31 July 2017

Seeing a rainbow

Seeing a rainbow. 
Four years ago I took this for granted. Everybody can do it. I was wrong.

My daughter Sabrina was born with very severe eye condition called Peter’s Anomaly. Her eyes looked white opaque, as opposed to you’d have excited to find out what colour your new born’s eyes are. When the doctor eventually diagnosed it and explained that she was blind, my heart sunk. No family trace. Just a bad luck. It was a very rare condition like 2-3 cases in 10,000. She had a combined developmental problem with her eyes that required attention, as well as high pressure on her eyes risking potential damage. So she had to start medication immediately. She was only three day’s old.

You can read more detailed story in the blog post I wrote in the past. (here) To cut it short, our new family life turned into unexpectedley tough journey. Especially for little Sabrina. She had over 100 hospital appointments ever since, three major operations, after-op life threatening illness, on-going medication, daily activities to stimulate her developmental delay due to her lack of sight. We were just surviving everyday. 

If there is a miracle, I’d say this was it.

We fortunately met a specialist doctor who could offer Sabrina a chance of cornea transplant surgery. It is known to be a difficult one, especially for babies due to the risk of rejection. I was told that it would be less than 50% of success rate, and if fails, she could lose her eyes. 
I still think she was a lucky one as she has gradually gained a sight after the operation. (she had a transplant on her one eye) It was a miracle moment when she first found her own hands, and of course when she first looked at our eyes with her new eyes.

Sabrina started to wear eye patch and glasses when she was still a little baby

We have been watching this little girl learn so much as she grew. I mean, for her sight wise. How she sees is different from us. Her brain needed to adapt her way of seeing. With combination of eye patch training, stimuli training, on-going medication, she has adapted how she can see better in her own way to compensate the disadvantage. (mostly she tilts her head in a certain angle)

Her body did too, as she struggled to follow moving objects due to her limited peripheral vision and Nystagmus (involuntary eye movement). She often used to bump into other children but leant to move more carefully. 

She wears sun glasses outdoor all year as her eyes are sensitive to light and glare. (By the way did you know BONO from U2 are wearing sun glasses because of his eye condition?) This helped her moving around, but seeing moving objects outdoor was probably the most difficult task for her, such as flying birds, butterflies, aeroplanes, hopping squirrels… and rainbows. She could not see a rainbow. I used to explain what it looks like using a picture book, but her eyes could just not work that way for a long time. 

So you can imagine how delighted when she first recognised those things. 
“Mummy, it’s an aeroplane!” Pointed out a little object in the sky. I remember tears came down to my cheek. I think this was when she was around three years old, she gradually started to recognise those things she didn’t before. 

A miracle moment - seeing a rainbow

Then one day she pointed out through the window, “mummy it’s a rainbow”. That moment I felt really magical. It's difficult to see light (rainbow) not an object and through windows that can cause her glare. Despite all the difficulties, she has managed to identify the rainbow by herself.

A happy girl turned to four recently
Sabrina continues to visit hospitals, take numbers of medications and carries the risk of the cornea rejection for the rest of her life. However, she is a happy, caring and confident four year’s old today. For this, we can’t thank enough for great specialist team at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, where they trains new doctors who can diagnose and treat someone like her in the future. 

This is the reason why I choose to donate 3% of profits from my open studio sale. I will be having another one in August. If you would like more information, please email me or visit FEVA art trail. Thank you for your support. 

18 July 2017

long way to come?

How long do you preserve your idea? 
How far do you stretch them? 
How many time do you try and change? 

My pottery work goes through many paths and different stages.
This can mean about the actual process of pottery, like throwing and firing, but what I also mean is about the idea. I mean how the idea becomes the real thing. It goes through the trials and errors, goes back and forth, until it gets to the point that you feel happy with. It may sound like a long winding road. I sometimes even doubt if I am wasting my time. But at the same time, I know it’s important for me to evolve through those paths. It gives me a reflection, direction and in the end, satisfaction. 

