What was studying ceramics like in Japan?
Japanese teachers are very, very strict. That’s how they train endurance. The teachers kept telling me to make a particular shape — just a normal cylinder, which you only realise on hindsight is the foundation of everything. You have to learn how to make a cylindrical shape first before you can open it up into a bowl.
As an eager 19-year-old then, all I wanted was to learn how to make something with clay. For the first six months, all I made were cups! It was only in the next half of the year when my teacher finally allowed me to try making bowl shapes.
At that time I was a little disheartened and thought I wasn’t doing a good job. But eventually, I understood that that’s how people learn in Japan. In order to be skilled at something, you can’t rush into it. You need to understand and learn the discipline before going places.
You quit your full-time job to start Adrienne Ceramics and ves.studios. What made you take that leap of faith?
Before I pursued this full time, I was a government officer for a statutory board. While I didn’t hate my job, I also knew I was interested in pottery. My husband — at that time we weren’t married yet — is a singer-songwriter, and has been that for a decade. Just seeing how he made it work for himself was encouraging enough for me.
My main concern was if we were both artists, who would put rice on the table? I was always content with doing pottery as a hobby, but he was the one who encouraged me to pursue it full-time. He told me, “Our life is already short and if you know you want to do something, just do it and see where it takes you. If it doesn’t work out, you can always look for a job.”
My ex-boss was also really encouraging. He said to me, “If you’ve always known you’re more interested in something else, you should pursue it.” He also had the same advice [as my husband]: “You have your CV working for a government office for two years. If it doesn’t work out, you can find a job.” I was 27 then, so I thought, yeah, I guess there’s no loss for me.
It was also the timing of everything. I got a residency offer in Japan, so I quit my job and went for it. It was quite reckless [laughs]. I didn’t think of a studio space or how I was going to make money from this. I just really wanted to learn.