Invoking hope and creating change through pottery
Creating excitement amidst a peaceful space, Reine So of Kibō Studio shares how her pottery journey transformed into a group of helping hands shaping craft and community.
She started teaching pottery classes part-time while finishing her thesis as a painting major in the early months of 2020. When the Philippines went on lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, she continued teaching pottery online. This is how Kibō Studio was formed.
Tell us something about yourself.
I’m Reine So. I find so much beauty in the process of slow crafts and handmade things. I enjoy exploring the outdoors, capturing moments on film and the adrenaline of a good sprint or solid boxing combination hits. I’d like to think I am an artist, though sometimes [I’m] still hesitant to call myself one. I create art in the medium of oil paint and ceramics though not as much as before.
Can you share with us your journey into pottery? When did it start and how did it grow?
I was a painting major in UP Diliman College of Fine arts. I started pottery in 2018 under Sir Romanlito Austria for an elective and spent most of my free time in the studio trying and failing before successfully executing my vision because I was taught that with every piece failed or succeeded lies a lesson. I joined the advanced class a year later, and ceramic multiples under Ms. Jezzel Wee. I was asked to train and shadow Sir Austria and become an instructor in a pottery studio in QC and UP Ceramics.
Do you have a routine before making pottery?
I would prepare a cup of coffee, choose a playlist and put it on speaker before preparing my materials, kneading my clay, and starting to throw on the wheel.
What’s one notable creative limit that you were able to overcome and how did you do it?
I was invited to a show amongst other potters and was given approximately two months to prepare. I couldn't think of anything to create so I procrastinated and started only two weeks before the deadline. I am a planner and so it was outside of my comfort zone to do anything spontaneous, but that's what I did. No pen and paper, no plans, just clay, and my tools. I did whatever felt right and I ended up finishing my three semi-sculptural vases in time for the show. It’s important to ditch the planning every now and then and go with your gut.
Kibō Studio started amidst the pandemic, can you tell us how it came to be?
[In] August of 2020, I was able to set up my own online workshop for hand-building pottery with the goal to help out during the pandemic by partnering with NGOs created by my friends. Since then I've been able to lead and instruct 80 workshops online, in-studio, and counting. I was able to form a team of six that can conduct workshops, provide glaze and firing services, and accept and create commissions.
Can you tell us a little bit about your team?
Our team has come a long way. What started out as just a one-woman team working in my bedroom has become a growing team of people from different backgrounds.
Today our little family of six has former baristas, seafarers, and art students. Everyone is driven by Kibō Studio’s main goal: to make pottery more accessible to anyone, anywhere, and to be able to bring hope to all the hearts we touch on the way.
We saw the Tagalog and Japanese meaning of Kibō. Could you share with us how this translates to the craft of pottery for your studio?
I chose the name Kibō because I wanted to invoke that message [of helping NGOs during the pandemic] to our students and team during such a trying time. A time and place where everyone is welcome to slow down, get in touch with a relieving, tactile experience, and create something useful, from a lump of clay into a ceramic—something that could be part of our everyday life. A time and place away from work, a two-and-a-half-hour session to take a breather for ourselves and learn not just the skill but the theory of pottery.
Can you tell us more about the classes you hold?
We started with online hand-building workshops where we sent [each participant] a ceramic starter kit containing all they need to start the pottery craft, alongside an invite to a live Zoom class that I teach. We started in-studio classes just this year with wheel classes with an option for a single session or a full course creating cups, bowls, and plates on the pottery wheel. We also teach students how to glaze their works on their last day of the full course wheel class. All are beginner-friendly, with no experience needed to start.
[With such a close-knit and yet collaborative atmosphere in the studio] How was the collaboration on the apron designs with the Gouache team? What were you looking for that would fit you and your team’s routine in the studio?
Ann was really nice and accommodating. She was able to picture what we wanted for a potter's apron quickly and I loved that Gouache’s colors are fit for Kibō’s branding.
Where can we see and appreciate more of the studio’s work?
Most of our studio’s work is in our studio in Poblacion, with some photos in our instagram. We will be posting some on our website for sale in the coming months too.
What’s one advice or message you want to give to other creatives in your field?
It's important to practice, be consistent and disciplined. If you really want to reach a certain level in a skill or achieve a goal, it is important to hone your craft by being patient [and taking] small steps. These small things can accumulate into bigger opportunities.
Surround yourself with creatives to discuss your craft, learn from them, and share what you’ve experienced as well. It's important to have healthy discourse among the community in the same field.
In a fast paced world, slowing down doesn’t necessarily mean there is no progress. As pottery being a product of time and patience among other factors, Reine So and the whole Kibō Studio team found a way to share their craft as a relaxing experience for everyone.