14 December 2013

a little fighter's 2013

July was a tearful start. 
August went with no time to cry.
September was tumble. 
October was another tumble. 
November we tried to pick up ourselves. 
December we’re looking back and blessing for how far we came.

“I’m afraid your daughter cannot see.”

Doctor told us when she was three day old. It was the day I got discharged from the hospital. I could hardly move with pain from emergency cesarean, let alone holding and feeding my baby. Nevertheless it was a huge relief coming home after exhausting three nights of being unable to feed her properly despite frequent midwives advice, feeling completely alone, intimidated and hopeless. At the same time there was numbness all over me, blended with confusion, denial, despair and sadness I have never experienced before.

During my early pregnancy, the fetal test had picked up an abnormality. Later on we were told that our baby has a heart defect, which might require surgery soon after she was born. Although they seemed to be quite confident in fixing this problem as it is not that uncommon, it was obviously difficult for us to accept. Worry and uncertainty carried on but we just hoped that the rest would go well. So when the ‘eye thing’ came up on the top of that, everything seemed to fall down for us. We were devastated. 

Both her eyes looked cloudy because of opaqueness on her cornea. She was diagnosed Peter’s Anomaly. This condition can occur randomly to anyone, but it is very rare, something like 2-3 cases in 10,000. How unfortunate. It cannot be cured or corrected by glasses. She will not have normal sight. The only way to give a chance of sight was a cornea transplant, which carries a very high risk for a baby because of the likelihood of rejection. Her eyes were also suffering from high pressure. She immediately started eye drops to reduce this and prevent further damage, which could lose her eye altogether. The more we learn about the condition of her eyes, the more indescribably painful it was. And this was only the beginning of our long journey. 

She was soon referred to Manchester Royal Eye Hospital. On our first visit, the consultant explained to us many things; her eye condition, how baby’s eye and brain connection develops, operations, risks and so on. He told us to prepare that it is going to be a long shot with something like 80 appointments a year to come. It was overwhelming. Ironically I work with people with visually impaired and am trained to support them, however, I was far more ignorant. I did not know how the brain connection develops and when it develops. Brain connection for baby’s eyes peak at 8-10 weeks. She was already coming to three weeks. Time was already ticking. If going for a cornea transplant, the risk of rejection for a baby is 50% or more. But without doing anything, she will only have light perception, for the rest of her life she would live in the darkness. We opted for taking this fighting chance to give her best potential. 

Hospital visits have been almost every week, sometimes twice a week. It is four hour journey from us. We usually set off 5 or 6am to beat motor way traffic. We often stopped on our way home to feed her and administer medication here and there, which made a single appointment almost all day. She also had other appointments for heart, pediatric, generic, vision support team and you name it. The calendar was full almost every day. In between, I tried to establish breastfeeding routine, which had often gone out of window. Also trying to give her as much visual stimuli as possible to encourage brain development. It was just so busy busy busy. I felt always exhausted. But we just did what we had to do, no other way about it. It must have been hard for a little baby to cope with this madness, too.  

first operation at 11 weeks
Actual cornea transplant took place when she was 11 weeks old. After 5 hours of waiting, she came out of theatre with a patch on her left eye. Weak crying, still fragile from general anesthetic, she could not suck on my breast despite having had nothing for the last 9 hours. I held her with a relief and desperate hope of success. Follow up of the surgery was intense. She had to have six different eye drops all day long to prevent infection, inflammation and mostly rejection of graft. Each time taking those tapes and eye shields off, she cried with eyes tightly shut, shook her head or woke up from her sleep. Yet we had to be very careful not to force open her eye to keep the graft safe. Simple eye drops became a big challenge and disruption. One of her eye drops was to be administered every single hour! We certainly had a sleepless week to start with. That was supposed to tail off gradually but before you know it another major hiccup occurred. 

