If you’ve been paying any attention at all to the Australian ceramics scene over the past few years, you would have heard of Tantri Mustika. If you don’t recognise her name, then you’ll surely recognise the distinctive mountain-shaped terrazzo vases and vessels she started making in 2017. I certainly remember because Tantri’s story was one of the first major features I ever wrote for TDF. And I cannot believe how far she’s come in just a few short years.
One of the secrets to Tantri’s success has been her commitment to constantly evolving her creative output. Although ‘terrazzo’ inspired shapes are still a key element of her work (and her Mountain vessels are still her biggest hits), her newer work has evolved to more sophisticated silhouettes, taking on the appearance of modern relics.
Practically, Tantri has been all over the place! After initially working out of her sunny share house in Preston, she spent a long stint working alongside her friend and fellow ceramicist James Lemon, as well as some time working from Bisque Studios in Northcote, and plenty of other temporary spaces in between. It feels like Tantri is on the move every few months! But this time, she’s staying put for good – in her brand new shop, workspace and studio space in Collingwood Yards.
‘I wasn’t looking for a shop necessarily… but [the tenancy manager at Collingwood Yards] put forward the very last vacant “retail” space, as by the time I enquired, all of the studios were already spoken for. He suggested, I could consider having a shop with a studio combined.’, Tantri explains. ‘I replied right away with.. “No way… AM I interested?”’ While taking on a shop wasn’t necessarily on the cards for a while – and taking on the biggest financial commitment of her life during a global pandemic was especially not on the cards – Tantri jumped at the opportunity, and made her application in January this year. In the space of a few short weeks, her five-year dream was becoming a reality…right now!
In true Tantri fashion, she’s created almost every single thing herself – from designing the space (‘with paint swatches and a glue stick’) to doing a big chunk of the build (and even some sneaky electrical work we definitely won’t be mentioning!). When COVID-19 hit she lost all prospects of current and future work, which pushed Tantri to work on an extremely tight budget, ‘around the clock to get things done, with no work life balance at all’. For someone who literally started her ceramics practice after finding an old pottery wheel in hard rubbish, it comes as no surprise when Tantri tells me she’s gotten ‘pretty good at building random stuff out of things from the bin – aka ‘recycled materials’”! But despite the massive challenges in getting everything finished, she wouldn’t change a thing – ‘having my own mark on everything in the space is kind of priceless’, she says.
In a heartwarming twist of fate, Tantri’s new space is in literally the exact same spot we sold out of her very first collection at TDF Open House in 2017! While Collingwood Yards (previously Collingwood Arts Precinct) was just a big open warehouse when we hosted our Open House event in this very same building, the massive arts and culture district on Johnston Street has now been subdivided into artist studios, creative spaces and retail stores.
Tantri’s space isn’t just a shop and studio for her own work, but a joyful place she plans to share with others, and build a strong community with. ‘I want to create a warm and welcoming studio environment where the wider community and the existing ceramics community can come and visit and feel inspired’, she says. ‘I will be hosting workshops and classes in the studio space, and welcoming people into my little creative happy place in the hope that it will spark some inspiration for budding ceramicists, or those who just want to explore a fun new skill or hobby!’
Who knows, this vibrant new hub of activity and community might even inspire the next Tantri Mustika!