She-Hustles is a lifestyle series celebrating the diversity, passion and grit of the many inspiring female customers that we've met on our journey with SOJAO. It is a collective arsenal of inspiration that fills our lives with positivity and soul.
Co-founder and Potter, Mud Rock Ceramics
The ‘Happily Handmade Ceramics’ of Mud Rock are gorgeous to look at, unique and handcrafted for our everyday use. We became obessed with several of the pieces we own ourselves and take pride in holding something that’s perfectly made with imperfections.
We spent an afternoon with Michelle and her dog Buddy at both their studio and home, and talked about things that get her fired up. We also learnt about the heart and soul that goes behind each Mud Rock ware, and the sweat and blood behind the seven year-old business.
“Mud Rock started in 2013, two years after I got to know Seok, when I met her as one of my volunteers at a non-profit ceramics festival that I co-founded and organised - Awaken the Dragon. In 2011, when I had just returned back from my ceramics degree, I realised the government was going to demolish our last two dragon kilns that holds an important thread to our ceramic heritage and local history. Long story short, the festival succeeded. You can watch the rest on TED talk. But the important thing is if not for the festival and my crazy ideas, I would not have met Seok and realised we had the same desire to bring local handmade everyday ceramics to the homes and restaurants in Singapore.”
“I resigned from my lecturing position in a design school before I started Mud Rock with Seok. Seok too, had resigned from her banking career before Mud Rock.
When the Awaken the Dragon festival ended, commissions, exhibitions, and opportunities just poured in, so much so that it convinced me to leave because I knew this would only work out if I gave my 100%.”
“I figured when I have nothing to fall back on (whether it is a full-time job or family backing) is probably when I will do everything I can to make it work.”
“It is this fire in our belly, to fill in that gap between high art ceramics and hobby craft pottery. We want people to use, and boast of our local ceramic craft in their homes as they serve their dinner guests, sip their morning cuppa and appreciate the hands that made it and be proud that it is local.”
“So a big part of our philosophy is to also be very sensitive to our pricing so that it is still affordable and accessible to the general public, and we do that by being self-sustaining and making what we can on our own which in fact makes our works uniquely Mud Rock because no one else has our glaze or clay recipes.”
“Singapore and the way we live, and eat, is our inspiration behind Mud Rock and its aesthetics. For example, we consider how a bowl of noodles will feel in one hand when eating in front of the tv, as we make the form.”
“Being an 80's kid, I grew up with Captain Planet, all the environmental mascots in Singapore, and water rationing exercises, so we had a very clear sense of how important resources are. Not just water, but energy as well. So sustainability has always been a BIG thing for us at Mud Rock.”
“The subject hasn't changed much over the years other than the urgency of the situation, so at Mud Rock we consider how to educate and share such values to our students and clients. Around the studio you will see posters/signs to use ceramics rather than takeaway, sip instead of straws, to use water preciously, to recycle clay etc. Our customers will find their pieces wrapped in recycled paper rather than bubblewrap.”
“We start with a cup of coffee at our studio's coffee bar. Always a flat white. By then I would already have figured out the priorities of the day. The usual day would have us taking meetings with clients, trimming or throwing pots, glazing, packing a kiln, teaching a class and finally replying emails haphazardly as we try to make it home/to bed.”
“On most days I get about 6 hours of sleep, on my day off I sleep in and get about 8 to 10 hours of sleep. I do feel more rested now than compared to a year ago.”
“I experienced burnout so many times, especially in the first 4 years of our business. I (the studio) adopted a dog to help us destress! Also at the end of the year, we make it a point to take a studio holiday to a cultural destination. I also like to wind down daily with a good glass of beer, and a book in hand.”
“Someone in my life who inspires me is Rebecca Lee-Steere, my older sister who’s a leading stem cell biologist!”
“My sister inspires me because of the self-made woman she is today, with her sheer determination, despite all the difficulties and hardship we had growing up. Though it might have been scary for her to venture out to study something that was not popular in Singapore at that time, she overcame it by doing her research, sticking to a plan, working hard and having faith.”
“Arundhati Roy's fierce but sensitive writing is also what inspires me. There is a paragraph she wrote decades ago that I now use as a mantra to life. It reminds me that I am not weak to be sensitive or not strong just because I care. In other words, to follow my heart and let my values guide me.”
"To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.”