Six days after the surgery, I noticed her behaviour became odd all of sudden. Jerky and irritable. High pitch crying. Breathing shallow. I first thought something was wrong with her heart. Violent sickness and diarrhea in a matter of 10 minutes, her condition worsened. I panicky rang 999. By the time the ambulance arrived, she was already pale and irresponsive very flat. As soon as we arrived at hospital, she was given strong antibiotics. First 48 hour in the hospital, she was moaning and groaning, did not sleep at all. Horrible to watch your daughter in such a pain. All we could do was holding her hands from the side of high dependency bed. I desperately prayed for her recovery. Next day we were told that she had Ecoli septicemia (blood poisoning). My heart sank. Why her? Why she has to go through with one after another? The cause and source were unknown, but because she was immunosuppressant due to the steroid she was taking for her graft, it probably could not fight against. She ended up staying at hospital for 10 days until she slowly slowly got better. Doctor told us we caught her early. 
(Dear all mothers: if you do not know the symptoms of this deadly illness, please do be aware thisand never ever wait. call ambulance immediately.) 
another hospitalisation at 12 weeks

Since being back home, although she has recovered from the trauma, she had stopped smiling for quite sometimes, which was rather sad. In late October, she had another surgery on her right eye. This time was not a transplant. Instead of taking another risk of losing the right eye whilst left eye hasn’t stablised yet, her pupil was enlarged by cutting her iris partially in order to get as maximum light as possible and for brain to develop. The operation went well, but both eyes will continue to be closely monitored at the hospital regularly and controlled by medication, as rejection could occur anytime. Poor little girl still has to cope with this ongoing madness. 

To me, everyday was just about surviving. I used to burst into tears. I used to feel sad watching other mothers smiling at their babies whilst they were looking at their mother’s face. I used to feel that I wish I had a normal motherhood. But all of that somehow has disappeared with time. We have managed to come this far. My daughter is 5 month old now. Both her eyes are doing well so far and the good news is that she has started to see things! Her smiles, coos, gurgle and all of the noises she makes have made me realise I could enjoy my motherhood. She will continue to have a difficult time, develop slower than normal babies, and more operations to come. Nevertheless, our little fighter continues to bring sunshine into our heart and that has never changed since she was born. 

5 month today. her smile is back.

Thank you for reading this far. If you can share your experience or advice, please do. Or simply wish us a good 2014! We are really looking forward to it after having such a roller coaster year! 

Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and happy 2014 too! xm 

7 December 2013

smile maker of the week #10

Another surprise arrived for Sabrina that totally made us smile. Her pretty face drawn by Japanese illustrator Yu Shichiji and a beautiful hat knitted by her mum and artist Yoshie Shichiji. Yoshie dyes all her yarns organically and this one is carmine. What a gorgeous colour! Thank you so much both! (click names to view their wonderful work) 

Thank you for your kind messages on the previous post. 
Your encouragement made me feel strong. I am ready and shall share with you soon. Hope you can come back. Thanks again. xm

15 October 2013

smile maker of the week #9

bird people, people bird… (look here)
utterly distinctive postage and present from Claire Loder has arrived to my daughter Sabrina. though she won’t be handling it yet! made us smile. thank you Claire. 

* * * * * *
so long no blog. 
you may think normal motherhood would probably be the reason, but for us, lots more than that.
lots lots happened since my daughter was born. 
good and bad. 
not sure how to write about it.
not sure if i want to write about it. 
but hopefully will do, one day. when i’m ready. 

in the meantime, just to say hello, we are still here, surviving. 

hoping things get better one day. xm

1 August 2013

today’s garden

This summer has been lots of good weather unlike last one. Hence our vegetable patch and flower borders are blooming nicely. Such a joy to collect some flowers and fresh vegetables for our table. The photo is nigella, camomile and yellow courgettes. xm 

25 July 2013


July has come and is about to go. Time went incredibly quick. No time for blog at all but just wanted to come and say hello to you with our little one, Sabrina. 

We are so thankful for all those warm messages, cards and gifts from our friends and family. Slow recovery from C-section, beast feeding resume, battling with sleepless nights… but she brings sunshine to our life everyday. xm 

28 June 2013

sculpting and handbuilding by Claire Loder

I am delighted to introduce a newly published ceramic book “sculpting and handbuilding” by Claire Loder. This book carefully shows various techniques as well as inspirations and artistic input from many artists including herself. I found her approach to this book is sound, straight forward and friendly without too many jargons that you may often find in other ceramic books. It is also written in a quite open way for the readers to explore, which made me want to do more non-throwing work! 

And Look! There are some images of my work both finished one and in progress, my studio and sketchbook!! Such an honour to be part of this book among many established artists. Claire has been one of much admired artists to me and I am so happy to see that her book has come out wonderfully. 