Whether you believe or not, the original idea of “mazekoze” series goes back to 2011!  The idea of “mixing them up” , the meaning of “mazekoze”, was already there, but I was struggling with making into the actual shape and colour that I felt right. In fact I was stuck with making more surface pattern with single colour at first. (see in this post)

Then later I started to focus on different colour combination rather than too many different surface patterns. This was around 2012, when I completed my BA. It was a good result and I felt that was much closer to my idea, so I have made quite a lot of batches. (see the post here)

Unfortunately this series has never seem to be well received comparing to “rakugaki” series (blue and white doodle ones). Whether that was wrong colour or the quality was not sufficient, people were not interested at many of the shows.

I was actually very disheartened and almost given up continue making this series. But somehow I kept my idea alive.

When I returned to my studio work after three year break, I thought I’d have to make a change to be workable within my limited time. What I did was to simplify. The whole design. The whole process.

Today I am happy to introduce you my new “mazekoze”. All of images here are new version. Much cleaner and simpler form. No fussy surface pattern. Different sizes that you can layer and stack. Colours you can enjoy different combination. Matt texture of glaze that enhances the food. All of which makes easy for anyone to use. And most of all it’s fun to mix!

Now the latest “sakura” glaze (pink hue) is added, I am really happy with the result. Hope you are too! To celebrate the path of this series, I’ve recently made a short film. The link is here. Hope you enjoy watching it. 

“mazekoze” ware are available at my next show, Wardlow Mires Pottery & Food Festival at the Peak District in September. Please find more details here.

30 June 2017

bloom and grow

Have you ever seen any photographs that inspired you for the first sight? The image that grabbed your attention instantly and makes you want to look closer. The image that makes you feel so comfortable and makes you so happy. I have so often as a matter of fact, and always wonder how do they do it?? 

Since I started Instagram, I became more and more intense in creating the images in my head. When photographing ceramics, it can easily go wrong by looking like just a product shot, which I always wanted to avoid. Of course, beautiful product shot is important itself and good for selling the work after all. But for me, it was more than that. It’s like sharing a part of me, a part of journey, a part of my life. I wanted to reach out, connect to the audience and tell a story. I wanted to get better at it, but struggled to figure out how. 

Then there it was, a new online course "bloom and grow" by Sara Tasker from me_and_orla. The four week course to learn how to create more effective visual images using flowers. I had an eye on what she does for a while and listened to her podcasts, which are just excellent. So I was intrigued with her new course, but you know me, at first I hesitated. Would it be really helpful? Can I actually manage within my time? What’s got to do with flowers with my ceramics? All those questions popped into my head, but after reading the more details, my curiosity has won. And I am so pleased that I signed up. Indeed I’ve learnt so much and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Each week, we had a key element to work on. She gave us ideas behind and sound reasons that she has already researched, which is good for me of course! We practiced and stretched our mind and imagination through some tasks on the way leading to the end of week challenge. It would be difficult to explain in short, so please have a look at some of my work each week.

What do you think? Anything stood out to you? If you would like to see the detailed information of each image, please have a look at my Instagram (→here). You can find all of those captions. 

Obviously some are better than other, and more uncomfortable than other. But even for something that was totally out of my comfort zone and I felt so challenged, I hope I’ve managed to push myself to try thinking with a different perspective. What I realised after taking this course, it was not just about how to. It was also about learning myself and my true voice. On the top of that, the connections I made through other cohorts has been amazing. So supportive and inspiring. There are so many others that I would like to introduce to you here, but the best way to find out more, you can click the photo gallery of this course #bloomandgrowtogether (here). Hope you will find your fav, I am sure!  

By the way, the image on the top is a part of my excersise in this course and I made a short video. You can view it (here). 

6 June 2017

Smile Maker of the Week #15 - Painting by Debbie George

It’s a time of “Smile Maker of the Week”, my only series in my blog (he he!), where I share brilliant artists work that I love and makes me smile. Today I would like to share a fabulous paintings by Debbie George from Yorkshire. I am sure many of you have seen her beautiful paintings, but if not, she is a must!

I remember the delight when I first came across her paintings via Instagram probably about a half year ago. Her paintings with flowers and ceramics (which is the best choice by the way) are just so breathtakingly charming. I love that somewhat nostalgic style she creates and the way she treats the surface with scalpel, which I felt a bit like scraffitto sensation in clay that I love. 

