First - time mum Amutha Saravanan has a novel and yet very personal way of helping mums-to-be mark their pregnancy.
"I made belly pots as my baby grew, and want to do that for other mums too," says Ms Saravanan, 29, a part-time research associate, who enjoys pottery as a hobby.
"It is this experience I want to bring to expectant parents - to make a lasting memory and a product that outlives us and can be passed on to the next generation."
Belly pots are different from belly casting, where plaster is applied to the belly, left to dry, decorated and kept as a keepsake.
"I wanted something functional, hence the pots can double as dishes and bowls, depending on the stage of pregnancy when they are made," says Ms Saravanan.
"I plan to give these pots to my son, Dronan, when he grows up."
She uses clay and glazes, sourced from the UK, Australia and Canada that are non-toxic and lead free.
"Therefore, they are safe to handle, and are microwave, dishwasher and food safe as well," says Ms Saravanan.
The pots, however, are not suitable for baking in an oven as the sudden increase in temperature may cause them to crack.
She says that belly pot making is a pleasurable experience for mum, dad and baby.
"My baby reacted every time cool, refreshing clay was placed on my belly and when I enhanced the experience with soothing music.
It calmed me, and it calmed my baby," says Ms Saravanan.
Towards the later part of her pregnancy when she was unable to make the pots herself, her husband, Saravanan Manorkorum, helped shaped the clay on her belly.
They also wrote little notes of wisdom for Dronan on the back of the pots while decorating them.
"When I recall the experience, I really treasure the moments, the quiet and the couple time we were able to share," says Ms Saravanan.
Making a belly pot can be a messy affair, so Ms Saravanan prefers that clients go to her home in Ang Mo Kio to get one done.
Ms Saravanan recommends that expectant mums make pots from six months onwards so that they can see a marked difference in the belly pots, unless they want to chart their journey from the beginning.
To make the belly pots, a sheet of clay is placed on the belly. Ms Saravanan recommends direct skin to clay contact, as the clay feels cool and refreshing to touch.
But for those who prefer less mess, she can place a layer of cling wrap on the belly before laying on the clay.
Husbands get involved by cutting the clay off their wives' bellies using the blunt side of a cutting tool.
Mums-to-be then sit back and relax for about 15 minutes while the clay dries up. At this stage, the couple are encouraged to write down their names, year and the number of weeks of pregnancy they are at on the pot.
When the clay has dried, Ms Saravanan lifts it off the belly. The couple can then decorate their belly pot, and then pick their glazes.
Each session takes about 90 minutes, and the pots will be ready in about four to six weeks' time.
Ms Saravanan explains that this is to allow sufficient time for the pot to dry, go through bisque firing, be glazed and go through another round of firing.
"After it is delivered to you, it is ready for use," she says.
Ms Saravanan charges S$180 for a pot or S$500 for a series of three.
"It is a wonderful opportunity for prenatal bonding. The experience is calming and an avenue for dads to be more involved in the pregnancy as well," says Ms Saravanan.
This article was first published on Oct 4, 2014.
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