We love hearing stories of how people turn their passion into businesses. It’s never easy, but these entrepreneurs never give up. So when we found a modest pottery account on Instagram called Mud Dala Seramik announcing the launch of its website, we were highly impressed — both with the ceramics and pottery, and as an official e-commerce business.
Mud Dala Studio, or Mud Dala Seramik, was started in 2018 by Tunku Ann who was formerly a full-time interior designer. She tells us that pottery was something relaxing that she looked forward to at the end of each work day, and that even now, she sees it as a reminder to calm down in a fast-paced world.
Tunku Ann describes her sculptural hand-made pieces as decor that add character into the simplest of spaces. Her inspiration comes from everyday objects, nature, as well as her own emotions, she says. The creative entrepreneur enjoys incorporating different techniques into her work for unique textures and forms. Still, she says not to be fooled by the aesthetically pleasing videos of relaxing pottery-work on Instagram, which are just 10% of the process. It’s a tough process, but one worth it at the end of the day when you have a beautiful piece ceramic mug, vase, or bowl in your hand.
In the latest interview of Prestige Malaysia‘s ‘Made in Malaysia‘ series, Tunku Ann talks about turning her love for pottery and ceramics into a full-time business, and describes the process of her art.
During my second year of pursuing an Interior Architecture degree, I studied pottery and the process of ceramics which is where the curiosity started. I went for my first pottery workshop with my best friend and we had the best time, although I wasn’t very good at it then.
The following year, I was doing an internship at an architecture studio. I felt like I needed something to look forward to at the end of a workday, after facing a computer screen for eight hours everyday, so I started a night course for pottery to enjoy something off-screen.
After I graduated from university, I started working for my pottery teacher as a studio assistant to learn about running a studio. It’s a lot of work! And a lot of heavy lifting, mostly bags of clay but I find it very satisfying. From then on, I knew I wanted to run my own studio one day.
I never dreamed of starting a business of my own. But I knew that if I wanted to pursue pottery and earn an income from it, I needed to start selling my art. So then I gave in to the idea and began selling my ceramics on Instagram and recently launched a website for it. This makes it easier to manage and keep track of my sales. To be honest, I’ve made many mistakes in the process, but I’m learning as I go.
Yes! I didn’t know where to start and was very afraid to put myself and my work out there — and I still am — but at the same time I am slowly coming out of the shadows and trusting that some people are going to love my work, and some will not. I can’t please everyone right? So far, my customers have been kind and understanding when things don’t go so smoothly, and they become lessons learnt in business for me.
I want Mud Dala Seramik to be an inspiration for others to explore their creative side no matter what their profession is. Expressing yourself through art of any kind, is healthy for your mental health, for your heart and soul.
We live a very fast-paced life sometimes we forget to pause and slow down to enjoy life. Pottery is that medium for me. You can’t rush clay to do what you want, you have to be patient and learn the characteristics of the clay you are using, and each clay body is different. Too much pressure and your clay will crack or collapse, or not enough pressure your clay will not change its form, it will stay as a lump of clay. Therefore, learning the balance is most important to create a beautiful and unique piece of pottery.
Mud Dala Seramik also focuses on slow production. We try to minimise wastage in our production which slows down the process because we have to be extra careful with each piece. Once a pot is fired, it isn’t able to change forms anymore which means that if the piece not successful, it ends up in landfills and that’s the last place we want our ceramics to end up!
We also source our clay locally here in Malaysia. Unfortunately not all our raw materials are local but we are always looking for the most sustainable option. Our packaging, for example, may not be the most beautiful or offer a very satisfying unboxing experience because we reuse bubble wraps, boxes, and other packaging materials collected from various places.
Although we do offer a gift wrap option, we try to use only recyclable packaging materials and encourage our customers to reuse them or return them to us. We try to be very mindful of the trash and waste we create here and avoid it to the best we can.
It’s a long process. The calming, relaxing videos you see on Instagram of people throwing pots on a pottery wheel requires a lot of skill and is only 10% of the entire process. What you don’t see is the prepping of the clay, the firing process, sanding down each pot, and glazing. After all that, the pot might not even survive or failed for some chemistry-related reason.
A lot of work goes into each piece and quite honestly, doing pottery full-time can be quite overwhelming. I always have to remind myself to take it easy and not to be too harsh on myself when something goes wrong.
The designing part of the process starts with creating rough sketches or simply getting inspiration from everyday objects I see. To start with, I will either make a small-scaled version or a quick and rough model. Sometimes I just go for it and spend three days on one piece, which are usually my sculptural pieces. Some are successful, while others were only good in theory. They either collapsed, cracks, or just look plain ugly. I normally crush those and reclaim that clay and start again.
My hand-built sculptures! They take the longest, but this technique gives me the most freedom to explore and to push boundaries, where I can I take risks with the shapes and forms, not knowing whether they will survive the drying and firing process. If they survive these processes then it’s meant to be but if not, I learn to move on quickly.
Definitely with a little TLC. Each piece was handmade and is very unique. Even though they are durable enough for everyday use, you should aim for your ceramics to last a very long time. A lot of work goes into each piece and they aren’t cheap either when you compare the prices to factory-made ceramics.
It is best to hand wash your ceramics with mild dish soap and keep them away from your pets! So many of my customers have asked if I could replace a piece of ceramic their pets have broken but unfortunately, I can’t recreate them exactly to look exactly like the original piece.
(All images: Mud Dala Seramik)
Made in Malaysia is a series by Prestige Malaysia that showcases homegrown talents across various sectors. Through interviews, we strive to highlight the work put in by these individuals while supporting their craft.