Firing up the pottery art scene

(From left) Koay sharing details of her featured works with fellow potters Sim Hong Ching and Ow Chong Boon. – Photos: LIM BENG TATT/The Star

POTTERY seems to require magic as earth, water and fire come together to be moulded into beautiful art.

Each piece at the “Dao Shang Shao: Earthly Investigations 2022” pottery exhibition in Penang spoke of their maker’s mastery of the language of clay.

There were 150 pieces ranging from everyday items like pots and cups to more ornamental works at the just-concluded exhibition held at Penang Institute in Brown Road, Pulau Tikus.

These works of art were made by 30 local and international potters or ceramicists who reside in the state.

Among them was Tan Beng Hai who described pottery as an art that was thousands of years old and yet, forever new.

“Pottery is therapeutic. It calms you down and gives you peace and clarity of mind as well as the satisfaction of creation.

“The availability of materials and slower pace of life in Penang makes it a good place for potters,” Tan said at the exhibition’s opening.

Shu Yu posing with his “Train Crossing the Fountain at Penangpac” piece.Shu Yu posing with his “Train Crossing the Fountain at Penangpac” piece.

Another participant, who goes by the name Fumi, said her designs were inspired by local cultures and the beauty of the island’s sea and forest landscapes.

“I’ve always been good with my hands and this craft spoke to me.

“My pieces aren’t planned. Instead, I just let my hands guide me,” she said.

Another who found pottery relaxing was Koay Phaik Lih, who said, “I enjoy creating objects that can be useful.”

The oldest participant was Harumi Yamazaki, 80, whose wood-fired piece of a crying toddler titled “Frustration” drew much interest.

Explaining the inspiration behind the piece, she said that as a homemaker, much of her time had been devoted to caring for children and grandchildren.

And many will agree that it is never an easy task.

Fumi with her “Bronze Mask” and other works.Fumi with her “Bronze Mask” and other works.

At the other end of the spectrum was Ooi Shu Yu who was only four years old when he made a piece called “Train Crossing the Fountain at Penangpac” in 2018.

His parents Ooi Woi Leong and Ch’ng Joo Pyin are passionate potters themselves, so the little boy was allowed to play with clay.

“He was inspired by a train ride,” Ch’ng shared.

The exhibition was curated by well-known Singaporean artist Kim Whye Kee and organised by Penang Pottery Club in collaboration with Penang Institute and Artopia Education Trust.

The institute’s executive director Datuk Dr Ooi Kee Beng said that as a think tank, the onus was on it to support the creative arts.

Penang Pottery Club was founded in 2006 by a group of Japanese ceramicists.

The club organises classes for groups and individuals at its base in Jalan Kebun Bunga.

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