Tantri Mustika Ceramics 


Meet the ceramic artist who left her 9-5 as a hairdresser to dive head first into her passion project.

Photography: Melissa Cowan


Before Tantri Mustika created wonderful terrazzo-inspired vessels, she was styling hair, “I was working as a hairdresser and taking a box of half-made objects with me and working on my ceramics between clients and on my lunch breaks!” Here’s a little look into Tantri’s inspiring creative journey.

Tell us a little about your creative journey to where you are now…

I’ve always loved creating things with my hands. As a child I was encouraged to be creative by my mum who is a real creative type and had studied Fine Art. After a few stints trying to find where my creatively lay, a friends gave me a bag of clay and I instantly became hooked! I discovered how much I loved clay and I enrolled myself into a couple of ceramics classes. The more I learnt, the more I wanted to know until eventually I started to cut down my hours at job at the time to spend more time making things out of clay.


What is the creative aesthetic which ties your work together?

My work is fun and light hearted, but with a refined and thought-out finish. It’s mostly recognised by the terrazzo inspired inlaid details and the different colour combinations that I use. 

How has your work evolved over the years? How so?

My work has evolved hugely. When I look at some of my earliest pieces, I can really see how much I have improved my technical skills in hand-building. I’ve developed the ways in which I finish my work and as my knowledge grows, my eye is constantly changing. I notice things now that I likely wouldn't have noticed before. I’m always trying to pick up on ways that I can better my work. Clay can be a very difficult medium to work with, as there are so many variables that can instantly change your end result dramatically. It keeps me on my toes, wanting to learn from every little fault or every firing variation. I’m also constantly testing different colour recipes and this means my colour range has become more refined - I understand the materials that I use more and have so much control of my results.

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What’s your design process like? Are you in the studio every day?

I’m in the studio pretty much everyday. My work as a potter is full-time however the type of work that I am doing changes day to day. Sometimes I go right into making and lend very little time to admin work while I’m in the making zone. I often come out of the other end of a making cycle behind on my admin work and then go into a week or so of focusing on that. There is a vague cycle that tends to happen between the two parts of my business. 

I try to not think about what I am doing too much - once I have a set of different shapes and colours I’m happy with, I let myself be free in the process - it’s much more fun that way!

You create your pieces by hand-building - what is it about this method that you first gravitated to?

I first started using hand-building as a method when I discovered clay at home and didn’t have access or skills to use a wheel. I took some classes and started to learn how to throw on the wheel and went back and forth between the two approaches. One day I discovered the slab roller and realised I could make just about anything I could imagine, which changed everything for me. I always found wheel trowing really difficult and a little stressful, I would find myself not breathing while I was throwing and I still do that today!


Your work heavily features traditional terrazzo tiling - why is it such a constant in your work?

Honestly, I really enjoy the endless possibilities of what this idea has offered. There are endless colour combinations and textures that you can introduce to the idea. It probably won't be what I do forever, but for now I enjoy the process of trying different types of clays and different colours.

What inspires you the most?

I’m inspired by mid-century modern interiors and I spend a lot of time looking at photos of different rocks and studying the different natural characteristics they possess, trying to work out how I can make my work imitate these naturally occurring characteristics. I also spend a lot of time looking down at the floor, walking around and peering into shops and front yards when I spot great tiles or a beautiful marble pathway. I’m currently swooning over the design work of Patricia Urquiola and Muller Van Severen - they both design furniture out of epic combinations of the most stunning marble.

The most important thing for me is that my pieces are functional and have structural integrity.

As a ceramist, what’s one design element you always return to?

Form. Obviously my work is a combination of design elements, however because my work is of a three dimensional, sculptural nature, form is really important. 

Once I map out the scale, and correct proportions of my work, I build a sample piece. Once I have an interesting form that works, I can vary it with the finish that I choose to use. This is often where colour comes in - my second most important design element. 


How do ideas for a ceramic design for begin?

I’m constantly looking around me - I draw inspiration from the world around me, picking up colour combinations from nature, fashion and everyday items.

If I ‘m working to a brief I will work out what the mood of theme of my brief is that I want to reflect with my work and will often make a mood board for specific projects. In terms of colour palette I will often start off with two or three really thought-out colour combinations and as I use the coloured clay up, I then start to muck around with combining all of the colours drawn from the original set palettes that I have decided to use. 

What are you most looking forward to this year?

I have a couple of shows coming up that I’m going to contribute work to. It’s exciting to have the freedom to create works that don't necessarily need to sell or aren't based on requests or an order. I think this is important. I’ve been working on a new range of works since the start of the year so I am really excited to get them out into the world and see if people like them!