As part of our initiative to showcase more local entrepreneurs, we interviewed Ummu, a ceramic artist, to learn more about her entrepreneurship journey.
I always feel a sense of pride when I see local entrepreneurs who are of similar age as me pursue something that they truly love and with the right intentions. In this case, she is Ummu, a ceramic artist who started Ummuramics.
Started in 2014, Ummu handcrafts all her ceramic pieces and aims to create functional wares with multiple purposes. Some of her ceramic pieces includes plates, cups and platters. Many of her customers not only use it for food, but also for other purposes such as storing their accessories or soaps.
Photo credits: @ummuramics
What really inspires me the most is that at such a young age, her positive mindset and determination propelled her to pursue what she truly loves - being a ceramic artist and sharing her crafts with more people.
Her First Encounter with Ceramics
Ummu was initially pursuing art as her diploma at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA).
“I think my background has always been in art, but I was not like born talented. I just did a lot of painting back in secondary school and enjoyed the process of doing art. So, I thought that I wanted to do painting when I entered NAFA”
Photo credits: @ummuramics
However, painting comes in many forms and she did not know what she wanted to pursue. That was when she first encountered ceramics – an introductory module that she had to take before deciding what she wanted to specialize for her diploma.
When she first started, she did not think much about ceramics as she had difficulty making the pieces and felt that she was not good at it. When her teacher conducted a throwing session on the potter’s wheel during the last session, it sparked her interest.
“I was like wow...can use this throwing thing to make ceramics which was so fascinating…”.
So instead of painting, she decided to give it a try and pursue ceramics for her diploma instead.
Photo credits: @ummuramics
As she progressed and took advanced ceramic modules, she was not really enjoying what she was learning – making sculptures and conceptual art using ceramics.
So, what sparked her passion with ceramics?
It was during one of her classes when her teacher taught them how to make functional wares. She loved the fact that there was a clear purpose in the pieces she was making. She said, “There was this purpose you know for me...I wanted to make something that would serve you all the way…and also I still find the process interesting until now.” From then on, she focused on making functional pieces and five years later, still doing what she loves!
Just like many successful entrepreneurs, she enjoys the processes that she takes – be it when she was painting or making ceramics.
Ask yourself this: Have you been feeling burnout or unhappy with what you are doing recently? We are often too focused on achieving our goals and forget to enjoy the process. Regardless of the outcome, we should always seek to enjoy the processes that we take, so that we can continue doing what we love for a long time.
The Start of Ummuramics
Like many social-media savvy youths, she decided to share her crafts on Instagram. She discovered a ‘whole new world’ there when she realised many ceramic artists were selling their pieces in art markets.
She thought to herself, “Why not I sign up a booth at an art market too? Because when I found ceramics, I was really in love with this medium and I wanted to share my crafts with more people...”.
And so she did.
In 2015, she had her first booth at Fort Canning. Not knowing what to expect, she only brought her products and a tablecloth to set up the booth. Even though the rental was expensive for her as a student, she still went ahead as she wanted to share her crafts with more people.
Photo credits: @ummuramics
Ummu recalled that the event was filled with many creative vendors and had amazing setups. “When I looked around, I was like wow...they are so talented. I was thinking like, will people even be interested in my stuff…”
Thankfully, they were. She was surprised that people were interested in her creations, “I did not expect the responses to be quite nice and they bought my stuff. From then on, I just continued to make more pieces in between my school and started to sign up for more art markets to sell them.”
While pursuing her studies, she spent a lot of time and effort to work on Ummuramics. After school, she would drag everything to the art markets and sell her pieces. What really amazed me was that at that point in time, her sole purpose was to just share her crafts with more people. She had no intention of building Ummuramics as a business and was earning just enough to sustain her passion.
Fun fact: The name Ummuramics came about when she had to provide a name for her first booth. She decided to combine her name (Ummu) with ceramics and stuck with it ever since!
Doing Ummuramics Full-time
Upon graduation, she became a full-time art teacher to pay off her study loans for the past three years. After she finished her day job, she would work on Ummuramics at night.
As Ummuramics began to take up more of her time, she was considering to switch her career path. But what made her quit her full-time job was this piece of advice that she received from her friend.
Her friend said, “What is the worst that could happen? Think about you. Think about what you want to do and what truly makes you happy.”
It made Ummu realise that doing Ummuramics made her very happy and was something that she wanted to do for a long time.
It resonated with her a lot as she wrote this piece of advice on her notebook as a constant reminder for herself. She also said, “I think people, when they want to do something, they always worry about what other people feel. Like what if my mum or dad do not agree with what I want to do…”
Indeed. We often let societal pressures get to us when making decisions, and constantly worry about how others will feel. Perhaps, we should start asking ourselves what we really want to do and if it truly makes us happy.
It was also not something she planned it beforehand. But it felt right for her to switch.
Of course, finances would still be an issue and there were also many uncertainties. But she trusted her gut feelings and thought why not give it a try to grow Ummuramics and support herself.
Most Importantly, Do It From Your Heart
From her ceramic pieces, you can tell that her designs are usually colourful and abstract. Moreover, she does not strive for perfection or clean-cup pieces. But rather, she sees her creations as sharing a part of herself.
“When I make things, I make things from whatever I see. Basically, it's from the heart you know…When you make something for your craft, you have to put yourself in it because that is the purpose.”
Her genuinity and that she stays true to herself is what I admire the most.
When we asked her for advice to give to aspiring entrepreneurs out there, she said, “Definitely do it from your heart and with good intentions on why you want to do this. For me, I don’t think it’s about the money or I want to be famous for my business or whatever, it’s really your intention. I just want to share my crafts with more people. Be nice, yea!”
While there are times when her pieces are not up to her expectations, she never wanted to give up because she simply loves what she is doing.
Her original resolve remains unchanged after all these years.
She still uses the same old wheel that her friend gifted her,
and the principle of doing it from her heart remains.
Because Why Not?
“Why not” was a catchphrase that she frequently used during the interview which had contributed to many of her decisions. This also serves as a timely reminder to us that while these two words may seem simple, we should also start asking ourselves this when making decisions. We should always remember to do things from our heart, because why not.
I believe that her down-to-earth personality and positive mindset would bring Ummuramics to greater heights in the future. You go, girl!
We always feel inspired to see many young local crafters working hard to build up their business and share their products with more people.
If you would like to support Ummu, we have curated a series of her ceramic cups which are available for purchase at The Coffee Roaster now! These cup designs are also unique and of limited quantities, so get yours before they run out! 😊