Kura Studio is a creative practice based in sunny Perth, Western Australia.
Co-founded in 2017 by best friend duo Serena Pangestu and Anika Kalotay, Kura Studio believes that responsive design can turn day-to-day tasks into small thoughtful moments. Join us, as we talk to Kura about their practice, creative process and what it is like to run a ceramic studio.

Could you tell us more about your story and how you got to the place you are now?

Our story is one of friendship, teamwork & living a simple yet intentional life.

We met in high school and bonded over all things creative. We discovered that we shared similar goals, aspirations, and visions for the future; hence we worked really well together. This ultimately guided us towards studying architecture, where we found our love for design, learned about form and function, and how good design can positively impact people's lives.

After studies, our work translated into exploring new forms of art. We looked at design through painting and timber carving, which finally led us to the world of ceramics. We continued to work together, learning and creating with ceramics and building Kura to become a place where people can buy good quality and uniquely designed objects for their homes. 


What shaped your identity as an artist and consequently your practice?

Our love for the natural environment is a constant inspiration that teaches us how to be more empathetic in our practice.

Relating to our own individual cultures, traditions, and heritage has been grounding - the nostalgia during the process has kept us curious about our position in the world, both locally and globally.

Finally, our background in architecture, learning about form and designing for the human scale has provided us with the tools that fundamentally drive our work.


Unlike most artistic practices, you are a two-person band. Tell us about your creative partnership and what makes it work?

Being a two-person band is easily one of the best things about running our practice. We believe that working with others helps you grow and can pull you in directions you may not have thought of before. Good friendships and work relationships pave a way to challenge and learn from each other, but also deliver the support network needed to grow and flourish.

Often society glorifies the independence and strength of an individual who manages to 'do it all". We don't always relate to this because we can't imagine how difficult it would be to take on this journey by ourselves. We often work to our own individual strengths to run our business more efficiently & smoothly so we can foster a healthier work/ life balance. This is very much how we operate.


Who are your ceramics intended for? How do you imagine a person's home where your work will reside?

When we started Kura, one of the first thoughts was 'how can we make the design more understood in society?' & 'how can we make the design more accessible?'. From there, we decided to offer small-scale, well-designed objects that easily integrate into a home and become a stepping-stone to making bigger design investments, working against the traditional model of consumerism and fast-paced trends.

We make ceramics for people who want to use characterful and thoughtful objects in their day-to-day life. We want people to find the home a comforting, happy place that slowly grows and becomes more and more a part of themselves as time passes.


Kura has a strong focus on sustainability. How do you transfer your beliefs into everyday actions and business practices?

We are hyper-aware that this world we live in today does not need more 'things'. But we also think that taking a back seat when we could potentially be a part of the solution would have worse implications for our future. So we have committed ourselves to creating timeless objects that outlive trends and believe that the longevity of a product comes from both the quality of the material and the sentimental attachment. We want the ceramics and goods we offer to be used and cherished for a very long time, and this is the primary way we reduce our impact on the Earth.

As a working ceramics studio, there is nothing more precious to us than pre-fired, workable clay. We recycle as much of it as we can and scrutinise over what goes into firing in case there are any surface cracks or dings we may have missed in the making process. But, of course, things don't always go to plan, and a small portion of our work will be defective and/or develop cracks during the final firing. In these instances, we like to host a 'seconds sale' to try and re-home our goods as much as possible, especially when the defects are so minor and the objects are still functional otherwise.

When it comes to releasing promotions, we focus on benefitting the environment rather than depleting it. An example of this is our 'Green Friday' initiative. We offer free plants to our local customers over the 'Black Friday sales' weekend instead of encouraging consumption through unrealistic discounted prices. Our customers love it, and Earth is happier too!

We also minimise our impact on the Earth by packing all our orders with paper-based and compostable packaging, using courier services that are carbon neutral.


How would you describe your creative process? Do you have a routine, a favourite playlist, or perhaps a time of the day to create?