I have been following her Instagram since and always (yes always) loved every single piece of her work without fail. I wanted to purchase her work so much but obviously could not afford many (I wish!), so I was closely monitoring her feed and talking to my heart. One day her Instagram feed came up with an image (→ this post), which wasn’t actually a painting but a photograph of a small cup with a rabbit on it and forget-me-nots. Suddenly I had a sort of flash back and felt very emotional. I even felt a bit personal. I knew this was it. So I contacted her if I could possibly purchase this combination of painting, which I knew she would paint wonderfully without a doubt. 

You can guess how delighted I was to see the painting in real life, which arrived to us last month (sorry this series title is “this week”, nevertheless!) via her solo exhibition at The Edition

So why personal to me? 

Well, I have a thing with rabbits but the story was this. 

Me and Muffin at my old flat
I once had a little rabbit called Muffin. 8 weeks old Muffin came to my small flat I used to live nearly 15 years ago. It was one of the most difficult time for me after having experienced a few years of physical and emotional abuse from my ex-husband. Left that ugly moment behind, I started my own life from a scratch again and slowly, but it was not easy than you might think. 

Muffin was a calm but funny bunny. I absolutely adored him. He became a great company for me. In a way I felt that he helped me to rebuild my self-esteem. He showed me a light out of tunnel, telling me that life is good. He was a saviour. 

Some years later, having started a relationship with a new man - now my husband, Muffin and I moved to a new house and settled down well. Muffin loved my step-son and he loved Muffin. Muffin became a part of our family. Unfortunately Muffin suddenly died before my daughter was born. But he remains in my heart as a symbol of good life. 

This particular painting has certainly stolen my heart, with my favourite flower, forget-me-nots. (And how not to love that name!) I now see this painting as a reminder of good life, no matter how hard the things can be. Now sitting in my living room to shine everyday. I must get it framed soon! 

Thank you so much Debbie for such a wonderful work. More of her paintings, do check out her Instagram here

29 May 2017

new start

Last Friday was my last day at the pottery workshop at Henshaws Arts & Crafts Centre, where I have been working for the last 8 years. I had a lovely farewell from my colleagues and students, even from some students parents. Lots of hugs and rather emotional day it was. 

After completing my first diploma study in ceramics back in 2000, I took a totally different career path as a social health care worker, for which I also studied and specialised in working with people with learning difficulties and Autism. I worked in many different sectors including educational setting, hospitals, community housings and day centres. Once I was working as a team leader of residential college and was even considering the career step. My pottery dream was hidden behind, even though I was working as an occasional assistant to my late mentor David C White on my day offs. Or maybe because of seeing him and experiencing how the studio potter works day in day out, I was not confident enough to start up as a potter myself I guess. 

Things slightly changed 8 years ago, when I got a job as a pottery instructor at the local organisation for people with special needs. My pottery vibe has returned and I was so delighted. My focus was to empower those people regardless their disability by finding a way that they can create, develop and achieve through the pottery. I met many wonderful students who gave me inspiration over the years. I have learnt so much too. 

Running a workshop is different from making your own work as a potter. I didn’t start that until much later and it was after David passed away (→ read this post). He told me that he didn’t teach me enough, holding his last breath flighting with his cancer. It was a moment that I felt rather guilty. I felt that I haven’t given him back for what he did. Indeed he did teach me so much. That sort of niggly feeling was somewhere back in my mind always, but I still did not have enough courage to become a full-time potter.

It’s been nearly a year since I started one-day-a-week studio work, after three year break due to my family commitment with my daughter’s medical condition (→ read more here), I found myself struggling with getting the timing right, getting tired and stressed, juggling two different jobs as well as looking after my girl. I often questioned myself, what my priority was and what I was pursuing in my life. The answer required a leap of faith. And I finally decided to take the step.

From tomorrow, I will be solely working at my studio. It’s a new start for me and a new start for my family. It will be a big challenge but I am now so happy to have made the decision. (Only took me 17 years, gosh!)

Thank you my family for believing in me. Thank you David for your spirit. Thank YOU for your encouragement. Onward and upward! Watch this space! 

