October is a busy month for birthdays among our friends and family and I often like to give (and receive) experiences – something to do or try out a new potential hobby. So this October I took my dear friend Dalini to try her hand at clay pottery. There are a surprising amount of studios around Singapore that offer lessons or one off sessions. We headed to one in Orchard Gateway, Taoz Ceramics. A cute little place packed to the roof with a variety of clay pieces drying, waiting for their turn to be fired in the kiln.
With space to sit eight people at a time we watched a few families already making bowls or vases, seemingly very easily with some gentle guidance from the patient staff. We’d have enough clay each to make a bowl or a vase. We looked through the example pieces on display to give us some ideas of what we’d like to make and both settled upon some sort of bowl for snacks or breakfast. We didn’t set the bar too high and decided to see where the clay would take us as to what size we ended up with. We sat opposite each other with a pottery wheel in front of each of us, wearing aprons and looking like we knew what we were doing. We began to beat the air bubbles out of the clay under the instruction of a lovely guy who turned out to be very patient with us both!
I’ve actually tried making things with clay a few times. As a family we visited the last dragon kiln in Singapore which is an Aladdin’s cave of pottery ranging from small Chinese tea cups to huge vases and pots big enough for Aspen or Milo to fit inside. Their kiln is huge and we got to take a walk inside it. It’s only fired up a few times a year as it takes so long to get to the temperature required to fire the pottery and then days to cool down again. The kiln looks like a dragons body and tail hiding on the earth and is the last remaining one. We each made a mug and a small bowl which is the perfect size for a nice big scoop of ice cream. You can see our YouTube video about it here.
Using a pottery wheel looks easy in theory but as we put hands to clay we discovered not so much, and that’s with me having done it a few times, this was Dalini’s first try. Thankfully the speed of the wheel was controlled by our teacher. You have to centre the clay in the middle of the wheel by throwing it with some force which was quite satisfying. Then it’s time to get messy, you have to slowly bring the clay up into a tower by gently compressing it and then push it back down a few times to soften the clay, whilst keeping it in the middle. I kept being told to not let my hands be too stressed, I guess my hard concentration was making my grip too hard for the clay. Softly, softly was the way to go. After this we were guided to start making a small hole in the middle of our clay and to widen the bowls to our desired shape. All we had to do was use a finger to gently shape and smooth down the clay. Which was, again, easier said than done.
We were both thankful for our teacher and his patience as our bowls started to look a little more like plates but he expertly rescued them and the clay easily transformed in his hands. After about 20 minutes we seemed to have made two bowls and I’m not sure if I got a little carried away when I was left on my own for about a minute but my bowl had once again turned into a plate and was past the point of no return. Squishing my clay back into a ball I was starting over. I was concentrating hard on my creation and looked up to see the same thing had happened to Dalini and she too was starting over! Working with clay is quite relaxing, despite my unrelaxed hands and we had a good laugh making these. On the second time around things went smoother and we soon had two bowls we were proud of, with the closer watch of the teacher on us. As we made our bowls the teachers offered to take photos and videos as our hands are covered in clay.
Our bowls were photographed and set alongside the others from the morning ready to be dried and we got to pick two colours that our bowls would be glazed in. I picked black and silver and was told the silver was actually a miss colour from the black and the white coming together. I liked the fact it was created by mistake and that with clay the small imperfections or individual shapes and colours can create something beautiful. Much like the art of Kintsugi – golden joinery, which is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold which symbolises embracing flaws and imperfections. I will certainly be embracing my bowls slightly wobbly shape!
After this we decided to hand paint two little Chinese tea cups. These are pre-made in store and can be painted with whatever design you like. As we sat down just outside the store to paint, a little girl and her parents, along with a small newborn baby were finishing up theirs. The little girl looked so proud of her design as did her parents in-between feeding the baby and comforting it. Obviously spending some quality time together with the arrival of a second child and her becoming Jie Jie (older sister). I’d like to bring Aspen here sometime as she’s so creative and enjoys hands on art.
We flicked through some idea books they had and were handed paint brushes and what looked like watercolours and left to our own devises. The good thing here is that if you make a mistake or don’t like what you’ve done first time around you can just erase it with water. After spending a bit more time on Pinterest we both settled upon floral designs. The studio is in a quiet end of the mall so we had a peaceful environment and spent a good hour painting and chatting in between extreme concentration. Dalini is one of those rare finds and I always enjoy her company, even if we aren’t talking its just nice to spend time together. We were there so long we soon wondered if the employees had remembered we were even outside painting! We left our cups to be fired along with our bowls and made a date to come and collect them in four weeks time and headed off to find some lunch.
I found the price here quite reasonable in comparison to other places and I liked the quieter environment. You can buy the experience on Klook or pay in store. For a sixty minute pottery workshop and the mini cup paining it was $68 for two people. You do have to add $10 per piece for firing ($5 each for the cups) so make sure you read the details for what certain packages include. I’d also recommend booking.
I’m looking forward to seeing our finished pieces in a few weeks time and having something unique and hand made tied to a great memory.
Each year I like to learn something new, maybe clay pottery could be yours? Give it a try.