thoughts on being compassionate

I spent the weekend with my sister who have been living in a village in the outskirts of Jogyakarta. With few others, she lives, work, and breathe with the villagers to get to know them and understand their way of living in hoping that she could leverage their potentials; she was really interested in empowering the local community through the creation of some kind of social business platform. Having her staying over at our place is rare; she was always away from the city to get her work done so the pas weekend with her was really pleasant, talking about big catching up time.

The week before that I mentioned to her that I stumbled upon a TED lecture entitled: Why aren't we more compassionate? by Daniel Goleman. The premise of his talk is that there are wide range of factors that prevents us from being compassionate: one described as complete self-absorption that it is really hard to exercising a a simple act of noticing on what is around us; amongst other factors such as, time: people will notice or exercise compassion if they have more time. What has stick with me the most is the word "self-absorption" and I was reflecting on my own practice of compassion. Being a potter, I must have been very self-absorbent in so many ways. It is indeed a self-absorbent path that I have chosen for my life. It can't be more self-absorbent because I have put myself, my happiness, contentment, and values in priority to do the work that I enjoy the most and in the end, it is business as usual scenario without any heroic concept like community development or empowering the local.

So I asked my sister if she has any thought about applying social business platform to designed object. Could it be possible for someone whose work is centred around herself so much to contribute to the community? my understanding is that people who work in a field of art, design and entertainment, could not possibly eradicate poverty in rural areas of Indonesia, because those fields can only be explored only if the basic needs are satisfied; needs like healthcare, food security, energy and educations. And she couldn't agree more with me that it is challenging to implement and integrate social business into a community where designed objects as the central of the activities. 

Mangrove Conservation Park at Pantai Indah Kapuk, North jakarta where I took my sister for a morning stroll. This place was the closest we can get to nature in Jakarta.. 

Mangrove Conservation Park at Pantai Indah Kapuk, North jakarta where I took my sister for a morning stroll. This place was the closest we can get to nature in Jakarta.. 

Compassion in my own practice I can describe it as seeing and understanding the problem in designing, producing, selling and making a profit of an object. I think the problem is that we always trapped into two different categories: the designers/ the one with the idea - the one that gives order; and on the other hand, was the makers/ the one that does the manual labour - the one that was given the order to; and we all have heard and seen how inequality and injustice have occurred from this type of system.

The problem seems to happen when one party place themselves above the other (the makers will be paid very low and pinched to pennies) I think that despite of my solitude in my own practice as a potter, I do experience this problem in my own backyard. To be the maker as well as the designer is challenging practice and right now I don't have to worry about that issue because I am making what I am selling. But when time come where I have to seek for third party help, I will remember this blog post that I am writing, and remember my conversation with my sister that I will do it in the most compassionate, humanely possible and not placing myself above anyone else. 


new place to call home

This post has been long overdue since the last one I have posted in January.  Many things has happened all too quickly after the big move in March 2014 that I was needing sometimes to digest them very slowly away from writing a blog apparently, and honestly, I have no logical explanation of that one. Now is September 1 2014, again so much things has happened: we found a new home, great neighbourhood, met and introduced ourselves to the neighbours, our shipment  arrived from Toronto, I turned 28 years-old, my husband also had his birthday, I was deeply apologizing that I killed the lavenders, spent some quality time with extended family, had a house-warming with roasted turkey, friends came over to visit,  I lost my cellphone during a concert for Jokowi Salam Dua Jari presidential campaign, I voted and we have new president, Wira is attending grade 1 and he's liking it! overall, life has been really good.

Today is September 1 and I always have this thing in the back of my head that I should really be start writing blog again, just for the fun of it. It has always been a thought and never knew that today was the day that I actually did it! so what is keeping me from writing? Well, the first few months of me being here, pottery has kept me busy. I met few people in Jakarta and Bandung who practices pottery. Pottery in Indonesia is so much different that what I know back in Toronto. 

