Day 23

30 Days Of Art With NAC: Moulding a universe out of clay

To inspire and uplift readers as the country emerges from the Covid-19 circuit breaker, The Straits Times, supported by the National Arts Council as part of the #SGCultureAnywhere campaign, has commissioned 30 works by local writers and artists on the pandemic and what it will be like when all this is over

Artist Steven Low creates works out of clay for the National Arts Council and The Straits Times' 30 Days Of Art series.
Ceramic artist Steven Low (above) has created a set of clay globes (left) in the style of his Planet series. The colourful spheres resemble miniature Earths.
Ceramic artist Steven Low has created a set of clay globes (above) in the style of his Planet series. The colourful spheres resemble miniature Earths.PHOTO: COURTESY OF STEVEN LOW

Before Covid-19 shut borders, ceramic artist Steven Low would travel regularly to Kulai in Malaysia.

The 54-year-old says: "I enjoy sourcing fresh clay materials from the local ground. I have found that they are quite easily obtainable in Malaysia."

The pandemic has also limited his access to materials and space for creation.

Low says: "I also enjoy designing and building big sculptures to fire at my studio. With the regulatory and spatial restraints, I'm limited in my creation process and personal artistic development."

What he misses most, he adds, is contact with nature, from which he draws inspiration.

But the enforced quietude has its rewards. "I prefer to be in a quiet place for my creation process, where I can fully concentrate and better translate my thoughts and energy into the artworks. But I think it all boils down to the character of the artist."

For the 30 Days Of Art series, he has created a set of clay globes in the style of his older Planet series. The spheres, streaked with swirls of colours, look like miniature Earths.

The effect took a long time to perfect, Low says. "I spent two years researching and working on firing techniques. The Planet series uses Obvara firing."

This method originated in eastern Europe in the 12th century. Clay objects are fired and, while still hot, dipped into a fermented liquid made with water, flour, yeast and sugar. The scalding and cooling creates varied effects on the ceramic surface.

Low says: "By dipping the clay art piece into a fermented milk mixture, and combined with rhythm and dynamic interaction, uniquely burnt patterns will be created."


Ceramic artist Steven Low (above) has created a set of clay globes in the style of his Planet series. The colourful spheres resemble miniature Earths. PHOTO: COURTESY OF STEVEN LOW

In his video, Low demonstrates the process, removing spheres from a roaring kiln before dipping them into pails of coloured liquids. It is almost a dance as he moves around quickly, shifting pieces from one pail to the next to achieve the desired effect.

The artist, who studied ceramic art at Curtin University of Technology in Perth (now known as Curtin University) and taught at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts for 12 years, says his work is inspired by his "strong interest in the power of the universe and its infinite space".

He adds: "I hope to inspire viewers to think about the importance of life and how amazing it is to be able to live in this universe."


  • Watch Steven Low's Clay Journey at str.sg/30Days.
  • For more local digital arts offerings, go to a-list.sg to appreciate #SGCultureAnywhere
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2020, with the headline '30 Days Of Art With NAC: Moulding a universe out of clay'. Print Edition | Subscribe