Creating and educating with clay. Find out how this entrepreneur links art and science as da Vinci did hundreds of years ago.

What’s your story?
I did psychology for my bachelor’s degree and then went on to do a masters in psychology by research where I did my thesis on a topic in clinical neuropsychology. I started working with SingHealth, but left soon after wanting to learn a different skill set in the business world. I joined Egon Zehnder, a senior level executive consultancy doing research when I discovered pottery as a hobby and immediately fell in love with it. Within a year of learning, I was being commissioned by friends and family for my works, which was when I started Amooo’s – an original . in 2012 and bought a kiln. Given my background in psychology, I realised that there was more to clay as a medium. I researched extensively and discovered a teaching methodology called neuroeducation, which is a subset of neuroscience. Neuroeducation enquires into how the brain learns at a biological level. It states that when learning occurs with multiple senses, our neurons fire and connect seemingly unrelated pockets of information together, for example, pairing the topic of how plants grow with making a pinch pot through clay and then embellishing it with the knowledge acquired during the lesson. This results in creativity, abstract thinking and problem solving in the long run. I then started Da Vinci Group with my husband in 2012 as well, named after Leonardo da Vinci for the brilliance during his era where the arts and sciences were not segregated and were applied with each other. We created NeuroCeramicsTM and created a curriculum for enrichment classes, team building events and workshops for children, adults and the elderly. When I became pregnant in 2013, I decided to creatively document my pregnancy journey by making ceramic pots off my belly during various stages as well as baby print platters when my son was born. These are now service offerings under Amooo’s – an original . as well. The clay and glazes I use are of high quality. They are food, dishwasher and microwave-safe. I went full time into my businesses in January 2015. Amooo’s – an original . was featured in Business Times in 2014 and Da Vinci Group was recently featured on NewsAsia Channel this year.
 
What excites you most about your industry?
We are pushing boundaries with our service offerings for both businesses. Neuroeducation is known in the US and Johns Hopkins University has a Neuroeducation initiative. However, the idea has not trickled down to Asia yet. We are the pioneers doing this in the education sector and we have plans to go regional with this. As for Amooo’s – an original . BellyPotsTM is a very novel idea and is different from belly casting with plaster. Many of my clients love the fact that they have a functional use for their creations and it is a marvellous way to remember and preserve the memory of creating a new life. Being able to create and play with clay, day in and day out excites me fundamentally.
 
What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born here in Singapore. My dad was born in India. He has been a Singapore citizen for a number of years. My mum is from Singapore. Asia has an exciting realm of possibilities and has huge potential for the work I do.

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Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore. The infrastructure, system, processes, government support, the law are all excellent and shouldn’t be taken for granted. The ease at which we can get things moving on the business front is something I am very grateful for.
 
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
A business never fails. You fail the business. Don’t get stuck. Think creatively from a different context and have a structure for fulfillment.

Who inspires you?
Many people. My husband, my family, my friends, my business partners, my clients, Michelle Obama, Angelina Jolie, Lee Kuan Yew. If we relate to everyone as the greatness they are, inspiration isn’t very difficult to find.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I was blown away the other day when I went to collect some clay for a BellyPotTM session when I realised that never in my wildest dreams did I think I would become a potter and create for a living. It put a huge grin on my face for a long while.  
 
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have just got on with creating the businesses as soon as I had the ideas. Taken the plunge, made the commitment and gone for it earlier. I think I lost a couple of years contemplating about it. I am a firm believer, ‘everything happens for a reason’ though, so the experiences I went through during that time of contemplation were necessary for the outcomes I have now.
 
How do you unwind?
Many ways. A glass of prosecco or red wine and some music dependant on my mood and clay time. Painting and drawing. A trip to the beach or zoo with my toddler and husband. Swimming or trekking. Lunch dates with my husband. Catch-ups with friends. Family gatherings and outings. It really depends on what my soul craves for in that instance.
 
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Hong Kong – the Asian version of New York. Love how there are so many trails to hike on, so much to see and experience and a good party scene.
 
Everyone in business should read this book:
Zen in the art of archery. Applicable not only in business, but really in the way one lives their life.
 
Shameless plug for your business:
About Da Vinci Group (www.davincisg.com)
 
Da Vinci Group (DVG) is a premium educational and training services provider, whose mission is to stimulate creativity and productivity through the concept of Neuroeducation using pottery as a platform. Neuroeducation has its tenets in neurobiology and psychology. It explains how engaging more than one of our senses while processing information strengthens existing and creates new neural networks. Creating pottery is a hands-on experience that engages emotions and stimulates creative expression. When such an experience is paired with learning or acquiring new concepts, associations are made with seemingly unrelated pockets of information which stimulates abstract thinking, problem solving and creativity. We have created NeuroCeramicsTM based on this concept where we use pottery as a platform to engage children, adults and the elderly.
 
Amooo’s – an original . (www.amooos.com)
 
Amooo’s – an original .  focuses on creating ceramic wares such as belly pots and baby prints that crystallize beautiful memories in a tangible form, which can be passed down to future generations. BellyPotTM making is a pleasurable experience for mum, dad and baby, a wonderful opportunity for prenatal bonding as well as a special, novel and unique way to capture one’s journey into parenthood. Imprinting your babies’/children’s feet and hands on clay is an excellent way to mark milestones and etch in your minds how tiny your little ones were as they grow up. Whether you make functional ceramic wares like vases, platters or coasters, for example, or decorative hanging ornaments, these creations are awesome keepsakes that you will cherish for many years to come. We also facilitate fun-filled clay jamming sessions for families to spend quality time together. Amooo’s – an original . also accepts commissions and corporate gifts projects. Ceramic wares created are made of high quality materials that are lead and toxins-free and are food, microwave and dishwasher-safe.
 
How can people connect with you?
Through email, mobile, facebook, Instagram and my websites.
 
Twitter handle?
@Da_Vinci_Group
@amooos_original

This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:

CallumConnects

Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia.  He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries.  He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence.  A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.

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