Lovera Collections 
Blk 1015 Geylang East Ave 3

Lovera, crockery, tableware
Ms Ong says she has always had an interest in crockery, and she usually sources for plates that have loud prints, bright colours, have Moroccan style prints (above) on them, or have vintage floral designs. Photo: Lovera Collections

What annoys you most when you are at a restaurant? Bad service, poor lighting, food portions that are way too small for the price you pay? For Vera Ong, nothing gets her goat more than food served on plain, boring plates. "There are so many pretty plates available, and I find it irritating when a restaurant doesn't use them to plate their food," she says.

Ms Ong is a self-confessed crockery hoarder – she even calls herself that on her business card. The former Singapore Airlines stewardess is also the founder of Lovera Collections, a store where she sells crockery. She quit flying in 2013 to run the crockery store full time.

Ms Ong says she has always had an interest in crockery. "I like to cook, and would serve the food on pretty plates. They look much better in photos this way," she says. When she was still flying, she would often check out markets in Europe to find crockery. These days, she would head to countries such as South Korea and Taiwan to source for plates.

Some of the pieces in her collection are limited edition pieces, and there are only about six of each kind. Lest you think the plates are only good for display on the walls, Ms Ong begs to differ. "All the crockery that I sell are food safe," she says.

She usually sources for plates that have loud prints, bright colours, have Moroccan style prints on them, or have vintage floral designs. "My customers say I have got an eye for good design," she quips.

Lovera, tableware, crockery
Photo: Lovera Collections

She also tries to bring in more affordable brands, and some of the plates start from S$8.90 per piece. Some of the more expensive pieces can cost from S$75 for a dinner plate. Most of her customers are women, although she does get the occasional husband who is more keen on crockery than his wife. Most Singaporeans, she says, are used to buying many pieces of the same kind, but Ms Ong advises them to buy one or two pieces each time. "Usually, people would buy six sets of crockery, all in the same design and print, but that can be so boring," she says. "I advise customers to buy fewer pieces and mix and match the plates instead."


Studio Asobi

Studio Asobi, pottery
Besides the portobello mushroom dishes (above), which are actually butter and salt dishes made from ceramic), Lee Huiwen and her husband, Kenneth Lau, also produced some vases (below), sugar bowls and petit fours plates. Photo: Studio Asobi

IF you have been to Whitegrass, the hottest restaurant in town, you would have noticed what looks like portobello mushrooms on the table. Those who have dined at the restaurant may have mistaken them for real mushrooms, but they are actually butter and salt dishes made from ceramic. And no, they don't come from some studio in Bali, but from a HDB flat in Hougang.

"Chef Sam Aisbett saw my works on social media and got in touch to commission us some pieces," says Lee Huiwen, co-founder of Studio Asobi. Besides the portobello mushroom dishes, Ms Lee and her husband, Kenneth Lau, also produced some vases, sugar bowls and petit fours plates for the restaurant.

What started off as a hobby for the couple to do together has become their new career. In 2014, Ms Lee left the corporate world, went on a sabbatical and headed to Tajimi, one of Japan's most famous pottery town and trained under a 74-year-old master.

Upon her return to Singapore, she decided to be a full-time ceramics artist. Mr Lau had experience working with clay in his student years. The couple began creating pieces, some of which they sold to raise funds for charity organisation, Oxfam. Friends liked what they did and began asking them to do pieces as wedding and birthday gifts.

Studio Asobi was started and the couple soon started holding workshops in their flat. They have a few potter's wheels and a hobby kiln where they fire the pieces. For 2016, they plan to start a retail line for their works. "We will do that in the second half of the year," says Mr Lau, who designs houses in his day job.

Ms Lee adds: "From now till then, we will work on creating several series of objects in different styles."

Studio Asobi, pottery
Photo: Studio Asobi

Meanwhile, they are accepting commissions. Their sake sets are most popular they say. Depending on the complexity of the design, each sake set, consisting of a sake vase and two cups cost from S$200. Other commissions include tea sets and rice bowls.

Ms Lee who has no background in arts, is surprised by how she has taken to clay. "It is fascinating that clay, which is basically dirt, is so worthless but can be transformed into a piece of art," says Ms Lee.

This article first appeared in The Business Times