Amanda Tong

Amanda Tong, The Perfect Imbalance, 2014
© Amanda Tong, The Perfect Imbalance, 2014

I am a passionate design maker. Nothing can replace the bond I have with ceramics. I came to study in the UK at the age of 13. First experiencing the subject of ceramics when I was 14, from hand building some random sculptures to now sitting on the wheel everyday, I have developed a real understanding of this material of clay as well as discovering more about myself.

Being Chinese and studing in the UK for the past 10 years, my cross-cultural background increasingly serves as inspiration to my design work. Surrounded by people from all over the world, I always find it fascinating to see how people behave or think differently according to their own culture/ritual practice. The reasons behind some of the traditional habits we have are intriguing which often leads me to explore and discover further. 

As a design maker, I aspire to raise awareness and appreciation in the artistic value of traditional craftsmanship by retelling forgotten stories and reintroducing ritual practices behind different cultures.

I am an ambitious enthusiast who is fascinated about the relationship between materials and surfaces. I love risk-taking and discovering the boundless possibilities of surfaces and textures by mixing different materials together, to embrace and reveal the hidden qualities within them. The infinite surprises that ceramics bring are definitely something that could be found nowhere else. I strive to preserve the quality of craftsmanship with enthusiasm, love and care. 

How did you hear about CSM?

I heard about the BA Ceramic Design course when I was about 16. Being the only ceramic course in London, I told myself this is the place where I had to be. After studying foundation at Chelsea College of Arts, I prepared myself with a stronger portfolio to apply for the BA Ceramic Design at Central Saint Martins. I had never been so excited when I received the offer. 

Please describe your work.

The Perfect Imbalance is an interactive tableware series that reflects the importance of the Chinese philosophical concept of Yin and Yang – a spiritual approach in gaining health through food. In modern society, most of us are unbalanced. We have too much stress in our lives, and often ignore our body’s signals for rest and care. If we keep on pushing the limits, we will end up suffering from poor health, results in long-term damage to our lives.

How would you describe your course? What is a typical day like?

This BA Ceramic Design course has been so great for me. It is a very constructive course that enables me to learn so much more than I have ever expected.

As well as learning some practical making skills such as hand building, mold making, glazing...etc, we also had client projects to understand how to work in groups and many trips to visit studios, factories and trade fair shows in the UK and Europe. For me, this is particularly important for understanding how the creative industries work in reality; not to keep yourself in the studio for months but getting your work out there and research into the markets are keys to your success. It also emphasises the importance of networking. Tutors and technicians have years and years of experience and vast amounts of knowledge, are great mentors in providing us help and guidance throughout the course. This course really stretched me to become who I am now and I am really thankful for it.

I treasured the time being at the studio. Working from 10am to 10pm, getting my hands dirty with clay and glazes would be a typical day of mine (a good reason to live right next to school!). 

Did you get any experience of working with industry on your course?

It’s essential to get as much experience as you can during your time in university, so you are well prepared for the real world once you’ve graduated. I had an opportunity to work for an international brand called Loveramics in Hong Kong as a design intern. I’ve actually got this internship from my client project during 2nd year (my client was the Head of Designs from Loveramics). It enabled me to understand more about the business in terms of marketing and sales. The part I loved the most was being able to visit their factory in China, which was a valuable experience to gain knowledge about mass manufacturing process.

What have your highlights been?

One of the highlights definitely has to be the interviews that I did with the Michelin starred chefs in London for my final year project. I interviewed Jason Atherton from Pollen Street Social and Chef Tong Chee Hwee from HKK for their opinions on my tableware series, ‘The Perfect Imbalance’. It was an amazing opportunity because it allowed me to understand how chefs work and what is their choice of tableware. The feedback was great which really encouraged me to introduce my design to restaurants for use. 

What do you love about CSM?

I love being in CSM and surrounded by the diversity of talented people. I enjoy seeing what other people are doing in the campus to gain inspirations. I also love the open area just outside the school with the fountains. It’s a perfect view to end a long day from school at night. 

What advice would you pass on?

At times, when I failed to centre the clay on the wheel, I always say to myself, you have to take control of the clay and not letting the clay to be dominant. It’s just like you have to be able to control your life and not let anyone else shape it for you.

Do not give up on what you want to do, and be who you want to be.

Keep chasing your dreams and make it happen.