To hear Ng Seok Har and Michelle Lim talk about pottery is to experience love. They wax lyrical about how a vase is made, from the kneading and throwing of the clay, to bestowing it a form on the wheel, till it’s baptised by fire in the kiln.

Lim points to a blood-red bowl. “Do you know how this ox-blood glaze came about? Before the Song Dynasty period, China was the only country that could get this level of red. As the legend goes: the imperial potter was so stressed that he couldn’t get the particular red hue that he leapt into the kiln to die. But in doing so, he finally got the desired red. Apparently, bone ash was key in achieving that colour.”

The material, clay, holds history. It comes from the ground upon which humans, animals, vegetation have trodden and interred for centuries. There is something existentially mind-blowing about this very idea.

“It’s humbling to know that, in the grand scheme of things, you’re just a speck that’s still learning,” says Ng, “That’s what appeals to me.”

“This was made by Tju Tjuna Andy, an indigenous artist from the Ernabella tribe in central Australia. If you’re familiar with indigenous art, it is usually painted on a flat surface, often like a bird’s eye view of the land. Dots are often applied, their colours and patterns symbolising rivers, well holes and where food can be found—like these emu footprints circling a well. The designs are done without preliminary sketches; it’s a direct translation of what they see in their mind’s eye. The indigenous community doesn’t usually paint three- dimensional forms but has recently begun to work with potters.” - Lim

“This is the first piece we collected as a company. If Mud Rock [Ceramics] were to be in dire financial need, we would have to sell it. Made by Takeshi Yasuda, he is a magician with porcelain and one of Japan’s living national treasures. This was made in Jingdezhen, China, the porcelain capital of the world.” - Ng

“When Mud Rock was first established, we went to visit Takeshi who was getting ready for a gallery show. We managed to get a few pieces before the event, without the high gallery prices.” - Lim

It’s the act of creation, where the alchemy of earth, water, fire and air can give birth to a ceramic piece.

“Innately, every human being longs to create,” Lim says. “And even if you don’t do it yourself, watching another person do it is rather satisfying. We feel very lucky to be able to make pottery by hand. And we’d be happy to keep on doing it.”

The passage from Ecclesiastes comes to mind: “Of earth, they were made, and into the earth they return together”. It sums up the women’s singular vision—one that was forged individually even before their paths crossed.

Ng’s first dalliance with pottery occurred when she worked in the foreign exchange market in Japan. When she returned to Singapore, she traded in her banking life for one in ceramic making. Lim’s path was more linear, with her studying pottery at the Australian National University and becoming a full-time lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic.

They first met at a non-profit ceramics festival called “Awaken the Dragon.” Organised by Lim, the festival was to raise awareness about the historical significance of Singapore’s last two remaining dragon kilns. The chance meeting also awakened the idea of reintroducing handmade ceramics into the homes and dining spaces of Singapore. This led to the formation of Mud Rock Ceramics.

There was never an official long-term goal for the business. “We didn’t think that far when we started,” Ng says. “We just looked ahead and continued walking.”

Now Mud Rock Ceramics celebrates its 10th anniversary with Clay Camp, which offers guided museum tours, lectures and masterclasses with veteran ceramicists like Iskandar Jalil and Janet DeBoos.

Over the decade, Ng and Lim also amassed a cumulation of ceramics. As their collection grew, so did its rarity and value. They haven’t sold off anything, citing that each piece holds too special a significance to part ways with. Ng shows us an earth-coloured vase from Hagi, Yamaguchi. “I collected this to remember my visits and what I’ve learnt from my stay.” The ceramics fill their house, many of which are not kept in storage but remain in use. Friends who come over are asked to choose from a selection of tea cups to sip from. Daily, vases are filled with flowers. “You feel more joy in using them than packing them away in safe storage,” Lim reasons.

One is reminded of the Jewish folklore about the golem. Made from clay or mud, it is brought to life through incantations written on paper that’s placed in its mouth. In this instance, the ceramic vessels are like tiny golems: fully formed and purposeful as pieces of utilitarian art.)

Miraculously, Lim says that she hasn’t broken a single ceramic from the collection (at the admission, she raps her knuckles on the surface of her wooden table). “Sadly however, I have had guests who have broken stuff within 30 minutes of their visit.”

“There’s no big story to this Lisa Hammond piece. It’s just beautiful. This is the only piece that we bought online without ever meeting the artist or being at the gallery. It’s one of those moments where you just want a Lisa Hammond work in your collection.” - Lim

“I purchased this tea bowl at the Clay Gulgong, a ceramic festival. This is completely wood-fired with the clay and wood taken from Janet Mansfield’s land. Janet is an important figure in the ceramic world for the last 30 years. She founded and served as president of the International Academy of Ceramics. I was invited to her place in the clay commune that she built. She was the first who taught me how to do wood firing. It isn’t what this tea bowl is about, but rather what it means to me.” – Lim

As to the criteria of the pieces that make it to their collection? “There needs to be an instant attraction,” Ng says, “because we are ceramicists, we are aware of the work that goes into a piece and the value of it.”

