Ceramics is an art form that is full of contradictions and ambiguity. Works have the ability to survive centuries of history but at the same time, a single solid blow can destroy a piece instantly. Its raw material, clay, is ambiguous in nature — it can take on any form.
“I chose ceramics because of its plasticity and its ability to imitate [other] objects,” 31-year-old artist Tisa Granica said. “And the process of making ceramics is complicated but fun.”
While most people think of functional everyday objects when it comes to ceramics, such as vases or plates, Tisa specializes in larger and more conceptualized works.
“My work is usually categorized as ceramic sculpture. I like to translate unique idioms or sayings into ceramic art,” Tisa said.
Her creations include life-like busts, hand-painted pieces of ceramics on canvas, and an ongoing project that sees her painstakingly hand-building individual roses from bone china.
“Anything can be inspiring, from novels to songs to movies to travel,” Tisa said. “[But] most of my works tell [the story] of my journey and identity.”
The journey is the destination
Tisa first became interested in ceramics as a freshman at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) but didn’t get her hands dirty until the next year. She went on to complete a bachelor’s degree in studio art with a focus on ceramics, and a master’s in fine arts from ITB.
“In 2004 I was one of the participants at this big ceramics exhibition at the Galeri Nasional in Jakarta,” Tisa said. “Since then, I have been in love with ceramics.”
While at university, Tisa became friends with fellow clay enthusiasts Fauzy Prasetya and Bathsebha Satya Alangghya. Eventually, the trio decided to expand their passion for ceramics by starting their own studio, Kandura Keramik, in Bandung. In 2010, another university friend, Nuri Fatima, joined the collective.
“We started to sell our well-designed mugs at Pasar Seni ITB,” Tisa said. “It sold really well, and after that we just really enjoyed making and selling ceramics that could be used as tableware or accessories.”
Kandura now produces jewelry, bowls and vases, but its first mug, with unique handles shaped like alphabet letters, have become a studio trademark and can be found in some of the hippest shops in Jakarta and Bandung.
“We combine traditional and modern techniques, patterns and forms to add more value to our products, that’s our philosophy,” Tisa said.
Born and raised in Bandung, Tisa said she chose to stay in the laid-back yet artistic city because of the quality of life there.
“I still love Bandung because of the environment, the people and the weather,” she said. “It’s nice to wake up in the morning and breathe all of this fresh air.”
Kandura has been producing playful, well-made ceramic works for seven years, but that doesn’t mean the studio hasn’t had to face challenges.
“It’s been seven years of struggle, but now people are starting to recognize Kandura as a local ceramics brand,” Tisa said.
She added that there is a growing appreciation for the medium, with ceramicists emerging in the art scene and art collectors starting to invest in ceramic pieces.
“The good news is, it is not hard to introduce your ceramic works here in Indonesia. But it is quite a struggle to keep [interest] in the artist and the works,” Tisa said.
Off the pottery wheel
Some of Tisa’s creations incorporate materials other than ceramics, such as canvas.
Her series “Something on Canvas (A Text of Irony),” her final work for her master’s degree, involved putting decals of famous artworks such as Johannes Vermeer’s “The Girl With a Pearl Earring” on super-thin pieces of stonewear ceramics. She then attached the pieces to canvas to complete the work.
In addition to incorporating other materials with ceramics, Tisa also creates art wholly in other media, from large mixed-media installations that incorporate found materials, to pencil and ink drawings.
“I don’t want to limit my work to specific materials because for me, the more materials you use, the more meaning your work has,” Tisa said.
To that end, Tisa is now working with her mother and her husband, interior designer Syahrul Mulia, to develop a new line of crafts made from sustainable or recycled products.
“The idea started when my mom started to make crochet bags from used plastic bags three years ago purely as a hobby,” Tisa said.
Seeing her mother’s passion, Tisa was inspired to create different designs, and is now working with her family to create products made from recycled materials.
No matter what materials she is working with or what projects she is working on, Tisa has a simple artistic philosophy that she applies to all of her work.
“I love to share some fun with my designs so that people can enjoy them too.”