop opening we posted in early Jan. The next time we do this, we will make sure to give some advanced notice so you won't miss it!

But thank you all so much for loving our lovingly made creations, and for all the photos we received of your cups being used. Please use them! That's what we made them for - to hold drinks, to soothe throats, to share a moment of warmth (or refreshing coolness) with someone you love. They get sad when left on a shelf, so don't leave them on a shelf!

We are going to be embarking on some new projects for a few months, so it will be some time before our next shop update. But these cups will surely be back, so stay tuned!
...

So this post was supposed to be like, "oh I've got covid but I'm still working so hard in my isolation room." But then I realized, this is but one kind of work. The visible, tangible kind. The kind that produces quick, beautiful results. The kind the brings in money.

There's also another kind of work. The invisible, intangible un-instagrammable kind. The kind that nurtures but seldom produces short term results. The kind that cannot be transacted for cash. The reading-the-same-storybook-over-and-over-again kind. The wiping-away-tears kind. The slowly-putting-food-in-mouth kind. The cleaning-the-dishes-and-mopping-the-whole-house-before-finally-taking-a-shower kind. The trawling-the-internet-for-good-reading-materials kind. The making-sure-everyone-washes-their-hands-so-nobody-gets-covid kind.

The noble-character kind.

Thank you for being way more than I could imagine when I married you. Happy Valentine's Day, from this corner of the house! I will come out soon!

So this post was supposed to be like, "oh I've got covid but I'm still working so hard in my isolation room." But then I realized, this is but one kind of work. The visible, tangible kind. The kind that produces quick, beautiful results. The kind the brings in money.

There's also another kind of work. The invisible, intangible un-instagrammable kind. The kind that nurtures but seldom produces short term results. The kind that cannot be transacted for cash. The reading-the-same-storybook-over-and-over-again kind. The wiping-away-tears kind. The slowly-putting-food-in-mouth kind. The cleaning-the-dishes-and-mopping-the-whole-house-before-finally-taking-a-shower kind. The trawling-the-internet-for-good-reading-materials kind. The making-sure-everyone-washes-their-hands-so-nobody-gets-covid kind.

The noble-character kind.

Thank you for being way more than I could imagine when I married you. Happy Valentine's Day, from this corner of the house! I will come out soon!
...

These pretty shades of pink emerged from confines of our kiln just as one half of Studio Asobi had to enter into the confines of Covid isolation.

The impact to us has been quite great. Several workshops having to be cancelled at short notice, work unable to proceed because our son can't go to school or grandparents' house (since we are close contacts), and the other half of Studio Asobi utterly exhausted from having to manage everything at home. Life is more or less on hold until this "kiln" finishes its firing, and that's only if we manage to contain the virus from spreading within our home.

But we choose to give thanks, for these pretty glaze test results that will soon be used on our new project; for family and friends who are loving us greatly and praying for us during this time; for our beautiful and funny child; for vaccines; for the doctor and brother in Christ who is rendering help from just a phonecall away; for customers who are kindly and patiently waiting for our hands to get dirty again. 

God's mercies are new every morning, great is His faithfulness!

These pretty shades of pink emerged from confines of our kiln just as one half of Studio Asobi had to enter into the confines of Covid isolation.

The impact to us has been quite great. Several workshops having to be cancelled at short notice, work unable to proceed because our son can't go to school or grandparents' house (since we are close contacts), and the other half of Studio Asobi utterly exhausted from having to manage everything at home. Life is more or less on hold until this "kiln" finishes its firing, and that's only if we manage to contain the virus from spreading within our home.

But we choose to give thanks, for these pretty glaze test results that will soon be used on our new project; for family and friends who are loving us greatly and praying for us during this time; for our beautiful and funny child; for vaccines; for the doctor and brother in Christ who is rendering help from just a phonecall away; for customers who are kindly and patiently waiting for our hands to get dirty again.

God's mercies are new every morning, great is His faithfulness!
...

Things we are so grateful for: 

1. The overwhelming response for our Apartment Coffee cups (here's a little gathering of our small 90ml ones waiting to travel to their new homes). For a couple who 10 years ago would never have imagined starting a home pottery studio together, this is really such a precious blessing. Thank you all so much!

2. The customer who ordered two pink cups that fired white because who knows what happened with our new batch of raw materials? Each of our vessels is lovingly made by our own hands and when our glazes inexplicably decide to head off in their own mysterious direction, it is really quite painful for us! Thank you for your grace in still accepting these two cups even though they weren't what you expected! They are still beautiful in our eyes and we hope you will enjoy them too!

3. The old friend, now newest major client, who decided on their own accord to pay us the entire project sum before we even started making. It's hardly standard industry practice, and it's not even our practice or requirement at all because we are a small studio and we don't have 100% control over how our vessels turn out. But what this quiet gesture says to us is "we trust you", and "we're in this together". It really means a lot for a tiny business like ours - at the mercy of this relentless Covid situation.

4. Our parents, who have no compelling reason to support their children leaving aside their stable careers to veer off on this strange and uncertain path (just like pink glazes that suddenly decide not to be pink anymore), but quietly support us anyway because we are their children. Thank you for suspending your doubts and helping us craft a journey that is meaningful and absolutely joyful for us!

May our hearts always be filled with thanksgiving!

Things we are so grateful for:

1. The overwhelming response for our Apartment Coffee cups (here's a little gathering of our small 90ml ones waiting to travel to their new homes). For a couple who 10 years ago would never have imagined starting a home pottery studio together, this is really such a precious blessing. Thank you all so much!

2. The customer who ordered two pink cups that fired white because who knows what happened with our new batch of raw materials? Each of our vessels is lovingly made by our own hands and when our glazes inexplicably decide to head off in their own mysterious direction, it is really quite painful for us! Thank you for your grace in still accepting these two cups even though they weren't what you expected! They are still beautiful in our eyes and we hope you will enjoy them too!

3. The old friend, now newest major client, who decided on their own accord to pay us the entire project sum before we even started making. It's hardly standard industry practice, and it's not even our practice or requirement at all because we are a small studio and we don't have 100% control over how our vessels turn out. But what this quiet gesture says to us is "we trust you", and "we're in this together". It really means a lot for a tiny business like ours - at the mercy of this relentless Covid situation.

4. Our parents, who have no compelling reason to support their children leaving aside their stable careers to veer off on this strange and uncertain path (just like pink glazes that suddenly decide not to be pink anymore), but quietly support us anyway because we are their children. Thank you for suspending your doubts and helping us craft a journey that is meaningful and absolutely joyful for us!

May our hearts always be filled with thanksgiving!
...