Creating With Clay
Singapore, Pottery –
Pottery artist Suriani Suratman carries on her mentor’s wisdom of “knowing your clay” to produce beautiful works
Working with temperatures that rise to 1290°C Suriani Suratman believes it is important to follow intuition and be spontaneous when doing her work as a pottery artist. Either using her hand or the wheel, she transforms a lump of clay into the organic textural forms she loves, using ash glazes which she makes herself from birch and eucalyptus trees to create various effects.
Also a social anthropologist, and senior lecturer at the Department of Malay Studies at National University of Singapore, Suratman shared her life and work at recent exhibition Cita Seni: Receptacle of Feeling/Filling.
Suriani Suratman studied pottery under the tutorship of Iskandar Jalil at his studio in Jalan Senyum and now rents her own studio space – space that has to be large as pottery requires many tools and equipment.
A Chat with Suriani Suratman on Life as a Pottery artist
1 You prefer raku clay for its coarseness and texture. What forms do you enjoy creating with this type of clay?
Hand-built sculptural works. The grog in the raku clay gives it body which is important to make especially big works.
2 Studying under Iskandar Jalil is a pottery artist’s dream. What advice did he give you that stays with you till today?
“Know your clay”. It IS important to know the clay which I am working with. It determines the kind of works I can make. It determines the results of the glaze that I use. It determines the temperature at which I can fire the works.
3 How do you create your own pottery studio, and what are the essential tools you need to begin your life as a pottery artist?
I am fortunate to have a studio space which I rent at Jalan Bahar Clay Studios (JBCS). Pottery requires a lot of space – space for a pottery wheel, space for materials like clay and slips, space for recycling clay, space for glaze ingredients and glazes, space for tools, space for drying the works, and space for firing the works. I am able to have these spaces at JBCS. I think the basic tools to start doing pottery is a wooden modelling tool, a needle and a cutting wire.
4 What traditional pottery from the Malay world do you love?
The big black bowls made by the Sasak woman potters from Lombok, Indonesia.
5 What Singapore food do crave for after a hard day at work?
Story by Carol Kraal. Photographs courtesy of Dr. Suriani Suratman.