Lim extends a pair of nondescript mud-coloured cups with dark brown speckles. “These were made by Yuri [Wiedenhofer], a hermit who lives up on a mountain in New South Wales. You can’t buy his creations anywhere. When we visited him, these cups were a present from him.”

She holds them reverently, caught in the charge of a quiet air. Her finger traces a minute chip in the rim of one of the cups. A lamentable accident but one that is eclipsed by what the cup represents, instead of what it is.

“It is quaint experiences and little stories like this that make the pieces we have so special.”

“When I lived in Japan, I visited Mashiko, a pottery town whose most significant son is Shoji Hamada. I saw this piece at a gallery and it was love at first sight. It called out to me because of its unique texture and special glaze.” - Ng

“The clay in Mashiko isn’t fine, but tends to be craggy and rough, which accounts for the unique texture in its pottery. You wouldn’t guess it but the glassy beads on that vase were formed from wood ash. The ashes settle on the clay while in its molten state, turning into glass when fired. All the colours that you see have been forged by the movement of the flames.”
– Lim

“My teacher arranged for me to visit Carol McNicholl’s studio, which used to be a former piano factory. Carol is a character, having risen up with peers like Vivienne Westwood. In her home/studio, there’s a plaster ceiling of roses in the kitchen and a staircase that’s lined with olive oil cans. This piece is made from a plaster mould — it looks like three teacups stacked together but is actually just one vessel. All of Carol’s work is politically-themed. There are drawings of aeroplanes on the exterior and on the inside you can see drawings of butterflies.” – Lim

Photography: Jaya Khidir
Art Direction: Joan Tai

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Lately, with fibre craft on the rise, knitting and crocheting have been the new trend. The laborious craft requires huge dedication and commitment from craft artists. But the final results are testaments to the artists' passion and creativity.

Prominent local crochet artist, Kelly Limerick, is celebrated for her alternative take on the ancient craft of crochet. She was chosen to collaborate with LOUIS XIII to create an artwork called "100", which took four months to complete. Limerick journeyed to the LOUIS XIII Domaine du Grollet Estate in Cognac, France for inspiration for her art. There, she delved into the heritage of LOUIS XIII Cognac, allowing her to comprehend the values that the House holds. She became enthralled by the House’s timeless heritage.

“The sense of history in the old town was unmistakable, and... I grasped why LOUIS XIII is steadfast about its origin and identity,” Limerick noted. “There's an evident pride in the meticulous approach, a serene and unwavering dedication to savoir-faire passed down from one cellar master to the next. Ageing the eaux-de-vie holds an element of unpredictability... It falls upon the cellar master to trust their palate, sampling the diverse eaux-de-vie to craft the familiar blend of LOUIS XIII that we recognise. These two elements—trust in the unknown and confidence in personal skill—resonate with me and have inspired me greatly.”

"100" was unravelled and reworked 100 times to illustrate the progress in time. With its tedious craft-making process, "100" is meant to emphasise the similarity to the laborious production of LOUIS XIII. Limerick confessed that "it involved four months of daily dedication; more time and effort required than if I did 100 individual pieces."

The Work

The final sculpture resembles a vessel with a double-walled bowl within. Crafted as a single piece without joins or internal structures, like a fountain, the sculpture remains hollow. By holding soil from Cognac, it encapsulates the flavourful layers of LOUIS XIII as it ages. This is a cognac that could only be tasted decades later.

Anne-Laure Pressat, Executive Director of LOUIS XIII Cognac shares that “We are honoured to collaborate with Kelly Limerick, having her join us in exploring intertwined concepts of time and preserving artistic heritage for future generations..."

"100" represents THE DROP, the latest product by LOUIS XIII. An embodiment of a new generation that reinvents luxury codes through ownership, THE DROP fosters a unique 'art-de-vivre' akin to Limerick's approach toward art. Coming in a 1cl bottle, THE DROP retails at Tatler Bar at SG$288 and SG$1,440 for a pack of five 1cl bottles. The add-on lanyard accessory with a leather bottle case is priced at SG$168. 

The Stripper Index has been making the rounds on Twitter again. If you missed it, this index lauds the strip club as a leading recession indicator. The economy is wobbly if exotic dancers, who rely on daily cash tips to make a living, are seeing lower earnings. The original online oracle (@boticellibimbo) is a stripper and graduate student from Columbia University. Heralding the current unofficial recession via a tweet in May 2022, she shared that she would check stock alerts to decide whether or not it would be worthwhile going to work that night. Her recent tweets bring hopeful tidings for the American economy—her old clients are back in the clubs, flush with discretionary dollars for their favourite dancers.

As an arts advocate and longtime self-employed person in the entertainment sphere, it's heartening to hear of consumers directly and enthusiastically supporting their local artists, especially in an economic downturn. After that ignominious Sunday Times survey was published in June 2020, where 71 per cent of respondents picked “Artist” as the most non-essential pandemic job, I’d like to see a little more appreciation and yes, money, coming our way.


