When we were in Bali to catch some much needed sun and sea, we managed to sneak in a visit to ceramic artist Sekar Puti's quaint studio and caught up with her over some delicious Balinese coffee and instagram-worthy views.
Puti proudly showing off all her lovely wares
Puti is the woman behind the instantly-recognisable face cups and mermaid spoons. Originally from Bandung, she had just moved to Bali with her family. When we were dropped off at her studio/house by our Grabcar driver, we were greeted by the bubbly Puti and her lovely family (and picturesque views of a padi field)!
Love these cups/planters!
She mentioned that her previous workspace in Bandung was tiny and it could only fit her kiln and a small table. Contrastingly, her workspace now is in a pavilion with an extremely scenic view of the rice padi.
The parquet flooring on the right covers a swimming pool, which by the way, is not emptied!
As we spoke, the ducks were quacking away non-stop while they helped to clean up the padi field. We can just imagine how enchanting the night must be with the sky full of stars and fireflies everywhere. She has a shed by the road, where she stores her glazes, unfired work, and most importantly, her kiln.
A peek into her shed
Her sample pieces
When she was younger, Puti was actually pressured into art school by her dad, who is a painter by trade. Interestingly, she chose ceramic art over painting in school and needless to say, her dad was furious when he found out. She graduated a few years later and the rest is history!
Coffee in a handmade mug with a view
Her first big break came when she had her first commissioned work of a thousand or more ceramic buttons for an Islamic-wear fashion boutique. This gave her the financial ability to buy a kiln and greatly accelerated her work process.
Into the tableware world!
Of course, her journey was never without trials and tribulations. On one particular occasion where she wanted to do an art show, she got rejected by the curator because she was pregnant and was blatantly told that, a female artist being pregnant is equivalent to having a dead career.
Faced with constant rejection, she realised that she needed to make something that would give her a sustainable income instead and that was when she dived into making tableware instead. This would allow her to incorporate her art work in them and yet appeal to a larger market as well.
Her unique girl face collection
When she first started making tableware, her first few pieces were the adorable 'girl-face' cups (see above). But even then, she was frequently told by peers and mentors that it would be impossible to sell those quirky cups.
"Everybody told me I was crazy because there won’t be a market for it, and nobody would buy it. Well, you won't know cos nobody has tried it before."
It took her 2 years before retail spaces started approaching her. Eventually, her 'girl faces' work caught the eye of the owner of an art gallery who commissioned her to make the faces for Art Week.
Puti uses her ceramic work as an outlet for self-expression and time to time, she would scribble her thoughts and feelings out on her ceramic pieces.
"If I don’t know what to draw, I usually just write something. It really helps."
We spent a good few hours talking to her about almost anything under the sun - from the colour of fireflies around her house and her landlord's age to the unpleasant racial/religion segregation that she has experienced.
Exactly how I would envision my home to be - coffee and snacks served on handmade tableware
When she first moved to Bali, she admitted that she found it to be a little too disturbingly quiet. But these days (even without Spotify due to weak internet connection), she is thoroughly enjoying her slow and unhurried life being surrounded by nature. She has also picked up the habit of doing daily offerings like the locals despite not being a Hindu.
Another view from the table where we were seated (find the ducks!)
Nowadays, she juggles her time between taking care of her kids, helping her husband with the administrative side of his work (he's a renowned print maker) and exploring new designs. She's currently looking into tweaking her ceramic necklace designs, exploring marbled tableware through slip-casting as well as making takeaway coffee cups.
A snap of her WIP marbling work, she plans to draw faces on them after
Another example of Puti using the plate as a canvas to draw
These faces caught out eye and were the reason behind why we commissioned the same design on round plates, the Kaleidoscope face plates
''You are important, the rest are noise'' - A quote that the gutsy Puti firmly believes in
We even got to see all her works - samples, failed work, experimental pieces
Some of her husband's completed work and his tool of choice, the linoleum printing press. Her husband's equally charming home studio overlooks Puti's work pavilion and the padi field.
At the end of the day, we left with such a heavy heart and feeling very envious of their workspace!
Here are the ducks, calling it a day just as we were leaving her place!
PS. We spent a good 20-30 minutes trying to book a Grab back to our hotel because there was no network and her wifi's signal was not strong enough. She ended up using her landline to call a driver for us.