14 May 2017

studio story 2

my current studio view

Last two weeks, my husband and I have revamped my studio floor. It was a big job as we had to move everything off the floor including the kiln and all heavy stuff. Like the photos here, we used all the shelves to store things temporarily and moved things out to the gazebo propped in the garden. 

So how come I’ve decided to do such a thing now? 

If you are my blog reader for a long time, you might remember where it started. All of my studio has been built by ourselves one by one going back to 2007! Yes, it was ten years ago when we first started! You can view my old blog post for what was like (→ read “studio story”). I wasn’t working as a potter, doing a totally different day job. The pottery studio was a big dream. 

I remember we laid the concrete floor and painted the surface in 2011. It was winter, which wasn't great to lay concrete. Also we had a tight budget, we used a rough surface finish, which was ok to start with but soon the problem has cropped up. Clay contains scilica, which is hazard to your health if you breathe in. So it is important to maintain the studio clean and free from clay dust as much as possible. Unfortunately the rough cobbled floor surface was very good at collecting the dust, no matter how much I tried to sweep or mop it. Even I mopped the floor, I felt dust in the air. I got lazier and lazier due to the lack of time so I neglected a proper cleaning. Over the years it got worse and the surface painting started to come off too. 

I know by then I should have chosen expensive smooth surface finish or asked a professional to do so, but I wasn’t working as a potter and it seemed to be a very luxurious option. 

Since my daughter’s arrival, I I’ve never brought her into my studio because of concerns over the dust. Now she recognises that her mummy works in the studio and makes pots. I really wanted my studio to be safe for her to pop in, so she can see what I do. That was it. I’ve decided to go for the luxurious option. 


So here are before and after view. Isn’t it brilliant? I was very pleased with the result. On the top of that, I spent little more time to reorganise the studio wall etc. Now it’s much easier to use, move stuff and most of all clean too (even for me!) My girl would be happy watching me working one day I hope. 

18 April 2017

Good plan?

Continuing one-day-a-week-potter’s life. 

Even that precious one day is not actually that long. Say you go in to the studio as soon as you are back from dropping my daughter off to the nursery and even leaving any house chores behind, it will soon the time for picking her up before you know it. I also usually prepare for tea as much as I can before the nursery run, as it seems to be working better with her because, one: I don’t need to wrestle with hot pans and a crying child on my knees at the same time, and two: mummy and daughter’s catching up time are suddenly available! (it’s a win win!) So considering the tea prep time as well, my studio time is VERY (please emphasise here!) limited. 

To make the best of time available, it requires really good planning. So how do I do it? Well, my current tactic is 

“not to plan too much”. 

I used to plan a lot in a day, trying to make the most of my studio day. This was actually much worse than not planning at all. Most of the time, I wasn’t able to complete it or ended up rushing. As a result, the quality wasn’t good, mistakes happened, breakage occurred, chaos in the studio and untidied tools left behind (which means I have to start with cleaning tasks when I next work, you know that dreadful feeling!). I became moody and most importantly my self esteem went down.

Due to the nature of materials, timing is crucial. Lots of extra care required too. Wrapping clay work here and there, checking every evening (as I cannot do this during the day because I’m working elsewhere) and sometimes night shift & weekend work comes in, which isn’t really ideal. All of this means very slow progress. 

Nevertheless, I think so far slow progress has been worth while after seeing some productions on my new “mazekoze”. Those layered bowls are much wider and shallower than before. I made them with a much bigger gap in between so that it gives a clear difference across the three sizes and hopefully gives each individual piece its own use, in a better way. 

I have also omitted the scraffitto surface design that I used to apply on plates and jugs. (photo below) Instead, I focused on its shape and glaze colour. Simpler version were quite well received in my Instagram, so I am pleased. 

I am currently working toward the forthcoming show in August and September. It seems to be a long away but it isn’t for a part-timer, so I must plan “reasonably” well and work hard! If you are a creative part-timer / mummy, and have got a tip that you are happy to share, I’m all ears! m x

2 April 2017

The best retreat ever!

