Ceramics & Plants

Ceramicists: Artisans crafting time

“Ceramic, in essence, is made by mixing water with clay and fired under high heat. This definition has existed for centuries and has never changed,” says ceramicist Benny To Kai On confidently. Before there was any written record, humans have used mud to make vessels. Many civilizations have since collapsed, yet these vessels remain.

To believes that pottery can preserve the unique characteristics of an era. Using traditional techniques, he creates modern objects such as frisbees and cartoon characters, blending age-old elements with those of the future.

“Sometimes, I imagine these sculptures being unearthed in the future and the reactions of the people who find them. These pieces are bursting with imagination — I hope that they will be mesmerised!”

In addition to sculptures, To dabbles in a variety of ceramic ware, the most well-known of which are his plant pots. In recent years, bonsai trees and succulents has become the latest trend in places such as Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Enthusiasts collect rare and exotic plants as much as they do plant pots made by ceramicists. To’s plant pots are humble and still and, when paired with age-old succulents, remind us of ancient relics recently unearthed.

In nature, plants grow freely. When moved indoors, pots become their captivity. Do pots offer space or create constraints? It depends on how you see it. In Hong Kong, ceramicists face many constraints, particularly in creating large pieces of work due to restrictions on the size of the kiln. Despite this, many Hong Kong ceramicists use “reassembling” to construct larger pieces, a unique method exemplifying creativity borne of constraints.

The creation of a piece of ceramic starts with the ceramicist giving form to an idea, then setting it in the wider world to withstand the test of time. Perhaps only fragments remain, or nothing at all. “I hope I can leave behind traces of our existence for our generation,” To says.

“At the end of the day, every ceramicist’s theme is time.” To concludes.

Three requirements of becoming a ceramicist

Pay close attention to your body:

Trimming your nails regularly is a must for all ceramicists. Further, as ceramicists sit for prolonged periods of time, it’s important to get into the habit of stretching.

Notice your surroundings :

Details such as humidity and temperature all affect the clay, the process and the technique required, so keep a close eye on the source of the clay as well as the environment around you.

Persevere through the process:

Pottery is a time-consuming process so perseverance is essential for work to come to fruition. Progress may be slow, but nonetheless, focus on every step, rather than the result.

Handcrafted pottery in six steps

  1. Mix the clay
  2. Form the shape
  3. Set
  4. Bisque fire
  5. Glaze
  6. Glaze fire