“I wanted to do something different so I chose ceramics,” says Rozana. But as she realised later, perhaps it wasn’t quite by accident: “As a kid, whenever I went back to my grandmother’s place in Malacca, I would go to the river behind her house and play with the clay.”
That same river continues to serve her well today; Rozana still uses some clay from the river to produce handmade ceramic wares under her company, Bendang Studio, which she set up in 2008.
It took a couple of years after graduation because Rozana was adamant about not taking a loan to set up her business, preferring to work and save up. She assisted established ceramic artist Umi Baizurah for several months, and also worked as a secondary school art teacher.
Originally, Bendang was based at the back of Rozana’s house, in an open kitchen that looked out to the river. Later, the studio shifted to an old wooden shophouse where Rozana’s grandmother ran a grocery store back in the 1950s.
Clearly, Rozana is someone who appreciates her heritage and likes to stick to her roots — even the name Bendang was chosen to reflect the bucolic fields that surrounded the river and her grandmother’s house.
When it comes to her ceramic designs, however, Rozana’s aesthetics is decidedly contemporary. Her repertoire has expanded over the years, from sculptures — during her college days and after graduation, as a young ceramic artist who participated in exhibitions locally and abroad — to accessories and fridge magnets when she first ventured into commercial items, and her current offerings of mostly home- and table-ware.
Rozana employs a number of techniques in creating her distinctive designs, such as stamping to emboss motifs, sponging, melting glass on top of a colour base which then cracks and results in a marbling effect.
She also uses the Japanese Raku method, in which cracks are intentionally created as embellishments. One of her newest, which sports gold dots, were made by applying decal onto the plates and that required four rounds of firing.
It’s easy to see why her designs have such a strong appeal — classic and timeless in essence, with artistic touches and often, just a hint of whimsy. “We have participated in a number of international art events so far, including in Dubai, Tokyo and Frankfurt,” Rozana reveals. “They were great opportunities to not only showcase our collections but also to study what others are looking for. And we have found that our designs are just as well accepted by an international audience.”
While Bendang continues to fire up more coveted pieces for their customers, about 80 per cent of whom are in the Klang Valley, Rozana has plans to expand their range to include more home-ware. She also wants another, even bigger kiln so that she can go back to making what she started with — sculptures. It will be yet another loop in her “coming full circle” story, one that began with a little girl who used to mould river clay with her hands, unknowingly shaping her future and that of Bendang Studio’s.
Bendang Studio is located in Kampung Sungai Petai, Alor Gajah, Malacca which is about 15 minutes from Simpang Empat Expressway Exit, located on the side of the main AMJ road going towards the town of Malacca from
the Simpang Empat toll station.