"The first time we saw someone throw something on a pottery wheel, it was mesmerising. A lump of formless clay somehow transformed itself into a functional form," quips the couple behind local ceramics studio, Omelet Trees, who only wants to be known as Nigel and Sarah. The couple is in their late twenties and first attended "a wheel-throwing class at a local ceramics studio" in June 2016. "Ten sessions later, we were hooked," the couple exclaims.
The mental and physical demands of the craft first struck Nigel and Sarah. "Pottery is so visceral and tactile. It requires so much self-discipline and control, and it was the challenge that made us keep going back for more."
Soon after the technical foundations were laid, it was the cathartic emotional release of pottery that kept the couple going. They eventually bought themselves a "tiny wheel — honestly it was child-sized but very economical. We would spend hours working in the studio after work. As tired as we were, there was something so calming and tranquil about listening to the whirl of the motor and watching lumps of mud transform beneath our fingers. That was when we knew that it had to be a part of our lives." The realisation came when the couple found themselves sacrificing "what little downtime we had after work to pursue this."
By the end of the year, the couple decided to find a label to collate all the domestic ceramic pieces that they were producing. They gave it a curious name — Omelet Trees. "The name was chosen to capture a sense of light-heartedness," the couple explains. On their website, a detailed breakdown reveals that "Omelet" refers to the nutritional goodness that an egg offers. The word "Trees" cues at the offerings of nature. Together, they simply mean nature's goodness — a very befitting name for all their beautiful objects made of clay dug from the earth beneath our feet.
The couple begins their making process with sketches. "From these shapes, we consider the balance of form, the interactivity with the user, the type of clay, as well as the finish. We don't usually make the decisions in a day," they add. "Many people are often surprised to hear that the process of creating a single ceramic object... can take weeks."
The throwing or moulding process "can be done in a few minutes." Later, the wet clay has to be left out to dry and "trimmed into its final profile — this usually takes about a day or more, depending on the weather." The drying process then continues until the clay is "bone-dry. And this usually takes about a week — again, depending on the weather."
Nigel and Sarah then begin the first bisque firing, also known as the biscuit firing, named after the porous effect that the heat has on the clay. Twelve hours later, "the kiln needs to cool for a day before it is safe to open. Opening the kiln too early may result in thermal shock, and the painstakingly-made pieces shattering." Now that the clay is porous, a glaze made of minerals is applied, absorbed, and dried. "Glazing usually takes about two to three days as we wait for the layers of glaze to dry before applying the next. And this is followed by the final glaze firing, cooling and a sanding to polish up the pieces."
The final design is often simple, minimalistic, pared-back and bare. A narrow-neck bottle vase has nothing but a graduation of purple running across it. A tall drinking tumbler is deceptively simple — its only feature is its matte grey finish. The one thing that matters to the couple is the "feel of the object", or the emotional and physical interaction between the tumbler and its owner. "Our products are often very minimal with little embellishment. This reflects our studio's philosophy of slow-living and the paring-down of [any] excess."
It seems like a hectic process. In fact, it is long-drawn, slow process. "When it comes to pottery, there is a lot of waiting in-between! In a society where we are used to instant gratification, the process of pottery creates pockets of time when we can only work slowly towards a finished product."
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