I’m not an economist but wiser minds agreed that we've been at risk for a technical recession since February 2020, when Covid-19 did its thing. We remember the lockdown and the things that kept us sane. We ran with our music blasting; we streamed shows; we connected with other isolated humans online and we doom-scrolled beautiful photos on the ’gram. All these mental health essentials that the average person relied on to survive the Circuit Breaker, they continue to rely on to enhance their present lived experience daily. Strangely, it seems that many (at least 71 per cent of the people who took The Sunday Times survey) don’t realise that the progenitor of the music, the shows, the video games and the images that they consume, is an artist.

Being a creative isn't the same as having a hobby. And having a “cool” job in the arts doesn't insulate you from needing to pay bills. Whatever economists want to call the downturn we’re in, it’s hitting artists especially hard. Art does not appear, fully formed, from the ether. Even if the gear needed to create art is a fixed cost, the experimentation needed to get to a finished art product is a frighteningly variable cost… and the bills pile up fast.

At the start of the troubles in 2020, peer-to-peer sale sites like Carousell were awash with photographers selling camera lenses and musicians offloading instruments. It was sobering to realise that artists were flogging the tools of their trade. As an erstwhile lawyer, I will now take a Harvey Spectre dance break: Even if someone were legally declared bankrupt and creditors are at the gate, the law recognises the need for the bankrupt to earn a living. The bankrupt’s tools of their trade cannot form part of the bankrupt’s estate (aka what is allowed to be sold to satisfy their creditors), otherwise the bankrupt can't earn any income at all. Many artists, like gig musicians, were prevented from earning any professional income during Covid-19 but the bills still needed to be paid. Making the decision to sell their gear and being unable to buy their way back in, led to highly talented creatives exiting the industry in favour of quicker cash generating options like food delivery. We might be paying for this creative brain drain for a while.


As much as we wryly bemoan the alleged cultural desert we live in, Singapore does have an artistic brain trust to defend. The Forbes 30 Under 30 list regularly features Singapore musicians, including an act I used to manage, The Sam Willows. Nathania Ong is presently treading the boards on the West End playing Eponine in London’s second longestrunning musical Les Miserables. Sam See has headlined comedy shows in 25 countries and is a regular on the Edinburgh comedy circuit. Sonny Liew’s graphic novel, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, won a slew of awards, including the Eisner Award for Best Writer/ Artist. Shavonne Wong is an award-winning fashion photographer who pivoted to creating her own models and minting them as NFTs, amassing celebrity fans that include Idris Elba.

"But NFTs aren’t real art!”, I hear some naysayers gripe. In October 2022, the Singapore High Court published the first written judgment in Asia that protected a non-fungible token (NFT). It was a case involving one of the more famous NFTs, a Bored Ape, and in it, the Singapore Courts acknowledged that NFTs can properly be regarded as property. Cryptobros and a Discord of NFT art collectors throughout the island breathed a collective sigh of relief at the recognition of their investment as real property.

Both digital and traditional Singapore artists are pushing boundaries and working hard. And these efforts have been recognised by independent, international bodies. I paraphrase the television show franchise and declare, Singapore Has Talent, and these talents deserve to be appreciated.


In 2014, I hopped on a train to the old Hougang bus interchange for the 100 Bands Music Festival. Beyond the eponymous 100 indie music acts that were scheduled to play, there were also booths for food and merchandise. One of the visual artists exhibiting at the music festival was selling limited prints of her work, including a piece she had created as the album cover for the debut EP of post-prog rock band, 7nightsatsea. Today, that same original work by Allison M Low, “Warboat”, goes for SGD1,431 on her Australia gallery’s website. Back in that heaving, humid bus depot festival of 2014, I bought three of Allison’s prints for less than 10 per cent of that, purely because I thought they were cool.

If there is a non-braggy point to this anecdote, it isn’t (just) that diamond-handing the art pieces for nine years has got me an on-paper 10-times return. Granted, what I bought is a limited edition print and what she’s now selling is the original. I bought the pieces because I liked them and have genuinely loved being around them all this time, even as I moved from my parents’ place to my own. Do I get a small frisson every time I see the artist’s name in the media and the public sphere, knowing she’s on the ascent? Yes. It’s nice knowing an international art gallery is managing her and a growing chunk of the world agrees with my subjective art preferences. But more than that, it’s gratifying to know that my 2014 decision to invest even a tiny amount in a specific artist has turned out to be a “sound” investment. Most importantly, I still think the pieces are cool.


Art creation is not free, so stop being cheap. The next time you go to a bar and make a song request, send the band a tip. The next time you forward your friend a TikTok or a reel, follow the creator and subscribe to their Patreon. While you’re waiting for your little man to walk forward on the screen to get you on the Taylor Swift registration list, take a moment to browse all the other live events that are happening in Singapore; round up the friend group and attend a show. Or go to a gallery or watch a recital. Whatever you choose, please pay for the pleasure of enjoying the fruits of the artist’s labour. There are so many ways for consumers to make like @boticellibimbo’s clients and make a direct and immediate cash contribution to your local arts scene. Pick the one that works best for you and invest in the creative and cultural scene you want to have. Creators are standing by to make money moves.