A friendship moulded through the shared love for ceramics
Despite holding full-time jobs, Megan Miao and Samantha Tan dedicate their weekends to ceramics making.
For many, a hobby is simply an outlet to unwind and would require little time commitment. But for Megan Miao, 29, and Samantha Tan, 28, their love for pottery has evolved to something much larger.
Megan, a learning experience designer, and Samantha, a doctor, first started ceramic-making merely as a hobby. Now, they run Eastfield Ceramics, a small business selling handmade ceramic homewares.
Despite holding day jobs completely unrelated to crafting, Megan and Samantha are no strangers to the world of art. Having studied art earlier during their schooling days, they found themselves naturally drawn to ceramics.
“I studied fine arts in university and a lot of my practice was conceptual. I think over time I realised that I really wanted to get back in touch with making things with my hands again,” Megan says, adding that ceramics is a great entry point for her as it allows her to make functional items that are not just purely decorative.
Like Megan, Samantha missed the days she had making art in secondary school.
“I was studying art for a bit but it was something that I gave up on just because I didn’t feel that it was very practical. I found ceramics and it was something that combined both practicality and art and that’s how I went deeper down into the rabbit hole.”
The pair first met at a pottery class by Euphoramics studio. Their pottery teacher, Yan, was in fact a key driving force behind this unexpected union.
Yan noticed that Megan enjoys glazing, a process where one applies colours to the ceramic pieces, while Samantha dislikes it. On the other hand, Samantha loves what Megan hates – the mechanical process of sculpting and shaping pieces called throwing.
“I accumulated a lot of unglazed wares that were just piling up on the shelves and I just was complaining that I didn’t want to colour any of them,” Samantha says.
“Long story short, our pottery teacher just got sick and tired of us complaining about how we didn’t want to do the things that each other wanted to do,” Megan adds.
“One day she was fed up and was like ‘Why don’t you just glaze Samantha’s work and then you can solve this problem?’”
When the pair saw how this arrangement worked for them, they started experimenting with making pieces together. That was what gave birth to Eastfield Ceramics.
While Megan and Samantha’s decision to start a business might sound like an easy one, that doesn’t mean that the journey doesn’t come with its challenges.
With much to do and too little time, they are both constantly reminded that Eastfield Ceramics is a side-hustle fueled by passion.
They find themselves in the studio for around four hours on a weekend and spend another two to three hours on non-ceramic related works. These include taking pictures of end products and brainstorming for new ideas.
During peak seasons like Christmas, they will have to work longer hours to meet the increase in order volume.
Megan explains how important discipline is when it comes to time management. “With something like ceramics, it’s very easy to think like I’m going to book for 12 hours straight in the studio this weekend, but I also know that if I do that, not all the 12 hours are going to be spent equally well and creative.
“Having limitations on things actually allows me to be a bit more creative.”
The duo have also faced times when they feel that their works have stagnated. This is especially so when some of their pieces start to look the same.
“Midway through our journey, there were certain expectations of what people liked or wanted to see from us and it was really hard to move out of that creative process or break out of our comfort zone,” Samantha says.
That is when they will both discuss their ideas or even go on “retreats” where they give space to each other so that they can individually find new things or ideas that they like.
“Once we talk through those situations, it always comes out better and stronger because that’s also where you define your vision for your product. When you’re a potter on your own, you get to dictate that path but when you’re two people, you have to decide how to move in that direction,” Megan says.
For Megan and Samantha, Eastfield Ceramics is far from “relaxing”. But that doesn’t make it any less of a hobby for them.
“I would challenge the idea that hobbies are meant to be a relaxing space…relaxing is me lying on the bed and not doing anything but I also won’t call it a hobby,” Megan says, explaining that sometimes the things that we do to recharge may not be the easiest thing to do.
Those who are interested in pottery and making ceramic homeware, patience towards yourself and the pottery process is important. Megan explains that while short two-hour classes are a great way to be introduced to pottery, it is definitely not enough to really grasp the whole process and concept.
And just like any other hobby, one cannot possibly expect a flawless outcome on their first try.
Samantha says: “A lot of the initial works can look a little hideous but now when I look back, there’s also a charm in it being slightly wonky and imbalanced.
“You can’t go back to that charm and there’s a beauty of it at that moment in time so even when you progress, even in different points of your life, you create beauty in different ways.”