Jasmine Chong’s foray into pottery started seven years ago as a way for her to cope.
At the time, both of her children were furthering their studies overseas, and Jasmine’s husband just had been diagnosed with cancer.
“When you’re talking about cancer, it’s not a personal sickness,” Jasmine expressed. “It’s a family sickness.”
Finding herself in need of a lot of therapy, she turned to the art of pottery. However, Jasmine shared that she has always been interested in the craft.
She recalled her childhood days in Johor, where there had been a construction site near her home. Here, she would dig up clay and play with it.
Jasmine’s artistic streak continued into her adult life. At the Malaysia Institute of Art, she studied fine arts in her first year, then spent her second and third years in interior design—a field that she would pursue as a career.
“In fine arts, we actually had to select an extra subject,” she shared. “Unfortunately, there was a very limited slot for pottery, so I missed that lesson.”
Of course, there were art schools and hobby centres offering pottery classes, but the prices were too expensive.
But decades later, Jasmine found herself playing with clay again—this time in a more polished manner.
Passion first, business second
Pottery quickly became a big part of Jasmine’s life, so much so that she eventually started her own home-based, small-batch food-safe ceramics art brand, Silo.
“I never thought that this thing can become a business,” Jasmine shared. “In fact, I wouldn’t call this a business, even today.”
Rather, Jasmine considers pottery as something she does on a hobby basis. Her stint in interior design also started out as a hobby, but later turned into a full-fledged business.
“That’s when all the stress came in,” she said.
So when she ventured into pottery, Jasmine decided she did not want to treat it as a business, but as a hobby and interest instead.
As such, she seldom takes orders. This is also because clients typically have plenty of expectations and demands.
“To me, to comply with those expectations is a stress,” Jasmine points out. “And I try to live without stress.”
However, customers can check if Silo is open to recreating and selling some designs from their social media by WhatsApping them.
Her daughter She Mun’s involvement in handling Silo’s social media content likely helps take away some of the stress.
Besides Silo, her daughter also runs her own cafe in Kota Kemuning by the name of NOTA, which carries some of Jasmine’s pieces.
Due to her responsibilities, She Mun’s presence in Silo is limited to the marketing side of things. Still, Silo Ceramic Art can be seen as a mother-daughter effort.
“She saw what I was doing, and she saw my progress,” Jasmine shared. “She loves this particular trade as well.”
An experimental approach
Now, Silo’s Instagram page boasts over 2,000 followers—an sizable audience that Jasmine did not expect.
When asked about why she thinks she managed to capture her followers’ interest, the potter said, “I don’t know. Probably a lot of people like my concept.”
Elaborating, Jasmine shared that she doesn’t follow the traditional way of pottery, where many standards and rules apply.
Ever the carefree spirit, Jasmine prefers a less structured approach and creating more experimental projects which involve a lot of trial and error.
Her fluid approach to the craft also means she takes on projects at her own time and pace.
“When you have the mood to do it, you can do it from day to night,” she explains. “But if you really don’t have the mood to do it, you might stay away from it for two, three weeks.”
Jasmine also seldom conducts workshops, as they take up a lot of time. Plus, she doesn’t really have a passion for teaching.
“I don’t have the patience,” she admits. “Unless it’s a small group and friends who want to try it out.”
Crafting a robust industry
When Jasmine decided to take up pottery seven years ago, she realised that the issue she faced in school was still there.
“I had difficulties looking for teachers, and I’m sure the teachers also had difficulties looking for students,” she said.
But in recent years, Jasmine noticed a sudden wave of new potters and lessons. She believes this is due to social media and the growth of the arts and crafts industry at large, which she said is influenced by east Asian trends.
However, like most other industries, the pandemic threw a wrench in this movement. Jasmine herself was unable to fire her clays as no one could service her kiln. Unable to do the firing, all she could do was throw clay, leaving her with no finished product to sell.
Thankfully, with the influx of bazaars and markets, many local potters including Silo have been able to recover and make a name for themselves.
She hopes this will encourage others will pick up pottery as a hobby too.
“Looking at the scenario now, there is so much stress in everybody’s life, especially the younger generation,” she said. “I think pottery is good for that. It’s good for healing.”
From mixing the clay to shaping it, Jasmine does everything on her own, which explains why the turnaround time for Silo is rather slow.
As such, her products sell out very quickly. Even so, the potter has no plans to hire any helpers.
However, showing me the cluttered background that is her home-based studio, Jasmine shared that she’s considering moving to a new space in Subang sometime next year.
Besides that, she said that she doesn’t have any big plans in store.
“I’ll just follow the flow and take whatever opportunities that I think I grab,” she added, staying true to her nature.
Featured Image Credit: Silo