Have you met someone in recent times who is daring and courageous?
Today we share the story of Ayu Larasati; local Ceramicist, Educator and Mum.
It will come as no surprise to those of you who follow us, that we are BIG fans of Ayu, and that there is nothing more inspiring than ‘meeting the maker’. So we did…We visited Ayu at her Bekasi studio in January and were impressed not only by Ayu’s skill and distinct aesthetic, but also by her words.
Ayu’s story is one of humble determination and courage; daring to take the ‘long route’ and questioning consumerism for consumerism sake. Ayu specialises in small batch pottery for the home. Her philosophy in both life and work is reflected in each unique piece that she creates.
In her professional life, Ayu seeks to create a mindfulness of thoughtful consumption; embrace her imperfections and encourages her students to ‘create a gesture of awareness around what is required in making a functional item’, that she believes ‘rarely is regarded as an object of treasury’.
Ayu informed us that it was through social media that she prefers to ‘share her story’. Her Instagram feed provides a hint to her work plans this month, using the hashtag #aprilmakemugseveryday. It is set to be a very busy month and remainder of the year for Ayu, as she forges ahead with what she loves best…The art of making.
Where were you born and where did you go to school?
I was born in Palmerah, West Jakarta and went to boarding school in Bandung. It was here that I knew I wanted to do something creative.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
I was introduced to drawing as a child. In high school I did extra curricular activities such as student organisation, decorations, the yearbook, events and bulletin boards. I come from a family of engineers and I was encouraged to be an engineer. After High School and before I was enrolled at the Ontario College of Art and Design I was required to prepare a portfolio of my work. It was this portfolio that gained me entry and I then moved to Toronto, Canada to study.
What course did you study in Toronto, Canada?
Bachelor Degree in Industrial Design. I am also very proud of the fact that I was awarded 3 prizes for my end-of-year thesis project on Children’s Furniture Design at a province-wide competition which was also shown at the Toronto Design Show in 2012.
What a beautiful story about the acorn that was given to you in Canada. Can you tell us more?
When I first moved to Canada, I didn’t know anyone and I had no family there. It was a struggle to adjust to this new life, but it was better for me to go abroad to study. There was a lot of attention given to grades but a college counsellor was very supportive, and encouraging. One day when I was feeling down she told me a story about European’s migrating to Canada in boats made from oak. An oak tree was believed to be the tree of knowledge. She said every time you feel small just remember that the big, mighty oak tree was once small too. A small seed such as the acorn could grow into something strong, reliable and resilient. These words gave me strength, and I could relate to the story. Since then I have kept an acorn nut as a keepsake; as a reminder of where I came from and where I want to be..continuously seeking for knowledge and mastery.
‘Since then I have kept an acorn nut as a keepsake; as a reminder of where I came from and where I want to be…continuously seeking for knowledge and mastery’
Along the way I met my husband in Toronto. I always wanted to get married when I was young and start a family. My husband is Indonesian and was also studying. He graduated and moved to Toronto to be with me and we have been great support for each other. It was in Canada that my son was born. It was a very busy time for us, as we were both at the start of our careers after graduating. After graduation, I worked as a Product Designer for a design and manufacturing firm in Toronto. In Canada, my husband was working as a Construction Engineer. He wanted to develop his own business so he moved to Jakarta first, and we travelled back and forth for a year.
We love that you design in clay. What is it about this medium that you love?
My study in Industrial Design meant lots of technical drawings and computer work. I didn’t get to do a lot of ‘making’ as a product designer. I was interested in doing things with my hands, so I did a few night classes in ceramics at the Gardiner Museum. I would go every night. I finished the course at Toronto District School Board which was a local school for adult learning. At this school, pottery attracted older people. These students were encouraging and became mentors to me.
There was a ceramic studio at my college in Toronto, but it was hidden and tucked away. It was a calm environment with no noisy power tools. I liked being there. When I started using clay my hands felt itchy when I wasn’t working with it. I’d come home from work and I’d crave the feeling of my hands to the clay. Each stage of the process is demanding. Every part of the drying process needs your attention. You can’t walk away from it. I liked the challenge it presented…a relationship in fact. It’s nurturing.
Once back in Jakarta your dream was to start a home pottery studio. In 2014, you established this studio in Jakarta, producing small batches of functional everyday homewares. Can you tell us what you are making right now?
Mugs and homewares, bowls, teacups and teapots
I try to keep it small. I have lots of enquiries from restaurants, but that would take the fun out of it for me. I did a restaurant for a friend, 1-2 dozen pieces. It needs to feel joyful so I like small batch better. Right now, I’m trying to do new pieces.
‘My hands felt itchy when I wasn’t working with it ‘
You are actively involved with a community of makers; teaching, sharing and promoting the process of creating ceramic objects. Please tell us about your first pottery class at INDOESTRI?
INDOESTRI Maker Space is located in Jakarta Barat. It was my first time taking a ceramic 101 class. I enjoyed it! It was a mix of people and it was delivered in English and Bahasa Indonesia. I have plans to take more classes.
You have some very specific aims and a clear vision for your students when they leave your classes. Can you explain this to us?
