The works of Singapore ceramic studio Field Pottery can seem like they’re fossilised lost treasure hauled up from the sea bed, as well as being reminiscent of other marine denizens – one vessel reminded us of the oddly cute sunfish, for instance.
Other works take on similarly organic silhouettes; think a bowl that comes with spindly little legs like an alien squid or vases that look like they’re fashioned from bark, complete with “torn” edges, akin to a toppled tree.
The studio’s works tend to take on wildly organic shapes, usually inspired by the natural environment.
Perhaps it comes as no surprise that Field Pottery co-founder Natalie Cheung Ai Wen has a background in building worlds. An architectural designer by day, the 29-year-old is of the opinion that architecture and pottery are similar in how they both involve multiple mediums, an understanding of past and current cultures, as well as the study of everyday habits and environments.
This series was inspired by forest hikes.
But where the two disciplines diverge may be down to the intention behind the work. “… Architecture (tends to be) rational, whereas pottery is more intuitive and forgiving in expressing how you feel in that moment of making,” says Cheung.
Field Pottery was started by architectural designer Natalie Cheung Ai Wen (right) in 2020, before being joined subsequently by her partner Darren Cheng, who works in the social services sector. They currently run Field Pottery together.
That visceral quality clearly manifests in Field Pottery’s works, which Cheung says are often inspired by natural processes such as the natural erosion of objects due to their surroundings and time.
For instance, a body of work titled Deep Sea Dive re-imagines found objects recovered from maritime expeditions – the 12 bowls in this series are all deeply tactile, their surfaces moulded to look as if barnacles and other aquatic flora and fauna have colonised the otherwise smooth terrain.
A bowl from Field Pottery’s Deep Sea Dive series, which builds a narrative of finding lost items from the sea bed.
This fascination with the natural world has long been a constant in Cheung’s work. “This is what my master thesis project in architectural school was about too; the reign of wild nature. We think we can control nature but it’s always unpredictable, unexpected and uncontrollable,” says Cheung.
Her respect for the natural world is such that it carries through right down to the production process at Field Pottery. Take how a bowl for the new food-meets-art private dining space Alter Native by chef Desmond Shen took inspiration from the very same dish it was commissioned to hold – uni (the edible parts of a sea urchin).
A commissioned bowl for the food-meets-art private dining space Alter Native.
The gravelly, mottled texture of the bowl was created through Cheung hand-pressing the spikes of a sea urchin shell (the unusable bits from Shen’s dish) onto a body of clay – effectively creating a truly synergistic loop between the disciplines of gastronomy and ceramic-making.
Below, Cheung shares more of her creative process.