My first ever flower arrangement in Sarah’s lovely cottage
Last Friday I had a rather special day attending the Cut Flower Patch workshop by Louise Curley & flower arrangement workshop organised by Sarah from Simply by Arrangement. My word, it was just a fantastic. I mean, everything - workshop, surrounding, food and people - was just perfect.

How it happened? Strange enough, it all started with Instagram. 

Since my daughter was born, our garden was the first thing that was omitted from our to do list. We were just too busy to look after one more thing. So the garden got tired and left to be gone wild. Three years on, as my little girl can possibly be a little helper (even for five minutes!), we decided it’s a time to pull our sleeves up and get back into the neglected chore. I then thought really hard what I really want to get out from our small garden and the answer for me was the cut flowers. I always like the idea of bringing some flowers from the garden into the house. Simple flowers give me a tremendous joy more than what you can buy from the shop. (and expensive!) So we restructured the garden patch last winter to suit for cut flowers and even bought a brilliant book called The Cut Flower Patch by Louise Curley. Just as I was thinking about how and what to plant, I’ve found this workshop information via Sarah’s Instagram feed just in time.

Sarah’s house in West Yorkshire were amazing, to almost overwhelmingly stunning. When I panicky arrived rather late after getting lost my way in the country lane unexpectedly, being served a cup of lovely coffee and handmade cakes to try calming myself down, my heart continued beating fast because of all that excitement from what I can see in my eyes. It was just breathtakingly awe. (and I wish I took photographs!) Between the workshop, we enjoyed a lovely meal made by Christie, Sarah's business partner. Their hospitality was beyond any arts & crafts workshops I ever attended. 

Louise showing us pricking technique
The first session was Louise’s cut flower patch workshop. As a reader of her book, I really wanted to get my hands on practically. I really liked her approach, very friendly, down to earth and no silly questions to be asked, as I guess all beginners have so many little things that you are not sure (don’t you?) and I had many. Lots of practicing seeding, pricking out and potting Dahlias (yes dahlias!). I must say I do enjoy touching soil, like clay I suppose, more than anything. Can’t wait to transfer these into our home garden. 

Sarah’s effortless flower arrangement
The second session was Sarah’s flower bouquet making. Sarah’s workshop was filled with gorgeous selection of flowers and foliage. She first showed us how to make a bouquet more free and spontaneous way within a hand without using any structural materials. I’ve never done any flower arrangement, certainly not without a vase. Well I must say it is not easy! She did it so effortlessly but I was finding it really hard to keep the shape in the air. Sarah eventually rescued me and my flower bouquet has managed to take a shape, Phew! 

The people attended the workshop were so lovely too. All came from different areas and different background but had a common interest to talk about. Strange in a way to meet people from Instagram but actually quite nice to share what we love in this way. Quite a buzzing experience I think. 

All in all (apart from the panicking morning), it was a wonderful retreat for me to spend such a lovely day with special people. Thank you Louise, Sarah and Christie. If you are interested in any workshop like this, please check out their site - you can almost smell the goodness and I am sure you will love it. 

18 March 2017

Clay College Stoke donation

Hello everyone. Today I donated one of my small porcelain lilypad (as pictured) for the fundraising auction towards Clay College Stoke, which was aiming to be opened this September. As you may know, sadly so many pottery courses were closed down in UK today, hence most of colleges have lost “hands-on” teaching method as they are more focusing on “concept” or simply destroyed “arts & crafts” departments from education as they were considered as “not important” in our life! Well, it is of course! 

Clay College will be a great opportunity to train required skills to a professional level. In order to keep our craftsmanship, those skills and knowledge need to be passed on to next generations now more than ever. (If I were younger with no baby, I would love to apply!) 

If you are interested in bidding, not necessarily my work but also there are so many wonderful work in this site, or even just to donate £10 or so, please go and check out the Facebook group called, Potters For Clay College (Pot Auction). Auction will run up to 10th April. 

Thank you so much for reading!  m x

25 February 2017

February round up

It’s nearly the end of February and I have not written one single blog post this month, so here is a bit of round up. 

