This week on TERMINO dialogues we're catching up with an old friend of TERMINO, Andrea Tsang. Hong Kong-raised but now a Stockholm resident, Andrea's days are made up of handcrafting thoughtful ceramic works — works which serve as reflections of her own desires and needs in her daily life.
Years before, in a different life in Shanghai, our founder, Elson, worked in smartphone design alongside Andrea. In a curious parallel of paths though, after both moving to Europe to pursue their own passions in art and design, their paths cross again. We talked about Andrea's origins in the ceramic life, her approach to practice and her unique myriad of influences. Enjoy.
I first asked Andrea to recount the pathway which led her into the world of pottery.
"I was always in design, but more like in the fashion industry. For more than a decade. I used to travel a lot for work. Basically every single week. I would spend more time on the flight than actually producing work. And then during the pandemic I had a really strong reason not to fly anymore. So I stayed at home, and got to really think about my feelings a little bit, and think what I really want to do in my life. Because the job I didn't think was sustainable. And I couldn't keep flying like that, it was really exhausting. So I started thinking: what do I really want to do?"
"I suddenly thought, well, I want to try pottery, and I knew there was a pottery studio in Shanghai where we lived. I don't know why, after living in Shanghai for eight years, I never had time to go there. So in that moment it was just kind of a push; yeah, lets try it. So I phoned them up like 'Are you still open in the pandemic?', they said yeah, and I went there. I was like the only student there so the teacher kind of taught me one on one. And basically that's it — after maybe one or two workshops I just spent every single day there from morning to evening. That's how I started pottery."
I was curious about what attracted Andrea so much as to suddenly devote seemingly all her waking hours to the craft.
"It was just so different. I felt so calm. I felt I can focus on myself more. That's when I fell in love with clay."
I wondered when Andrea knew she had to leave her work in the fashion industry.
"I spent almost everyday [in the pottery studio], so I felt I can't hold onto my work anymore. I have to quit. I didn't think that I'll make a living for sure — [pottery] was just my hobby. But at the time, I knew I was leaving China and moving to Stockholm in a year, so I kind of decided to take a break for myself and thought it would be a really good opportunity to try something. I didn't think about turning it into a business at that point. I just wanted to enjoy it basically."
"I started sharing on Instagram and getting lots of feedback from people — not only my friends but some strangers. And then people started asking me, 'How can I buy it?', so I just built a website to see how it goes; how people will react. But again, I didn't really think much about it."
And now here we are; from a novice hobbyist to a full-time ceramic artist, in the space of just a couple of years. I was fascinated by the progress and also interested to hear Andrea's perspective on how her practice has evolved in this time.
"I tried lots of things at the very beginning but then I realised I really want my work to represent me more, so when people see my work they know, 'Oh, this is Andrea'. That's what I tried to focus on in the collection I'm building now. It's functional but definitely balanced in an aesthetic way and it's also a very neutral approach. Because I don't really go for a 'raw' style; I definitely want a good balance of a little bit of a sophisticated way with a contemporary interpretation."
"It didn't involve lots of different techniques before — maybe I'd just flow it on the wheel. But now, I'll also combine with more techniques. I'll involve more technical or different methods to make it more consistent in a systematic way — but it's still handmade. So you'll see identical pieces, but they're still made by hand, because I really want to keep the clay texture itself — it's the most important thing. I don't want to lose the character of my work. This is the signature of my work and my collection. Because sometimes, if you want to produce more, you have to sacrifice something. And I know one thing I don't want to sacrifice is the craftsmanship of my work. This is the spirit of the brand."
"My work is more focused on shape, that's because I really appreciate the more simple, Scandinavian, minimal approach of design. But at the same time, I really appreciate Asian handcraft. So I really want to combine them together and give something a bit different from what you can buy from mass production."
"Simplicity is always something I go for, because life doesn't need more than that. You don't need much in life. And it's not easy sometimes because, you know, [people] say, 'Oh, this is so simple, there's nothing much designed here'. But it's not like that. It's about proportion. It's about how you play with the texture and colour."
"I really like this simple way of how I express myself, but at the same time I also adore craftsmanship in Japan, and how they really devote time on just one piece. I think this is the spirit of something we lack nowadays. Because people are so busy, they don't really appreciate how you can devote so much time on just one piece. And this is the spirit of craftsmanship. And also, where I grew up, we have a big influence of Japanese culture; their artwork, music, television, movies. So this is a really big influence with me."
In much the same way our founder, Elson, created TERMINO as he wanted a kitchen for himself, Andrea's artistic impulses similarly emerge from necessity.
"My work is inspired by my daily life. What you see — the products — I literally needed in my daily life, that's why I made them. Like, 'Oh I need a coffee drip', because I make a hand-drip coffee every single morning. That's why I designed the product."
How would you like people to experience your work? I posed.
"If they buy the tableware and put it in their home, I wish that the tableware is more than just 'tableware'. That they take it out, they see it, and they appreciate it. More than just an object. That they can connect to the feeling of it. They feel warm, they feel comfortable, but at the same time they can use it in their daily life."
As a parting question, I was curious to hear how Andrea might express her style in her own words.
"When I design something, you won't really see lots of straight lines, I guess. I want to give it a more warm, smooth and neutral feeling to people. I think this represents me. Not too aggressive, not too strong, but neutral, so when you see my work you'll feel nice and think 'Ah, that'd be nice to have at home'. It feels calm and comfortable."
"Everything is a simple line and shape, because you don't need more than that sometimes, you know? Life is simple… My work is genderless. I see my work more neutral, but in a sophisticated way… I go for the earthy natural tones because this is what I like. I want some of my work reminds us to connect to nature somehow."
Thank you to Andrea. You can find her links below.
Interview and video by Runescape Gallery.