Ceramicist Tantri Mustika
At Collective Closets, we believe in individuality, authenticity, and celebrating the power of a woman. As businesswomen, we share the story of our influences and upbringing through our designs and the beautiful textiles we grew up with. We created Collective Conversations to spotlight the amazing women in our community and find out how they share their own stories. This series spotlights members of our tribe, gaining insight into their values, passions, and the drive behind what they do.
This month, we're talking to Tantri Mustika. She's a ceramicist, a small business owner, artist and all-around beautiful human being.
After spending ten years of her life in hairdressing, Tantri found herself craving a creative, hands-on hobby. She started experimenting with clay, enrolled in a few short courses, started dedicating more time to it with a flood of positive responses and sales enquiries. Her contemporary take on the traditional terrazzo technique is eye-catching, colourful and uniquely hers – much like her vibrant personality.
For this edition of Collective Conversations, we stepped into her stunning Collingwood space (and may have made a purchase or two). We talked about creative identity, self-worth and the influence of music in her Balinese culture.
Describe yourselves in three words?
Determined, curious, caring.
Why is music such an important medium in your life?
Music has always been really significant in my life. Everyone in my family is musical, I don’t think that I even knew that people ‘weren’t musical’ growing up.. it was just normal to me. My mum would always sing around the house and play loud music, especially when it was time to have people over and entertain.
I have vivid memories of walking up the side of the house and hearing music blaring as I got home after school – it always meant people were coming over for dinner. We'd listen to records and mum would tell me stories about each song and its meaning. Mum has always had extremely good taste in music so I feel very lucky for that.
My aunty was a jazz singer, so I have memories of crawling around on the floor while she and her band played really cool music. She had a huge influence on my music taste and appreciation; she'd take me driving around the block in the car so I could listen to her new favourite song of the week.
In Balinese culture, music is a centre point for all ceremonies of worship and storytelling. My name, Tantri, actually means “joyous music” – Tantri is the music of joyful celebratory occasions, like weddings. When I listen to Balinese music it transports me back to Bali, and weirdly I've recently realised that when I listen to that music it has this very calming, almost centring power over me.
Geez, I don’t even know how to explain why music is so important, it just is! It’s everything. Music to me is just another vital element of life. I listen to music to feel calm, for energy, to reminisce, for motivation, to connect with my heritage and the people around me. It goes without saying that as Melbournians, we're extra lucky because music is a big part of our lives! Music brings people together.
How do you express your creative identity?
I think I express my creative identity through my work and the spaces I create around me. I feel like building this world around me has always been when I'm at my most happy and inspired. I've always been obsessed with moving my room around and decorating, even as a kid (although thankfully my decorating style has evolved and moved away from wall to wall, floor to roof posters and magazine cutouts).
I now have my own shop space and studio to decorate, plus I'm living on my own for the first time! I'm able to be as free in these spaces as I like and don’t have to compromise, so they all fit my creative vision. I'm just so happy when I get to tinker around, changing my space to make it feel nice and welcoming for people to come into my world.
The ceramic things that I make are part of creating my happy place. I make what I do because they're the things I'd want to surround myself with – it’s just a bonus that other people seem to like them too!
What are some things that you are leaving behind, letting go of, or unlearning in order to move forward?
I am learning to not be such a perfectionist all the time, so I stop being so hard on myself and actually allow myself the space to enjoy things for what they are. I'm learning to accept myself more kindly for who I am. Oh! And I'm letting go of always apologising all the time.
How does music contribute to your sense of self?
Music holds so many strong memories and significant times in my life, so when I listen to certain music it reminds me of where I’ve come from. All of these things make me who I am today, and being able to transport back to those places through music is so powerful. I guess music can be re-aligning in a way.
What’s a hard lesson that you were grateful to learn?
The value of self-worth. I spent so much time when I was younger bending over backwards, trying to please people only to be left feeling lost, disappointed and so far away from myself. I've experienced times in my life where I've suffered such low self-esteem, I allowed bullying from others and even myself.
I believed I deserved it, so it all became normal to me. I've had to work really hard on my self-worth over the past few years. I'm still putting the work in to rebuild and realign my self-esteem, self-worth and self-respect. It’s something we all deserve but it can slip away so easily when you forget to care for yourself.
I'm much happier and in-tune with my own identity now that I hold value in myself. I care a lot less about what others think of me than I did before.
What relationships are you grateful for?
I'm grateful for the strong female friendships I have in my life. I'm surrounded by compassionate, strong, accepting and kind girlfriends! They uplift me and make me feel like even when I'm being a total weirdo, I'm loved and supported.
I'm extremely grateful for my relationship with my mum and the way it's growing and changing as we co-exist as two adult women. She's my biggest supporter and always backs me up (even if she's a little hesitant at first)!
She's always the first person to put her hand up to work a stupidly long day doing a stupidly boring task that needs to be done in my business. I actually couldn’t have gotten over the finish line of some big things without her unconditional support over the past couple of years!
How would you style a look from the Songa Pamoja collection?
I think I'd go all out matchy-matchy and wear the Mdunao shirt open over a white singlet and tucked into the Amani culotte pants. I'd add some nice white sneakers and top it all off with the Asili reversible sun hat! Strong summer vibes!
Do you have a happy memory you associate with a particular song?
Yes! 'Still a Friend of Mine' by incognito. My mum, my aunty and I used to listen to this song heaps when I was little. There's this really upbeat simplicity about it and a nice message about friendship. It was always one of those songs where if it came on, we'd all burst into harmonies and sing in unison at the top of our lungs. Anytime I hear this song I think of the three of us being silly, singing and laughing together!
Is there a particular song that has become a mantra to your life? Can I pick two?
I can't choose just one! ‘On & On' by Erykah Badu and ‘I Like That’ by Janelle Monáe.
Outside of what we know, have you fostered any hobbies/interests over the past year? Tell us about it.
I just love building things! I've grown a particular affection for Bunnings and power tools. I've always liked to DIY things but my COVID hobby has been upcycling, Mostly tinkering and making it up until I end up with something cool and unique that no one else has.
I've taught myself so many handy little tricks and I think I'm actually getting alright at making more complex projects now! It's a fun departure from making ceramics, because it's more of an instant gratification. You think of it, you make it and it comes to fruition right in front of your eyes!