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Interview with Ceramist, Lerae

ceramist lerae lim

Lerae is a talented ceramist based in Singapore known for her beautiful handcrafted ceramic planters and tableware. Her minimalist inspired designs are created to perfection with her skilful throwing of artistic forms and shapes . We love her unique style especially in our signature bee-hive planters. Find out about her in our chat below.
Lerae @llerae.makes

How did you get started in ceramics? Tell us your story.
I started learning ceramics in 2015. Initially, I set out just to find a new hobby as I really enjoy being a complete beginner and learning new skills from scratch. There are so many different aspects to pottery, so I am able to continue taking lessons for a few years without ever feeling bored. Over the years, I have really grown in love with the craft and have decided to turn it from a hobby to a full-time job in 2020.

Any recent highlights to share?
A huge highlight for me would be having my own online webstore. It feels like an important milestone and I think it makes for a better shopping experience for my customers since they can now view a proper catalogue of products.

What would you think best describes your style?
I enjoy creating works with a muted palette but energetic forms.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I draw my inspiration from really anywhere. Besides using social media, I love to observe what kind of ceramics people actually use in their homes. If I do eat out, I pay attention to the kinds of tableware restaurants use.

Tell us more about the method, process and details when creating one of your planters? What are the pains and rewards?
There is usually an extended planning period at the beginning. For commissions, I love to involve my clients to get to know their vision and iron out the specifics like proportion and size, which I gather is pretty important depending on the type of plants intended for the planters. To create the planters, I throw and trim on the wheel. Next, the pots will be glazed and sent for firing.

It warms my heart to see beautiful plants housed in my planters! Nothing feels more rewarding than knowing the ceramics that I have created are being put to good use. On the flip-side, as the process can be tedious, it can be somewhat painful when things don’t go well and pieces have to be remade.

Plant FOLKS x Lerae handcrafted beehive planters
Plant FOLKS x Lerae handcrafted beehive planters

I think you can definitely find designs that are more unique if they were handcrafted as compared to mass-produced ones.
The Lerae X Plant FOLKS collection are all individually designed by us and you would not be able to find similar designs from fast retail shops. In addition, as each piece is crafted by hand, you can see differences in form or glaze across pieces, and this makes each piece more unique. Plus, handcrafted planters have a certain “warmth” to them when you know that each one has been carefully and painstakingly made by hand. 

lerae on fast retail & Locally handcrafted planters

Are handcrafted ceramic planters worth the price?
For sure! But it is rather subjective and whether the price is justified ultimately boils down to your lifestyle and what you care about. 

Tell us about a personal favourite planter (created by you).
A personal favourite of mine is the tripod planter – the feet are super cute! 

What materials most fascinates you when creating a work?
I am fascinated the most by glazes. There are many different combinations to work with, so the process of picking a glaze is never dull. In my opinion, it has as much impact as the form on the overall look of a piece.

plant folks x lerae ring planters
Plant FOLKS x Lerae handcrafted Ring planters

What does quality mean to you?
A well-made utilitarian ceramic product needs to have a good balance between functionality and aesthetics . Weight, thickness, form and food safety are all important considerations. If it is meant for everyday use, it should also feel comfortable to hold it.

Planter-wise, it needs to have a relatively high degree of porosity as compared to other forms of ceramics and be of a good proportion for whichever plant intended.

What is your favourite plant?
Tell us about the planter you would like to create for it?  My favourite plant is the ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)because it is so resilient and refuses to die on me. When it outgrows its current pot, I am likely to make a terracotta one with a simple matte white glaze for it. 

ZZ plant loved by many for its easygoing nature and attractive glossy foliage

<Check out more of Lerae’s handcrafted ceramic planters on our web shop>

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Tips on Terracotta planters with Faizal, K.L.E.I

tips on terracotta planters with k.l.e.i

One look at these hand-crafted terracotta planters from K.L.E.I in Indonesia and you know why they are so popular. These beautifully designed planters are gaining in popularity for their contemporary look and skillfully created smooth terracotta polish. Any plant potted in this planter looks stylish and chic.

Here’s a tip on terracotta planters if you do not already know. It will not only absorb the extra water from your plants, but also let them breathe through its porous walls. A well-ventilated set of roots means a healthier plant and a plant less likely to develop root rots.

We have a chat with Faizal from K.L.E.I about his terracotta planters and he offers us some great tips on terracotta planters.

Tell us about yourself.
Hello, my name is Faizal and I’m from Jakarta, Indonesia. I used to be a full-time event organiser but now I’m a full-time entrepreneur while still doing event organising part time.

