Sep 18 marks the 6th anniversary of Studio Asobi! 🙌
By the unmerited grace of God, we are on this wonderful adventure that we never envisaged for ourselves. There are endless things to give thanks for; and in my weakness, there have also been times (too many!) where tiredness, frustration, and worries have crept in.
Today as I was doing glazing, I was listening to a sermon and these verses were mentioned:
Luke 12:25-26 says "And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?"
What fantastic words! How liberating! It is a constant process of recalibrating to this truth.
Actually sometimes I feel very silly when I sit down and really think through about whatever is bothering me. As the meaning of our child's name goes - God is good. And God is really good! All the time!
Life is so exciting; thanks for journeying with us too:)
Special thanks to @bellybokeh for the pictures!...
Once in awhile we find some time to make some things for ourselves! If all goes well, this is going to be a tray for our washing liquid and hand soap in the kitchen, with the little winding river helping to drain water into our sink!...
Our very first ceramic hairpin (发簪)! And also the first time we fired a hanging piece using nichrome wire.
There's always a first time for everything, and it is a really sweet feeling when the first time turns out well!
To be honest, I'm not instinctively courageous when it comes to experimenting. Often I have to almost verbally announce to myself that something can be done, that it is ok to fail, that it is worth the effort, before trying something new. So I'm thankful for clients who don't share the same concerns as us!
If you are wondering about the design, it's a word "名" in the form of a heron. Inspired by the name of the lady that this thoughtful gift is going to.
What is in a name? Still work in progress and we really don't know how this might turn out because we have never done anything like it before, but I really delight in the serendipitous nature of this request (out of nowhere and by the most unlikely of customers) to sculpt a chinese hairpin, just as we were watching 倚天屠龙记 where 赵敏 gifts her hairpin to 张无忌.
As part of our intro hand-building workshops, we give our participants a brief hands on trial at the electric wheel where they would make little cups off a single lump of clay.
It is really quite satisfying to watch the clay getting formed into different shapes in the hands of our guests, many of whole have never touched clay before, much less the electric wheel. Without the influence of technique, design or templates, these simple but unique forms bear the mark of each guest's unique hand shapes, as well as their feelings at that particular moment.
Not all are nice and round like these three. Some have little swirls where a finger gets caught in the spinning clay. Others have undulating rims due to uneven application of strength during the pulling process. But all are beautiful.
My grandmother doesn't understand the term ceramic artist. The only way she can frame my profession in her mind and words is as a "zoh bua wah eh" (one who makes plates and bowls). And consequently, a "buay tan jia" (one who can't earn enough to eat). And I must say that while it feels somewhat more attractive or legitimate to be known as a ceramic artist, I find it hard to label myself in that way either!
I am a craftsman, a potter, one who makes plates and bowls. I enjoy making beautiful things, and I am joyful when they turn out beautiful. I enjoy putting my feelings, thoughts and faith into my vessels, and I am joyful when they find resonance in others. I like to use my hands, even when machines can accomplish the same things much quicker. And I am joyful that my human hands can make vessels that look exactly the same, or totally different.
I find it hard to label myself as a creative or an artist because I feel like these labels create a sense of vocational exclusivity for what seem to me more like innate qualities - universally present in humanity. I deeply want to believe that we are all creative in different ways, and all artistic in different ways, whether or not we know it or desire it or use it.
Or maybe it's because I don't feel talented enough to call myself an artist, I don't know. Well, neither am I very proficient or prolific as a craftsman anyway! What I do know is that I enjoy what I do, and I feel alive doing it. And I draw strength and comfort and inspiration from the fact that our Saviour, who could have taken any form and done anything He wanted, became a craftsman....
TAKE UP YOUR CROSS
Can you feel the weight
Lifted off that weary back
As you follow Him?
We carry many weights around. Some are physical, some are emotional, and some weigh us down without us even knowing that they are there.
Years back, hunched over by the unbearable load on my back, I found a cross and thought I'd carry it anyway, since I was already almost on my knees. Never did I expect that in lifting this cross, I could stand straight again.
Thank You for bearing the weight of the world upon Your shoulders. And for finding me.
LILIES OF THE NILE
Behold the flowers
They do not labor nor spin
Yet He clothes them all
These four cups, made under quite a bit of time pressure, have fortunately all turned out well! But behind all the pretty Instagram shots are also many vessels that do not make it here, and also those that are still nervously awaiting their test of fire. Well, at least we are nervous. Because 6 years after opening our studio, we have yet to master the workings of our kiln, the properties of our glazes, even the nature of the clay we use. And I don't imagine us really perfecting this art even at the end of our careers.
But we take comfort in the wisdom of Matthew 6 - where we are instructed not to worry about anything, not because of who we are but because of our Creator who never makes mistakes. He looks at us, in all our beauty and ugliness, and calls us His masterpiece.
When I gaze into
The clear blue lake of your mind
My cup runs over
Opening the kiln can be quite a nail-biting experience, but this one was tremendously satisfying. The way bowls fitted nicely together, the way the blues melted into the whites, the way that drop of glaze solidified at just right place so it doesn't stick to our kiln...really breaks my heart a little to have to give it away!
FIGHTING FISH - This is one of Tobie's first intentional paintings (on the back of his national day flag), and as he painted he kept remarking, "So colourful!"
And in English, no less. For a 95% Mandarin speaking boy, he must have been very impressed with his creation!
So here's a little break from pottery pictures, and a glimpse of our journey as a family. We honestly don't spend enough time with Tobie considering we are working from home all the time, and we really wish we had more energy to play with him and nurture him. So these moments are really special to us!...
For that God-given moment
To die and let live
This is the first time we have been asked to make a whole batch of vessels that have an identical volume. We considered using moulds, but then the idea of mass production has never really appealed to us. We also considered passing on this project, but then because our clients are so nice, we finally decided to give ourselves this little challenge and see if we can hand-throw identical cups on the wheel.
And as it turns out, it wasn't exactly that difficult! And although we aren't very familiar with mould-making, we'd wager that for this small batch of vessels, it would have taken us even more time and effort to create moulds. What's more, we do get quite a sense of satisfaction in making a whole bunch of identical cups with just our hands (and some tools of course)!
Thank you @apartmentcoffee for this rewarding little project - hope your guests enjoy these little vessels!
Thousand mile voyage
Begins with a first small step
And so a tree grows
As I was making this coiled pot, I was listening to a podcast about awaking wonder in children.
I looked out to our balcony at the frangipani tree that has stretched its limbs far out into the sunlight. It didn't grow this way overnight; but rather little by little with daily watering, it grew. And so it is with little children, or our big goals in life. We just gotta be consistent to show up daily and put in that part of effort and love.
This coiled plant pot is a farewell gift commissioned by a team for a country director who is off to her next adventure. We want to give her our best wishes and to the team who will continue to build upon the foundation:)