“sculpting and handbilding” is available from Bloomsbury. You can order from here. xm 

21 June 2013

me & wheel & someone in between

This photo was taken at the end of last month, on my last day of running the workshop. Since then, I have been continuously working at my home studio making more items for Autumn orders, mixing glazes and doing odd jobs here and there up to quite recently. But now, it’s a time to take an official break (till when there is no more break!), as it is no longer physically possible to do much due to someone in between me and my wheel. 

For those who knew this news, thank you for your support, wise advice and warm encouragement all the way. For those who didn’t, hope you can enjoy a whole new journey with me from now on too! xm

17 June 2013


to everyone who has contributed to HELP JAPAN Project. As all stock of HELP JAPAN birds were sold at HELP JAPAN Special, I have finally donated £442.51 (67,378 JPY) that was raised this time around to Miyagi Orphans Fund at the end of May. (its receipt is below) 

For those who do not know about this project, just briefly… I have been doing this fundraising project since the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 to support Japan’s recovery, and collected donations by selling my ceramic work online to the world wide. The very first HELP JAPAN 1000 Birds Project in 2011 raised £4933.20 with 1000 birds, which was donated to Japan Red Cross. (you can see the detailed result here and here) Then HELP JAPAN Project 2 in 2012 raised £3600 with additional birds and limited editions of the light of hope candle holders, which was donated directly to Minamisanriku Cho. (you can see the detailed result here) So in total, we have raised £8975.71. What a fantastic result! The project has never been so successful without your kind support. Thank you so so much! 

The project itself has now closed, but my thought toward people who have suffered and are still facing hardship is ongoing. Sincerely wishing for safe and sound life to be back on their feet. xm 

27 May 2013

curiously compulsive #3

another charity shop find. 
an old & beautifully illustrated book. 
simply inspiring to me. 

24 May 2013

Material Matters

A whole scale of my lilypad installation will be taking place in the group exhibition “Material Matters” at Studio Eleven. The exhibition starts from this Saturday 25th May and will be open till 23rd June. There are some additional lilypad and rocking pebbles available at reasonable prices. If you are near by, please drop by. For more info, please click here. xm

23 May 2013

good morning

Getting up early in the morning is a virtue… it’s a saying in Japanese (do you have one in English?) and I know that it is quite true but I am not very good at it. Nevertheless, there are some days that I suddenly wake up so early and usually stay in bed for a while to slowly start a day. This morning, instead, I woke up instantly around 5:30 as the light was so beautiful and felt ever so great. I say good morning to birds and start early work in the studio before breakfast. Hope you have a good day. xm 

20 May 2013

clay and classic

When I work in the studio, I listen to the radio. No matter how convenient and trendy the world has gone from CD player to i pod or whatever, I think the radio is a superb gear, especially in the studio. I have tried different radio stations for the past years, including my mentor’s favourite Radio 4, but what has settled for me is Classic FM. It influences productivity significantly. Everything seems to become more fluent and I certainly become calmer. By the way, I have never been a big fan of classic music. I am a rock chick rather… it is not a joke that I chose to come to the UK because of the Beatles. Nevertheless, after over a year of listening to Classic FM, my music choice has evidently widen, which is a bonus. 

What do you listen to when you work? xm

8 May 2013

smaller the better???

Lately I have been making lots of coffee mugs and espresso cups for orders. Espresso cups are the smallest range of my work. Even they are small, the amount of work goes into are almost the same as other pieces. They are also rather fiddly to handle… a kind of pain this is. (and I don’t even drink espresso!!) Nevertheless as long as someone wants them, I shall carry on. The last one is a bit of fun. A baby cup for my new born niece. Guess that she won’t be using it as babies and ceramics won’t go well together of course, and by the time her mum teaches her not to break it, she won’t need this type of cup! It is so not practical I know but I love making these… xm  

2 May 2013


Last weekend was my first show abroad, CLAY2DAY in the Netherlands. Our trip to the Netherlands was a very pleasant one. First time we tried an overnight ferry, too. Beautiful sunset at Hull lead us a sound journey to Rotterdam. Driving in the Netherlands was not too bad either. It seemed to be all ok until we saw my soaking wet stand table. Everyone else were so used to do outdoor show like this, having tarpaulin, metal clips and all those weather proof gears… Us? All I was concerned about was the amount of stuff to put in our car, so we had minimised the gear. Hence we did not have any water proof material to protect my stand from overnight rain. Agh… So we headed to a local garden centre and DIY shop to search for a temporary solution. No time for sightseeing after all. Great start! Anyway, we had managed to cover the stand and returned to the accommodation without setting up the display. 

