It's not often that ceramicists work in pairs, but Anika Kalotay and Serena Pangestu from Kura Studio do just that, working from Serena's house each day creating functional and minimalist homewares. You may have seen (or even own) their Hold & Release incense holder that is a Makers' Mrkt top seller by a long shot. Today on Meet the Makers we chat to Anika and Serena about how they found their way to be a creative duo, tips on starting out in ceramics and diving back into old books for inspiration.
1. You work together as a creative duo which is rare in the world of ceramics. Can you tell us a little more about how you met and how your working relationship came to be?
We met each other way back in high school and have been best friends ever since. We’ve always tinkered about in creativity and working together was always the ultimate dream for us.
2. Tell us a bit about how you found your way towards pottery. How did you get into it, and what were your first pieces?
After high school, we decided to study architecture together and really enjoyed learning about design, form & function. We loved drafting and illustrating our concepts by hand and meticulously detailed the 3D maquettes of our schemes - it was a great time. Towards the end of our Master degrees in 2017, we joined some architecture competitions and won a submission with a team of friends. Unfortunately, there were budget cuts and the whole project fell through, it was sad at the time but looking back on it now, it made it easier for Anika and I to pick between parting ways to look for work or jump into our own little business. From there we started designing and creating things at a smaller scale which was the part of architecture school that we loved most anyway.
I think we did our first markets that Summer selling woodworks and paintings (mainly stuff we made during Uni days etc.) whilst sharing a stall with our ceramicist friend Valerie. Val got us interested in pottery and recommended which courses to take, who to learn from, & gave us pointers along the way which we’re super grateful for. My partner ended up booking us into a ceramics course (probably because I didn’t stop talking about it) and we all learnt how to throw on the wheel - we were hooked. When the course ended, we didn’t have our own wheel so resorted to just slab work & hand building which we think was a great way to build up our confidence and learn about the foundations of working with clay.
3. Can you tell us more about the name Kura and the meaning behind it?
Kura means tortoise in Indonesian. We chose this word because a tortoise is important to both of us symbolically and we hold it as a reminder to ourselves. Serena is Chinese-Indonesian and in her culture, tortoises represent wisdom, prosperity and endurance and to Anika, the childhood story of “The Hare and the Tortoise” is still an applicable lesson learned. We love how this word connects Eastern and Western cultures and hope it is relatable to many. Our mantra “live like a tortoise” is a message to live life with awareness and child-like curiosity, rather than letting life pass swiftly by...
4. Do you have your own kiln? What are some of your favourite things about where you work, what kind of environment do you try and create and what makes a great workspace for you?
The kiln is still in the works and currently outsource our firing to a great lady down the road from us. Our setup is probably not as ideal as we would like it to be but it’s great for where we’re at and love that we work from Serena's home. We have an office for all computer work and order fulfilments, A small but functional storage area for our inventory and a relatively well-sized studio for making. We try hard to keep our creative clutter in check, which definitely helps keep the mind clear and ready for designing or production. A great workspace for us is a positive one, with plenty of snacks and a great studio dog!
5. Your pieces have a very minimalist calm about them and are elegant in their simplicity. What are the items you enjoy pottering the most and what are your most popular pieces?
We like creating objects that are both functional and beautiful. Often driven by things we would love in our own lives, we love testing our new ideas using a variety of materials before attempting it in clay. We always give ourselves a little le-way when exploring an idea because the end product is always healthily different in reality to the concept. Our most popular pieces are usually our functional ware like the garlic grater, painting palettes and the incense holders, I think people find it easier to purchase something that they can see fitting into their lives whether it be to kick-start a habit or inspire a new hobby.
6. Do you have a vision of where you would like to take your ceramics in the future? You’re designing beautiful vessels and kitchen objects now, do you have plans to explore different objects in the future?
Ceramics was always just the first step for us - A material and process that was accessible to utilise given where we’re at. We’ve always loved the idea of working with different materials and taking the role of just the designer. We often road-trip around Indonesia - Driving between Bali and Central Java, learning about different materials and processes, if we like them as people and agree with their process, we will begin to prototype with them. Our explorations are still in the works and we’re being patient about it, but we cannot wait to see this side of Kura up and running. As for different products that we’d love to get into, we would love to design architectural hardware and furniture in the future.
7. Let's talk about your home spaces, do you also live together? What makes home homely for you and what do you like to surround yourselves with?
We don’t live together (although we’d love to!) but I do go to Serena’s house for work every day so it definitely feels like a second home. Home is casual, comfortable and pressure-free with parts of our lives all around the place, we both believe that the contents of a home can have such an impact on your wellbeing and see the value in objects that hold a story or ignite a feeling, people should be surrounded by what they love, whatever that may be.
8. What are some of your favourite things in home or workspace?
Between us, we have a lot of books and we love diving back into them for inspiration & reference. We love all our trinkets, artwork and samples from our travels - anything that holds a memory for us. Our families of course, lots of plants and our pets!
9. At Makers' Mrkt we aim to not only help people find the work of talented makers, but also educate people about the value of shopping small and shopping from creative community. Why is shopping small important to you, are there any small changes you've made yourself recently to try and be more conscious consumers?
Shopping small can be a difficult habit for people to get into, but it is so important to nurture your community so you all can flourish together. Life wouldn’t be so great without a community or without your favourite local restaurant down the road. They are the ones that have less cushioning to bounce back in a crisis and it is more important than ever to remember this and choose the small guys over the big ones. We have tried to shop more from local groceries, order takeout/delivery from our favourite food places and buy handmade wares from our friends when we can. If there has been something you have been thinking of buying for a while, now may be the perfect time to treat yourself.
10. For someone reading this who wants to become a ceramicist do you have any tips on how to get started or any home truths you'd like to share?
Take a course, the longer the course the better. Ceramics takes quite a while to master, especially the wheel. Much like anything you need to practice all the time and watch other people very closely. People dedicate their lives to crafts like ceramics, there is always something to learn, explore and improve your technique. Everyone's hands are so different, so you’ll produce work that is completely unique. You’ll find your own kinks and ways of making that work well for you, make sure to actively try to find what movements work best, never stop learning. Serena and I are still fairly new to the ceramics and business scene as we’ve recently had our second birthday. What we’ve learned so far is that these dreams take a whole lot of time and effort. To do what you love every day you need to let your passion also function as a business, so plan how to make that happen for you.