Well, life has been busy as always, like everybody else with children, juggling your working days, house, kids and your own creative work, which for me is something has been left to the minimum at the moment unfortunately. Nevertheless, I have been working in the studio one day a week, practicing and refining the existing design of my work to make them more economical and effective to the time I can have now. Designs are now much more simple but still individual as “rakugaki” (spontaneous doodling) originally means. I hope you like my new larger size of mugs and side plates. It is still challenging to refine your skills within a limited time but I do enjoy a lot. 
(more work can be seen in my Instagram and Facebook)

As for my ever growing girl, things are brilliant health wise, all doing so well. Her speech is coming along so fast, in English of course but also in Japanese, which she has never been that pushed but seems to be soaking up so quickly! 

cardboard box is the best!
Keeping her occupied all day is a hard work for mum but I am also learning how to make your day best each day, by listening to her coming out with lots of affectionate expressions and her own story telling. It is such a magical time of her life, I must say. And of course, for me too. 

Spring is almost here. I can’t wait to see those bulbs to bloom! m x

30 January 2017

Thank you for your help!

I just wanted to say thank you again for those who visited my open studio earlier this month and made kind donations. I have recently received an official receipt from the hospital so I thought it’d be only fair to share with you. 

It’s difficult to decide which organisation you choose to donate money to, as there are so many worthy causes. The reason I decided Manchester Royal Eye Hospital was from my personal experience through my daughter’s medical history. It is personal but hopefully will be a little help to many other families like us in the future. 

As some of my regular blog readers might be aware of this, but our daughter Sabrina was born with a very rare eye condition called Peter’s Anomaly, for which there is no cure. She was basically blind. Doctors at the local hospital could not identify her condition, until a specialist diagnosed her later on. Sabrina was immediately put on drugs to control her eye pressure and referred to Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, where specialist doctors and equipment are in place. 

She had two major eye operations including a cornea transplant at the age of three months. This carried very high risk of loss of her eye but thankfully she was one of the lucky one and has developed some eye sight. Sabrina will continue to carry the risk of rejection and pressure controlled medications for her life time, however, with support from Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, she is maintaining her good condition today. 

Manchester Royal Eye Hospital trains doctors in special area such as hers. People’s kind donation will help them bring more doctors on board. Thank you again everyone! m x

8 January 2017

New Year Open Studio & Sale

Thank you so much for those who came to my first ever Open Studio & Sale this Saturday. 

It was lovely to catch up with some old friends and meet new faces. It was such a great turn out. Having been so busy than I expected, I’d completely forgotten to take any photos on the day! Instead, I have collected some images from the day before to share with you, especially those who could not make it. 

3% of sales will be donated to Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and Children’s Hospital, in the hope of helping children who require specialist doctors and equipment to treat rare but severe medical condition, like our daughter.

So many pots happily went to new homes and we have raised lots of donation, so thank you so so much! m x

2 January 2017


A Happy New Year to you all! 

Unlike my usual state, last year’s resolution “reopening the studio door” was happily achieved, so I am well chuffed. 

As for this year, I’d love to say “concentrating in the studio work more”, but this will come with life balance and negotiation with other commitments, so for now let me say “a little more moving forward”. And “good health”, that’s everything! 

How about you? 

Today I emptied the shelf and the cabinet top, getting ready for Open Studio & Sale this Saturday. It'll be held in our home, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire. If you are near by, please call at. For more info, please email me to makikohastings@gmail.com 

m x 

20 December 2016

Counting down

Thank you everybody for visiting my blog and support for this year. Wishing you all a lovely Christmas and a wonderful new year! Here are my ever growing Instagram snaps from our household. m x 

8 December 2016

New Year Open Studio & Stock Sale

Here is something you might be interested in after the Christmas rush. 

I will be doing my first open studio & stock sale on Saturday 7th January 2017 from 10:00am to 2:00pm. Many of porcelain lilypads (above image) and “hanetsubo” series will be on sale with a big discount, as well as some old stock of tableware, many prints and one off pieces.

Why not join us celebrating the new year with a mulled wine (can’t get enough surely!?) and Japanese nibbles? A unique opportunity to sneak peek my studio too! 

3% of sales will be donated to Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and Children’s Hospital.

It will be held at our home in North Yorkshire. If you are interested in, please drop me an email to makikohastings@gmail.com I will send you an invite soonish! Hope you can make it! m x