I feel when people use everyday stuff it is functional. I want to raise awareness and open up the discussion on mass produced and create a gesture of awareness in my students; because it is not different to the piece in the gallery… it is the same skill.
How would you describe the Ayu Larasati design style?
I embrace my imperfections as it showcases the process. Processes are sensitive and out of your control. In an Industrial background you must strive for perfection – it’s exhausting. I want to appreciate the learning that comes with the process.
Where do you find inspiration?
Nature, (for example the Coastal tan mug), daylight blue, the beach, colour tones, in the studio, other people, discussions, Instagram, my big sister
Can you list 3 resources that you turn to regularly for creative inspiration?
The works of other artists on Instagram
We are seeing a move towards the handmade and the bespoke in Jakarta. Can you tell us how you see this trend developing here?
Five years ago the trend hadn’t begun; but now the INDOESTRI Maker Space has opened, coffee shops are running workshops, appreciation for arts is increasing, the role of social media, and we are becoming more connected, which opens people’s minds. I like to tell my story through social media. It is also becoming hip and trendy in Jakarta. Weaving classes and organic food are two examples. Now there is also a greater appreciation for the younger generation.
‘It is also becoming hip and trendy in Jakarta’
What does a typical day involve for you?
Early-Prepare for breakfast and school
0700-0800 Office work such as emails
1000 In the studio and start making. Trim and start making handles depending on the stage
1400 Pick up my son and return to the studio. Then my son plays with our neighbours
1700 Close the studio
After dinner there is always more computer work and every two weeks or so a trip to the kiln
Plans for the rest of the year… projects, plans or collaborations?
I’m in the process of moving my studio to a new permanent location which also will be our home. The studio is pretty much finished now and hopefully I can move next month, but the house part of it is still ‘work in progress’. It’s about half an hour from our current rented home studio.
I’m currently also collaborating with my talented graphic designer, Toronto-based, Charissa Rais. We’ve been such close friends from our college years. Now we have formed a virtual space called ACE experiment where we will explore and merge ceramics, products, surface design and graphics. Since we always share our inspirations constantly on a daily basis; we thought that it would be interesting to turn our ideas into reality. We have received many inquiries for a process work that we do; I guess that means we did something right 🙂
As for other future plans, I have some ideas in mind about growing the business, but I want to keep an intimate relationship with things that I make and that limits the amount of product that can be produced every month. So, I think I’m going to do what I have been doing without changing anything too drastically.
3 words to describe your Jakarta?
Dynamic, Exciting, Eclectic
Book you are reading at the moment?
Shop Class as Soul Craft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew B Crawford
Music you are listening to?
It’s always changing – currently my favourite is Elle King ‘Ex’s & Oh’s’
I also like to listen to a lot of podcasts in soundcloud – favourite is ‘your dream my nightmare’ because they play music and are followed by interviews with artists and designers
Magazines you are reading?
In Jakarta – Local home decor magazine like Elle Decoration Indonesia and Style & Decor
Online – Design Sponge and Apartment Therapy blogs and Pure Green Magazine which is my newest favourite
When I was in Toronto Azure Magazine – Focusing on contemporary design, architecture and interiors
Any tips for new expats wishing to decorate their new home in Jakarta?
Try some D.I.Y
Buy vintage at markets such as Pasar Kenari Central Jakarta. It has materials, metals and door knobs.
Include pieces that remind you of home
Favourite place to eat in Jakarta?
Street vendors definitely – One of my favourites is Gado Gado at Jalan Kertanegara / Adityawarma – it has been there since my father’s childhood and has been around for generations.
Pasar Kue Subuh Blok M has traditional cakes such as Dadar Gulung but go very early to get the best selection
Favourite coffee/ tea in Jakarta comes from?
Tea: I drink all kinds of tea, I got it from my Mom. She’s a tea-addict so she supplies me with the best tea. My favourite is chamomile.
Coffee: Monolog Coffee, 115 Coffee, Common Grounds and Crematology are amongst my favourites. I’m not equipped to make coffee at home so I prefer enjoying it in the coffee shop with friends.
Favourite places to take the children in Jakarta to eat and play? Particularly creative spaces?
I enjoy and appreciate organisers who put on an outdoor event in Jakarta, like outdoor yoga for kids at
Taman Tanjung or Tanjung Park near Pasar Minggu, Jakarta Selatan. I also like to go to workshops and make art together with my son. We went to one held by Dia.Lo.Gue Artspace and Pasar Santa
Favourite homewares store in Jakarta?
I like to buy from people I know, because a lot of people I know make their stuff. For example, Kemala Home Living. I bought her pillows and boards. I also like to check out festivals, bazaars and art markets that happen around the city. Sometimes you can find one-of-a-kind artisan made homewares, and buy directly from the artist.
What do you do for fun when you’re not working?
We go to the beach. Banten and Roemah Pulomanuk which is a 6-7 hour drive from Jakarta. I used to go there when I was a child. It was where my grandmother lived.
(Ayu has beautiful photos on her Instagram account recalling her school holidays spent at the beach in the south coast of Java, visiting her grandmother)
*Kenalkan: Let me introduce
Words: Liz and Jo Photography: Nita Strudwick Photography