Can you tell us how you got started with terracotta?
It started with my plants. I really enjoy the terracotta look in my garden plus their benefits for the plants. So, I decided to try to produce my own terracotta pots so my planters will be different from others in the market. And events were not allowed when the pandemic hit us. I tried to make it a business and it worked. I guess it’s like a blessing in disguise . (smiles)

klei terracotta planter DANUM Y

What does K.L.E.I mean?
K.L.E.I means clay in Dutch. Since Indonesia has been under the Dutch influence for a very long time and we have some Indonesian words inspired by the Dutch language, the word K.L.E.I really fits. And I like the idea of how the word K.L.E.I has the same pronunciation with Clay. 

What inspiration do you draw from to create the planters and products for K.L.E.I?
It will probably be like old meets new. Klei wanted to give traditional earthenware a modern yet still classic design so it can embellish not just your garden but also your home.

What is the type of clay used in terracotta planters?
We used clay that are collected from Sukabumi, West Java, in Indonesia and ivory clay for our white planters. 

In my opinion a good terracotta planter comes from a good drying and baking process. When it’s dried and baked properly, it will have a ‘ting’ sound when you tap it with your finger nail. It means it’s solid. And also, I like a smooth terracotta finish.

Faizal on a good terracotta planter

Could you tell us a little more about this clay and how it is good for Terracotta?
The clay from Sukabumi, West Java is a good quality clay with little amount of impurities. With this type of clay with minimum impurities, it can produce a smoother terracotta. Also, ivory clay has a soft and silky texture that contributes also to a smooth final product.

K.L.E.I HANJAK terracotta planter
picture of Alocasia sitting beautifully in a K.L.E.I HANJAK terracotta planter

What plants at home do you have growing in your terracotta planters?
My favourite plants are Monstera and Philodendrons. Majority of my plants at home grow in terracotta planters. But some types of plants that needs more moisture like Caladiums for example, will need more watering. Just adjust the watering for types of plants that likes more moisture because terracotta is porous and absorbs the moisture from the soil.

What do you love most about terracotta planters?
I love terracotta for the benefits it can give to the plant. It is porous and breathes so the soil won’t stay soggy and root rot can be prevented. And of course, for the aesthetic look it gives.

How can we take care of terracotta planters?
Terracotta planters develops white residues minerals built up from the water in the soil. It is in their nature. This also develops algae because terracotta absorbs the moisture. Some don’t like the look of it. But you can actually clean your terracotta planters with diluted bleach / vinegar solution (Mix 1 cup of vinegar to 3 cups of water). Just let it soak for a while then scrub and raise thoroughly with water. But for me personally, I don’t mind if my terracotta planters develop white residues. It’s harmless to the plants and it just adds a rustic old look and more character to the planter. Also, most importantly, be careful not to break your terracotta planter (smiles)

Do we need to do anything before using the terracotta planters when potting up a plant?
For me personally, I’ll just pot up a plant straight to terracotta planter. But if it’s a used one, you can flush it with water and scrub it clean of the soil residue from the previous plant.

Share your Top 3 tips on Terracotta Planters.

1. Know your plants. Majority of plants can live in terracotta planters, but some plants need more moisture and may thrive better in a non-porous planters. 

2. If you still love the terracotta appearance but have plants that love more moisture on their soil, or you don’t fancy terracotta planters looks when they develop white residues or algae build-up, you can pot your plant in a plastic pot first and use the terracotta planter as a pot cover.

3. Be careful with your terracotta planters. Although they are good for the plants, they have a downside. Terracotta planters can break easier. So just be careful and keep that in mind.

klei terracotta planter DANUM Y

For more of K.L.E.I terracotta planters, check out our webstore.>>

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Interview with Ceramist, Stefanie Ferguson

Stefanie Ferguson @Niefeceramics

We flag off our series on ceramist and artisans with Stefanie who is a talented hand-builder ceramicist from Sydney, Australia. Her handmade pieces are inspired by microbiology and geological formations of coastal and bush landscapes. Due to this, you will often see a little part of Australian’s landscape and culture in her planters. This influence and also her playful mix of glaze and colour defines a unique style in her planters and ceramics.

In the interview below, we have a chat with her to understand more about her inspirations, designs and of course, not forgetting, her favourite plant.

How did you get started in ceramics? Tell us your story.
I first got into ceramics when I was 16. I took a work placement at a local pottery studio. I went on to study sculpture at University and upon graduating from art school I got a job in the art world and I stopped doing my own art. One day whilst having lunch with a colleague, they told me I should try doing clay again. I decided to enrol into night classes and after a few months I set up my own studio at home and after a year I decided to set up my own brand and ever since then I have been making pieces.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I get my inspirations from Australian coral reefs and bushlands. 

What would you think best describes the style of your work?
My style is a mixture of cute, illustrative and coastal designs. 