Next morning, the sky was on our side! Set off early to prepare the stand display. I had provided a full range of work, including the last stock of HELP JAPAN birds. Second day of the show was much better footfall. Sun was shinning all day. Really enjoyed being there. And the good news… HELP JAPAN birds were sold out! Thank you so much kind Dutch people. I shall blog about the donation process in the near future. Here are some photos of my stand. 

The venue, Landgoed De Olmenhorst, is an apple orchard. Truely beautiful surrounding with a fabulous deli, shop and cafe. Everything was organic. We had potter’s meal on Saturday evening at a farm house within the site. It was magical setting with huge piles of old apple crates, art of tree display, herbs on the long table and scrumptious organic meal… honestly it was so much like ‘kinfolk’ and we had a brill time. 

We have met lovely potters during our stay. I would like to introduce some of them here. Click their names to view the website. 

Sarah Michael is the organiser of this event. Without her kind offer, I would not have managed to join this event. A big thank you to Sarah. Her work is ever so colourful and a joy to see. 

Bob & Mary Kershaw are a couple from England. They showcase their work in Europe quite frequently so their approach and advice was very informative to me. Whilst Bob throws beautiful and confident pots, Mary creates imaginative sculptures. They also produce collaborative work. 

Marcin Witkowski is a Polish potter. Bright and bold decoration on majolica was very eye catching. I loved his poppy series in particular. Like many other potters, Marcin also often travels and showcases throughout the Europe. 

Somewhat reminded me of Robin Welch’s, the Dutch potter Job Heykamp’s work appeals breathtakingly beautiful texture and colours. He came to my stand and commented it’s like a fairly tale! (I shall take it as a compliment?) Lovely smile he had. Great to meet you, Job! 

If you have visited CLAY2DAY, thank you so much for coming! If not, hope you enjoyed viewing the images. xm

24 April 2013

off to Netherlands!

Ceramics are packed. Display kits are ready. Just need them all to be fit in our car!? I’m off to the Netherlands for this weekend’s international ceramic festival CLAY2DAY. If you are nearby, please do come over! (I will be at stand no.6) xm

16 April 2013

spring has come to my studio

Finally, (yes finally!) long winter has gone and spring is here! I am working for orders right now in my studio where no longer full blast of gas heating is needed. It’s just so nice to be able to feel the air is warmer and the day is getting longer. I even hung the washing outside today. (This is so important to me.) Blooming marvelous! Even work can get better when I feel so good? xm

12 April 2013

post BCTF

Nerve racking BCTF has finished. Three days of my first ever experience in a such big trade show went unexpectedly well for me. I received many positive feedback and interests from potential customers, and now have got a huge list of orders that occupies me. How wonderful! I just have to crack on with working and more making now. Here are some images from my stand. Hope you like it. (click images to enlarge)

It is almost impossible to check out all exhibitors in a limited space of time, but I have managed to indulge myself with some wonderful makers’ productions. Here are my top four artists at the show. 

Ever popular Virginia Graham. I am also a big fan of her work. This gorgeous jug has now joined my obsessive jug collection. She even kindly offered to ‘swap’ with my work!! (Thank you so much Virginia!) You can view more of her stunning and colourful selections of ceramics here

Among so many jewellery makers, Clare Collinson’s pieces caught my eyes instantly. You see many resin jewellery work everywhere, but her work was well beyond the crowd for me. Like these pair of stud earrings with such a quirky message simply makes me smile. I absolutely love it! (Also I’ve noticed that she was a part of ‘Made with Love’ exhibition too.) You can view her lovely work more here

Another trip to fill my jug obsession. Vanessa Conyer’s ceramics are so light-as-a-feather. These bold yet rather nostalgic tones and print was so well suited to the altered shapes. I was drawn into this deep purple ones particularly, but her range of work are all fantastic. View more and enjoy her decadence here.  

Finally, I am delighted to share fab fellow new comer Hollies Handmade. Her stand was filled with dream and tickled my heart. In particular this pair of baby shoes made with wire and paper has completely stolen my heart. So cute! Visit her facebook here to find out more. xm