Often our production work revolves around sunny days, so it's fantastic that we live in Perth. Commonly you will find Serena on the wheel in the morning and trimming or assembling in the afternoon. At the same time, Anika will be glazing, packing the kiln or photographing new products outside. Other work mainly falls between this; back of house finance and communication, packing orders, studio photography, slab built work and sculpting.

Sculptures are perfect for the wintery days when things are a little slower and days are rainy and meditative. The change of pace allows us to take a step back and explore creative thoughts and processes further. Getting the emails done in the morning and then leave the afternoons for sculpting whilst listening to the old bluesy tunes or the occasional T-swift.


Tell us about the techniques that you use. What are the challenges that you encounter and the skills that it requires?

Most of our wares are thrown on the pottery wheel or partially thrown and then assembled by hand. Besides the wheel, we also coil build (creating sausages out of clay and building upwards) and slab build (rolling out the clay to an even thickness, then cutting shapes, folding, bending and manipulating to form the final object).

Each technique has its own set of challenges, and we feel like we're in a constant battle to try and refine our methods. Some of the largest challenges we face are in drying our ceramics and the varying seasons alone keep us on our toes. On top of this, objects thrown on the wheel cannot be dried too fast or unevenly, as they might crack. Slab built pieces need to have lots of compression and extremely slow-drying rates to stay flat. While coiled sculptures need to be dry enough to hold their unusual structures but workable enough to continue building the piece.


As a small business, you need to be a "Jack of all trades". What is your advice to artists who want to build a business? What do you wish you knew when you started?

Our advice would be to surround yourself with a strong community of fellow creators. Get chatting to people and make authentic friendships that inspire and keep you motivated. This may lead to future collaborations that challenge and expand your creative potential. A support network is your biggest asset, particularly when beginning a creative endeavour or a small business journey.

In terms of setting up your business, research as much as you can, but also know when to take the plunge and try things out because you will only learn from making mistakes.

Be disciplined with your time and set boundaries early. Even though you have flexible hours, we find that sticking to a schedule helps foster a good work-life balance.

Constantly revisit your end goal, and don't be afraid to change this as you evolve and grow. Checking in to this will provide clarity when making decisions that affect business and personal life. Take on opportunities that work towards that goal, but don't be scared to say no when it doesn't suit your path.

Something we wish we knew at the start and are still working on, is not to be the "Jack of all trades". Hiring professionals for those jobs that you are not comfortable with will save time and money in the long run. We don't think it's healthy or humanly possible to do it all, so we're trying to learn how to let go and delegate tasks to those who may be able to do it better than us.


If you could meet any artist in person - who would it be and why?

Many people have inspired us throughout our creative journey, from the architects we studied during our uni days, such as Alvar Aalto, Glenn Murcutt & SANAA; to product designers like Phillipe Starck & Naoto Fukasawa. And artists in their own rights, like Allan Wexler & Masanobu Fukuoka. If we had the chance to meet any of these people, we would have loved to talk to them about their life journeys, hopes for the world, and philosophies.

Having said this, we aspire to learn from artists that we meet all over the world, like those we have encountered during our travels through Indonesia. It's a place where creativity is abundant, yet opportunity may be lacking. Because of this, we try to remain teachable, letting ourselves be inspired regardless of whether an artist made a name for themselves or not. We genuinely believe that some of the most incredible works are yet to be found.


What is next for Kura?

We have aspirations to live next door to each other with easy access to a shared studio in between. This will incorporate a working ceramic studio, an area to host workshops/ small classes and a small showroom style shop for our local customers and community to enjoy. Serena has begun this journey at her Bibra Lake home with plans for a new studio extension currently in the works. Such space will allow us to live and work in a place that functions for our needs, both as friends and creative business partners.

We've never liked the idea of being bound by the traditional archetype of a suburban house or brick and mortar shop. Therefore creating our own little community-centred oasis would be an opportunity to express & share our philosophy with others. This would be a big step for our lives and Kura.

In saying all this, Kura is very much a part of both of us, and we are prepared to let it grow and evolve organically as our lives unfold.


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