What has been your highlight over the last year?
Finding my style evolved over the last year and becoming an Plant Folks artist were big highlights as well as pursuing sculptural pieces that have been well-received really made the year shine for me.

What is your process of creating one of your planters? What is the most difficult part?
I use ‘pinch and slab’ methods. It requires making a slab and once it’s hard enough, I cut and make the forms. The hardest part is the joining of the pieces and keeping the form so that it doesn’t leak. 

Which materials fascinate you the most?
The Raku process is an area of ceramics which I find so interesting. 
(Raku generally refers to a type of low-firing process that was inspired by traditional Japanese raku firing.)

Bottlebrushes plant pictures courtesy of wiki.

What is your favourite plant?
Tell us about the planter you will like to create for it?
In my garden, I love our jellybean succulents but in my local park, I love seeing the Bottlebrushes, they attract so much wildlife. I would love to create coral planters for the succulents and play, it could be an interesting mixture of forms.

Stefanie’s favourite planter was from her first sale.

Which planter from your collections is your personal favourite ?
My favourite planter was for my first Etsy sale. The shape was tall and narrow and the glaze came out beautiful. 

What does quality mean to you?
To me, quality means craftsmanship and a piece that will stand the test of time.

Tell us about a Plant Folk.
I love learning about the plants on Plant Folks so I regard myself as one but I would say my husband is a Plant Folk in a way, he has over 110 plants and volunteers as a gardener in our community. He constantly looks out for Monsteras and is studying their names.

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Story about a Lady, a Cat & many Plants

Plant Folks Stories is a series about the people living with plants and how they have brought greenery
into their homes to create beautiful green spaces.

Starring: Amy Toi, Felix the cat

Plant count: 80

First in our series is this shy plant lady that has such a beautiful collection of plants in her balcony, you feel her cat must be the luckiest one in the block. He gets to admire this beautiful jungle everyday but Felix doesn’t look like he is jumping for joy as he takes it in his stride and does his usual elegant feline strut through Amy’s forest. I bet he is really happy with the plants and even more so when he sees the mulberry plant. I had a chat with Amy to find out more about her plants and their relationship with Felix. Read on.

How did you get started on plants? Tell us about your plant journey.
I started my plant journey in 2010 in my old apartment. It all started with a promise to my cats. It sounds silly but I imagined a garden with them running in it. A garden… I couldn’t afford thus the balcony was filled with plants to fulfil my promise to them.

What has been your highlight over the last year?
Getting to work from home and being able to be with Felix and my plants every single day. The plants in my balcony are flourishing and Felix has more affection for me too.

Tell us about your most treasured/favourite plant at home? How do you take care of it?

It would be my Anthurium Clarinervium. I place it in my balcony away from direct sunlight. It’s also placed close to other plants.

Where do you grow your plants at home? Tell us about your green space at home.
I grow most of my plants in my tiny balcony. I’d like to call it my tiny sanctuary. My first plant here was my Aloe Vera. It has grown into quite a monster. I then added some orchids and placed them onto the vertical shelf. It has been 5 years and the orchids are still there and has rooted themselves on the shelf and also onto the wall. It’s crazy how strong the roots are as I’m not able to remove them at all. The plant collection has increased year after year but there was an increase in my plant acquisition in 2020 specifically at the end of Q1 😂

What will be your advice to new plant owners growing plants indoors?
Start small and not get too many plants at one go. Pothos will be great for a start as they are non-fussy plants and you can propagate it easily.

What do you use on your plants?
NPK, rice water, coffee grounds, dry eggshells which I grind finely and also Plantonic.

Why coffee grounds, dry eggshells?
Coffee ground just releases some potassium and minerals ‘machiam’ (similar to) slow release fertiliser. As for the eggshell, that was advice from my parents.

What do you look for in a planter?
Handmade ceramic pottery and any aesthetically pleasing looking one with a drainage hole.

Share a plant tip with us

What’s on your wishlist?
Thai Constellation

Tell us about a plant project you have in mind?

I’d like to fix a longer and better looking rod in my balcony so that I can accommodate more plants to hang from above. The floor space in the tiny balcony is on max capacity for anymore plants.

Tell us about your cat Felix and his relationship with your plants
Felix enjoys sitting in the balcony amongst the plants. My fur son lacks discipline but somehow he knows what I love and respect them. He only chose to bite and eat the leaves of the mulberry plant. I used to have strawberry plants but one night I found him in the plant bed eating the leaves and digging the soil. I stopped growing strawberries as they just die due to the lack of leaves. Felix loves eating vegetables too.

Here are pictures of other green spaces we spotted in her instagram (@amy_toi).
All pictures with permission from Amy.