Through ceramic, he moulds imaginary worlds and characters into life
Intricately molded dragons perched atop the rim of a ceramic bow, fashioned after the characters in How to Train Your Dragon. A cheery-looking miniature train inspired by Thomas the Tank Engine. Troll figurines that stand stiffly like sentinels.
These tiny, delicate marvels are just some of 19-year-old Ang Shuhao’s clay creations made during his free time, offering a tiny glimpse into the rich inner world of his imagination.
No stranger to clay, Shuhao first encountered the medium when he was a student at Rainbow Centre, which runs schools for persons with disabilities. His teacher had suggested that Shuhao take up clay as he had a weak grip and struggled to write for long periods, recalled his mother May, a housewife.
Shuhao, who has autism, loved it so much that he finds enormous comfort in mediums like clay, plasticine or Blu-Tack. He constantly moulds a ball of plasticine to self regulate and can make all kinds of crazy figurines modelled after his favourite TV characters. He recently graduated and has started an internship at a food factory in Tuas (?).
In this latest project, Shuhao is learning the cup pinching technique from ceramic artist Chloe Tan over several Saturdays at her studio on Clemenceau Avenue.
Despite being tasked to create some 40 ceramic bowls and cups for participants, Shuhao is able to complete the goal with ease. He sets his own five to ten-minute breaks with the help of a timer. Towards the end of each session, he gets around half an hour to improvise and design the ceramic item however he likes.
Stressing the importance of this free play time, Chloe says that it is important to give him free rein to express himself as well.
“He creates things that are in his mind. It’s interesting to see his thoughts translated into clay… Sometimes his work amazes me,” she said.
Chloe had her first brush with working with the special needs community during Superhero Me’s “Is Anyone Home” exhibition in 2018. She was paired with Zi Xuan, a young girl with cerebral palsy, to make a series of ceramic pieces centering on identity.
What most memorable was learning how to “embrace imperfection,” said Chloe.
As Zi Xuan had difficulty gripping the tools, they improvised to find alternative techniques to work with the clay, like a slapping technique.
“Working with clay has more than one method, so we have to find a fit that suits Zi Xuan, that doesn’t highlight limitations and brings out what she has to offer,” said Chloe. “It’s all about finding creative ways to meet that objective.”
Likewise, Chloe sees her role as a facilitator, where she shares the techniques to Shuhao to hone his confidence in the medium. Most importantly, she hopes to help him express his own unique voice.
“My greatest hope is for people to know that everyone, despite their differences, has a talent. And Shu Hao’s talent is with his hands,” she said.
“When they see this piece of work handmade by Shuhao, they will learn to see his talent, and see the world through his eyes.”
Ang Shuhao, 19, has just graduated from Rainbow Centre, which runs special education schools. Diagnosed with autism, Shuhao is independent, wildly creative and an active doodler. Plasticine is his medium of comfort. He is constantly moulding a ball of plasticine to self-regulate and can make all kinds of crazily detailed and imaginative figurines. confidence.
ARTIST BIO Singapore-based ceramicist Chloe Tan has been working with clay for close to a decade.
Operating under the moniker Usually Usual, her works seek to connect customers with their daily routines through thoughtfully crafted ceramics. She also exhibits her works with a small-batch studio specialising in ceramic homewares – the ceramic collective Weekend Worker. Since 2015, her ceramics works have been showcased at various exhibitions and festivals including Art2 Gallery, Maison & Objet with Teapot & Giraffe, SingaPlural by Design Singapore Council, SUPERMAMA Design Make and Craft Fair and Porcelain Fest. At Singapore Art Week 2018.
Chloe was one of the five artists to collaborate with Superhero Me at their ‘Is Anyone Home’ exhibition. She was also commissioned to produce over 100 porcelain vessels made from local clay for the Singapore’s Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale.