This ceramics exhibit combines street art and pottery

This ceramics exhibit combines street art and pottery

Catch the Make or Break exhibit at Hidden Space, Cubao X until Sept. 12!

It only takes a few episodes of Bon Appetit YouTube videos to realize that the process of preparing food is a complicated art form. You have to consider both flavor and presentation. So, when I attempted to make a cheese board one random Friday night (while watching more Bon Appetit, no less), I realized that there is literally an easy solution to make it more visually appealing: A CUTE PLATE. 

So when I found out that Mansy Abesamis, owner of Hey Kessy, an independent craft shop in Quezon City, would be holding a ceramics exhibit, I had to check it out. 

Mansy was already interested in pottery even before starting Hey Kessy. “It dawned on me that I really wanted to be a potter in this lifetime,” she shares. 

It didn’t take long before she incorporated a pottery studio into the brand and invested in her own kiln. To further her craft, she makes it a point to visit Sagada regularly and learn from the local potters. She also started sharing her pottery knowledge — she trained with ceramics teacher Mia Casal — to her students last year. This germ of an idea also started spreading to her friends who she encouraged to try out the craft.

Fast forward to this month, she opened Make or Break, a ceramics exhibition featuring 17 Filipina artists from different art disciplines like Soleil Ignacio, Kookoo Ramos and Wiji Lacsamana. Aside from the amazing works of art, I was surprised to find out that the pieces are actually food-safe. I can already imagine my sad cheese board transforming into a Chris Morocco- approved dish after putting it on a Kookoo Ramos masterpiece. 

Trust me, after viewing their work, you won’t ever, ever settle for less. Here’s what I learned from Mansy about how she came up with the idea for the exhibition. 

 

How did the idea of Make or Break come about?

The pottery community in the country is small, and I believe there’s a gap between the younger generations and this old art from. I want to bridge that gap — to save, protect, and bring this art form to a wider audience. This coincides with one of Hey Kessy’s goals is to really bring in craft and art materials not yet readily available to the local market. [I want to] help it grow and show people that pottery doesn’t have to be complicated. They just need their hands and clay! Hey Kessy Pottery will fire their pieces for them. 

Since 2018, I’ve been actively holding workshops and talks. But that’s not enough, there’s so much to be done. If I really want to save pottery, my chosen art form, I knew I would need help. I couldn’t do it alone so I asked for help. 

I wanted to work and learn from artists from totally different backgrounds and disciplines, and have different sensibilities. I believe this is a way to widen one’s perspective and to learn about other sides of the world, so I asked my good friend Miggy Antonio of Hidden Space. He comes from a totally different world, and this really worked well for the collaboration. 

Though challenging, I really pushed for the 17 Filipina artists to come to my studio and learn about the process. I didn’t want them to just paint the plates. If they did just that, the whole collaboration wouldn’t have been as successful. 

 

Can you take us through the process of making ceramics? 

Potters have their own clay and glaze recipes. You start with clay. For food-safe wares, we use stoneware clay. 

The first thing you need to do is to knead or massage the clay to remove air bubbles. This is important because if there are still air bubbles — no matter how beautiful the piece is — it will burst inside the kiln (or pugon which is where we fire our pieces). After kneading, you can now hand-build. You don’t necessarily need a wheel to make something! After that, we’ll let it dry. This depends on the weather. If it’s hot, it would just take days. When it’s been fully dried, we fire it for the first time. After that, we glaze or color it before firing it again for 15 to 20 hours non-stop. 

Most of the time, people think that it doesn’t take much to come up with a ceramic plate especially when I post photos of my pieces almost every day. But actually, I had to start a month early or even earlier. Also, there’s no guarantee that the pieces will survive. Fire is so intense, it makes or breaks them. No one knows which pieces will survive. Even the potter can’t control it. 

Most of the time, there are more rejects. But to me, these imperfect pieces are beautiful, even more beautiful than the perfect ones actually.

What’s one surprising thing about making ceramics that you want people to know? (Or that caught you by surprise too!)

The process behind every beautiful, bright, colorful, composed, and Instagram-able ceramic piece that I post online is so tedious and entails a lot of hard work. You really need to get your hands dirty. There are those who question the price of each piece, the workshop fee, and even get frustrated why they can’t see my kiln, Cap, in Hey Kessy in UP Town Center! 

They also want to get their pieces right away. So I make sure that every time I hold a workshop, I really ask my student to knead their clay! It’s boring yeah, but very important. I don’t spoonfeed them so that after the workshop, they will be able to educate other people too. 

 

 

 

You can view their beautiful handmade ceramics at Hidden Space, Cubao X until Sept. 12. For more information, check out Hey Kessy Pottery on Instagram.

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