The Local Singapore Art Experience
Connecting to culture is one definitely of my passions, and a reason I chose to live in what’s often dubbed a ‘heartland’ territory in Singapore. I love seeing how normal people go about their everyday lives, and my family’s gradual ‘infiltration’ of the local community. Although we stick out like a sore thumb, we’ve been warmly welcomed by many neighbours and shop owners.
This insight into life in an established housing estate is something that participants of my workshops also get to experience. After finding their way to my ‘point block’ in the corner of Toa Payoh (former opposition territory and now undergoing a terrific upgrading program), they start to get a feel for local life in this some 40-year-old spot of Singapore.
Nearly every element of my workshops involves a local business. The fabric is bought in Chinatown from a very nice older couple, and then is sewn by my local seamstress. At 'kueh' time, I bring out freshly-made snacks from my market shop. The uncle who runs this shop has his midday snooze by 11am, so I always hurry over early in the morning to buy the day's treats.
The rubber blocks we use to stamp with are mostly based on Peranakan tile designs found around Singapore and Malaysia. I buy a lot of my equipment from the local market, and by now most of the shop keepers vaguely understand what I do. Or at least pretend to!
I also pride myself on being reasonably ‘eco-friendly’ since I re-use most plastic plates and tools used in the workshops. Students usually giggle when I wrap their finished works in a certain waxy brown paper - you may know what I mean if you eat chicken rice! Works perfectly to protect any damp spots on the fabric print.
After class, we often wander down to the local food court for a well-deserved feed! Handmade 'char siew' roast pork and dumpling noodles is my favourite, and made by a handsome chap and his Peranakan mother. We might also go past my Malaysian seamstress Mrs. Ng if she doesn’t look too busy, and show her the fabulous creations that the students have made. I think she gets a lot of pride at seeing how her hard work is appreciated by others. I also feel a great sense of joy when I see students from countries such as Japan, Australia, the UK sharing with locals their ‘handmade’ connection to Singapore.
Many of my students are mums, or women who just need some creative time out for themselves. I totally understand - time to focus on something that you like doing without the distraction of your computer or little people tugging at your leg...those are quickly forgotten once you focus on the process of printmaking!
In progress shots - I love these! They tell the story of how the printed table runners are made - one block at a time.
Some of my students are new to Singapore, others have been here for decades! It's fun to listen to new stories and swap tales.
I think I might have already mentioned the importance of sweets...but jokes aside, printing is pretty physical and you use your whole body. Standing up and focusing on getting ink only on the target areas requires concentration. My local market has both fresh and dried snacks - salty and sweet (just as it doesn't contain durian, I will try anything)!
A finished piece! A little drying, ironing and it will be right to start it's job as a gorgeous table runner.
My local sewing auntie - where would I be without her and her patient husband? A friendly lady from Malaysia, she actually lives in the same apartment as me! Her grandson also used to go to the same daycare as my kids. I love bringing my students around to meet the lady behind their straight seams. She does a great job at hemming my fabric table runners and table cloths. Last time I was in a hurry, her husband even hand-delivered my items to my door. Now that's a good neighbour. :)
After the workshop is over, I often go down to my local market with my students. On Saturdays, you can sometimes find people who have travelled from Batam Island to sell honey, dried fish, avocadoes and other fresh produce. The honey is my favourite - it literally tastes like flowers.
A participant from Hong Kong!
A snap of the finished works! I feel like I'm in a colourful handmade garden. How nice!
My handsome noodle 'brother' Jackie and his mother. Handmade dumplings and roasted pork (char siew) with springy noodles. Jackie's grandmother is a Nyonya too! And he also has two kids! (so much in common...).