Antoinette Rozan dedicates her life to pursuing her zeal for sculpture and sharing the joy of creativity through teaching.
'The day I touched clay, I felt alive,' she recalls. 'I discovered a rare and precious means of expressing my deep-rooted passion for life.'
A former business executive in the luxury accessories sector, Rozan now sets aside time from her personal projects to hold twice-weekly classes for children at her Terre-Happy workshop in Chung Hom Kok.
The sessions, which last for one-and-a-half hours, are not so much lessons as they are an opportunity for children to explore their individuality and creative spirit.
'I don't help them that much. I want them to push the limits and be proud of themselves because they achieve something by themselves, without much input from an adult,' Rozan says.
'My classes are based on creativity and developing self-confidence. The children can let go of their stresses, their frustrations. I want them to become aware of their emotions through the clay they are manipulating and to give them all the time they need to do what they want to do.'
One important lesson that Rozan seeks to instil in her students is that they don't have to judge themselves or the group. Instead, she encourages them to develop a positive approach to what they are doing, and set personal challenges.
'We have to let them dream, let them find their creativity and work with their imagination and feelings,' she says.
When it comes to helping the kids' development, Rozan believes parents must also avoid being too judgmental. She says they shouldn't make comments such as 'not too bad', or worry if no sculpture is produced during a class. It's just as important to her that her students take their time to feel, touch and model the clay, as it is for them to make a finished piece of art.
Equally, when they do have a bold or ambitious idea, she's only too happy to offer them all the encouragement and assistance that she can.
'They can do anything they want. For example, one 18-year-old student wanted to make a giant Buddha head. We are making it - no problem!'
Rozan is a fifth generation member of a family with a long artistic tradition that includes painters, engravers and architects. But her initial direction was quite different. A graduate in business studies from France, she came to work in Hong Kong for Cartier in 1994. It was only in 1998, after moving back to Paris, that she fell in love with sculpture and began to fully explore her own creative talents. Since 2001, she has dedicated herself to sculpture; she returned to live in Hong Kong in 2006.
Rozan says her own work concerns trying to express 'a kind of energy calligraphy'. She uses different materials such as bronze and plaster to explore nature, and does portraits as well. 'The more I work, the more I understand that I am just a witness and someone who is here to present the beauty and the magic of life.'
Her recent works include a commission from the French government for the Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences in Mid-Levels. Currently, she is working on a new exhibition - to take place in May 2012 - with four other French artists, an event that will also include a participatory workshop. As part of the programme, each artist will make an art piece in public which will then be auctioned off for charity.
Rozan has been conducting classes at her Terre-Happy workshop for five years. She holds sessions on Wednesdays and Fridays for a maximum of five students per class, aged seven to 18 years old.
She feels that there's a lack of this kind of small-group, personalised activity for children in Hong Kong that focuses on enjoyment rather than results.
'Most of the time, parents in Hong Kong look at performance. They want results, and the pressure on the kids is high. I don't like that as it's hard for them to explore their emotions,' she says.
In her classes, Rozan says she wants the children to feel and to understand that they can do anything they want - even if, at first, they don't think they'll be able to achieve it.