A hand-painted plate (above) by the Fukagawa Seiji kiln will be on display at the Supermama Porcelain Festival. (Photo: Supermama)


WHERE: 01-26 Gillman Barracks, 47 Malan Road 

WHEN: Friday to Sept 30, noon to 6pm daily 


When the flowers in Japan start to bloom in May every year, a sure sign of spring, tens of thousands of shoppers jostle down the narrow streets of Arita to get their hands on porcelain ware.

It is time for the annual Arita Ceramic Fair, where hundreds of stalls line the 4km-long main street of the fair. They sell items on the cheap – from chopstick rests to hand-painted vases.

The sleepy town in the western Saga prefecture – about 4,500km from Singapore – has become synonymous with delicate porcelain and is home to revered kilns and pottery masters.

Home-grown lifestyle label Supermama hopes to recreate the buzz over porcelain here.

Its inaugural Supermama Porcelain Festival in Singapore will start this Friday.

Supermama Gallery Shop in Gillman Barracks will host an exhibition of ceramics from well-known kilns in Arita, Singapore and Asian ceramists. All the porcelain ware will also be on sale.

Supermama's founder Edwin Low, 36, is a frequent visitor to Arita and longed to start a Singapore version for years.

"Every year, almost a million people will visit the small town with just 20,000 residents. That's crazy. I hope to keep the spirit of Arita Ceramic Fair."

Famed kilns and ceramics companies from Arita – including Arita Porcelain Lab, Riso Porcelain, Hataman Toen, Gen-emon Kiln, 224 Porcelain, Fukagawa Seiji and Kihara – are showing their wares. Each was paid a personal visit by Mr Low, who persuaded them to put their pieces on show here.

The first piece of Arita porcelain was made in its eponymous town in Saga Prefecture on Kyushu island in 1616.

Its style is characterised by a pristine white base and deep blue ink, although many kilns developed their own colourful styles and techniques later on.

Owning Arita-made porcelain is seen to be prestigious in some circles. The Fukagawa Seiji kiln, for instance, makes Arita porcelain for the Japanese imperial household.

The festival here will include works by Singapore designers and ceramists.

Vessels – curated by Mr Larry Peh, award-winning creative director and founder of home-grown design studio &Larry – will be featured. The project brings together five designers and studios, including &Larry, and each put their spin on the classic vase.

Mr Low says of the project that was more than a year in the making: "There was no restriction (on the brief) at all. We hope to tell a story through the perspective of a Singapore designer. Each of them has his signature style and strong message that he wants to communicate."

Each vase is produced in a limited run of 10 editions only. Prices start at $6,000.

Also on display at Gillman Barracks are works by Singapore and South-east Asian designers who were asked to come up with works that "question and approach the porcelain material in different ways", says Mr Low.

The event may not have begun, but he already has plans to make the Supermama Porcelain Festival an annual event.

"Producers and consumers can have something to look forward to – whether it is to buy or launch something. I hope to start from my little studio in Gillman Barracks and then reach out to the South-east Asian region in the following years.

"When people come together around a common subject in the most natural way, I think the most exciting things can happen."

Mr Zestro Leow, 22, is a practising ceramist who will display five sculptures at the fair. They are for sale.

The Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts graduate says: "It's a good platform for me to get my name out there. It's also an honour for me to be at the festival with these kilns because my work is influenced by the Japanese Shinto religion."


Written by Natasha Ann Zachariah for The Straits Times