Practising pottery was quite a challenge; pottery studio in Jakarta was really hard to find and when I do found one it was very far from Bekasi, a district in which I reside currently. I only packed my pottery wheel and a few tools with me when moving, so connecting with someone who has a kiln is crucial in order for me to make my own ceramic pieces. One ceramic studio that I always go to is central and very accessible by public transport.  If you happen to live in South part of Jakarta, this is the studio that you should go to. It is called Studio Keramik Puspa at Jalan Puspa no.5 Senopati Kebayoran Baru Jakarta Selatan. It is located behind the street of Jalan Bakti which is known for its fried rice - nasi goreng - the studio just located behind the park of Jalan Bakti. I totally recommend this studio for its cleanliness and great organization of tools/materials and its strategic location. The overall ambiance of the studio is calming,relaxing, casual and it doesn't feel like you are being taught by a ceramicist. You can come and do your own thing if you already know what you are doing or having an one-on-one session with the owner of the studio: Pak Haryo.

Pak Haryo has introduced me to the way Indonesian ceramicist makes their ceramic pieces. Almost every Indonesian potter uses gas for its main source of energy in firing their raw clay that's because gas is greatly subsidized by Indonesian Government and therefore its cheaper than having to fire with electricity. Gas kiln is very amusing to work with, very different than operating electric kiln. Things like checking the pressure, making sure that gas is not running low and also keeping an eye that the temperature is rising the way they intended to be are one of few things that were crucial. it is a lot of trial and error in mastering operating gas kiln, well almost like everything else in making ceramic pieces. 

Bisque pieces that was fired at Studio Keramik Puspa on Jl Puspa no.5 Kebayoran Baru South Jakarta

Bisque pieces that was fired at Studio Keramik Puspa on Jl Puspa no.5 Kebayoran Baru South Jakarta

Making glazes was also the highlight of my first few months in Jakarta. it turned out that the glazes used here was sold in powdered mineral forms and that it is uncommon for glazes to be sold in jars or buckets ready to use, unlike what I am accustomed to when ling in Toronto. Most common substance that are used to make glazes are cobalt oxide to make blue (deep indigo blue), copper oxide to make green and zirconium to make white glazes. Different percentage of these substance will change the intensity of the colour and also the application, whether it is sprayed or dipped will greatly changed the results.  I will discuss further on testing each of the mentioned substance and will post details about the recipe of the glazes, stay tuned!





"The truth about not having everything you need, not being fully equipped or qualified or allowed is that these limits are the nebula of creative genius. When you have total freedom i.e: no limits at all. You stop trying to make the best of things" - Augusten Burroughs

I'm starting off this entry with this quote from the book that I bought from a recent trip to Indonesia where we spent about less than 3 weeks. It's a book by Augusten Borroughs entitled This is How: Surviving you think you can't. The quote above is one of few points that really sticks with me. The trip this time is truly an eye-opener. We spent a couple days on the first week in Jakarta, and West Java, followed by few memorable days in Yogyakarta. Yogyakarta is such an amazing, wonderful, peaceful, inexpensive, colourful, surrounded by culture, history, art and just pure joy. This is where the highlight of the trip has taken place. We also got to visit a family of Mr. Iskandar Waworuntu, who is the founder of Bumi Langit Institute,  a place where his family promotes, nurtures and maintain a balanced relationship between the food that is being cultivated and consumed with the environment and its capacity to produce.  The family has grown their own staples and produces. As much as they can, they have uses these ingredient that they produced to cook their dishes.  

At Pasar Beringharjo where we bought three basket full of flowers before visiting my greatfather's grandma cemetery near Taman Sari Water Castle. 

At Pasar Beringharjo where we bought three basket full of flowers before visiting my greatfather's grandma cemetery near Taman Sari Water Castle. 

Back to the quotes that I mention earlier about being limited, Mr. Waworuntu and his family was using the ingredient only those of locally produced and yet they have created a delightful meal from these limited ingredients. At times we feel in so many ways and so many levels, that we are 'limited', be it time or resources or connections. But seeing limits as the way it was described in the book, makes me see limits differently and embrace it. It is not a constraint but something that could help us aligned ourselves of what we can be capable of and what is not.  Limits also help us to say NO and delegate those to people who are best suited to do them.

So I am in the process of learning to make friends with limits and I am thankful for this trip to once again able to see the wonderful city of Jogyakarta and all its beauty. And thankful for stumbling upon this book while transiting in Dallas, TX.