10 Bespoke Artisans (Part II)

With the Christmas decorations along the streets and the display of Christmas goodies in various bakery stores, it is hard not to notice that Christmas is just around the corner and yes, it is time for Christmas shopping! For those who have started Christmas shopping and have visited Public Garden’s and Naiise’s Christmas pop-up stores, you would have been awed by the creative and captivating products that many of our local bespoke artisans have come up with. At the same time, many questions might have crossed your mind. How did they do this? What inspired them to do this? Is this their full- time job? Well, welcome to part 2 of our journey of local bespoke artisans as not only do we try to solve your questions, we also introduce to you 5 more of our local bespoke artisans- their stories, their hardwork, their products.

1. Chin Hui Wen (Founder of Eastern Granola)

easternPRO650

Q: Firstly, a short self introduction about yourself.

A: I’m a former food editor with a Masters in Food Culture from NYU. Missing the range of craft foods available in New York, I decided to produce a made-in-Singapore recipe of my own, Eastern Granola, a range of small batch cereals inspired by Southeast Asian flavours. The choice of cereal was pretty random. I like it and practically, most of the ingredients are dry so it keeps well (unlike fresh foods) and it is easy to transport. This minimizes wastage and delivery costs.

Q: What was your inspiration or motivation to get into this business?

A: It was an experiment! I know I want a career in food. But I’m not sure exactly how to approach it. All I’ve really tried professionally is writing and editing. So I figured it would be good to get some hands-on experience. Though I still write (freelance), there is also a certain satisfaction gained from a day of “manual work”.

Q: What are the hardships you have faced and who or what have been your greatest support and motivation all along?

A: Margins in food are notoriously thin. Also,  the market for granola is pretty niche. The greatest support is my parents. They help drive me around for deliveries. I feel really bad, I really need to learn to drive! Oh and the community of craft food makers here. They are really a kind and helpful bunch!

Q: How do you juggle between both jobs?

A: I’m working on publishing my own magazine and write freelance on the side. The schedule for everything is pretty flexible. So it’s not too bad. Sometimes, I don’t juggle it. Things fall through and you just got to keep working at getting better.

Q: We saw recipes on your webpage too. Do you bake as well? What do you think is the best thing to go with cereals?

A: Sure, I believe anyone can bake so long as they can follow a recipe.  The cereal is crunchy. So I think the best thing is to pair it with something creamy (cheesecake, yogurt, custardy French toast…).

easternpic650Q: Any shoutout to the readers?

A: I come up with a new flavor every month but it’s only available to my granola club members. It’s like my test market. If they like it and I can cost it out so that I make a little profit, I can bring it back next year. Some experiments from previous months include chicken rice granola and nasi lemak granola. I make robustly flavored cereal (with flavours like curry and fish sauce). It could even be a bar snack (great with beer)! It is not rabbit food. It does not taste like cardboard. Please don’t give it a miss because you fear health food.

 


 

2. Yang Qiaoru (Founder of BlendnPress)

blendPRO650Q: Firstly, a short self introduction about yourself

A: The company is very new and is only about a few months old. We are aspiring to be a fresh fruit company and have come up with both smoothies and jam. We are trying to provide healthier options for food that people are familiar with since it is common that when people start working, they do not have the time to eat healthy and also, dining options would tend to be limited. Usually, they will resort to takeouts. To be fit and healthy is a combination of both exercise and diet so we are helping them with the diet part by making the healthier dining options more accessible too.  We are not a juice cleanse company that’s why we push out the jams as well to debunk the stereotype.

Q: What was your inspiration or motivation to get into this business?

A: When I was working in the advertising industry, I faced the challenge of dining healthily and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The schedule was too hectic. I gained a lot of weight during that time. Everything was just fast food since it is the most efficient and convenient. A lot of my friends were facing the same problem too. Besides, packing own food takes a lot of time, commitment and effort.

blendpic2650Q: What are the hardships you have faced and who or what have been your greatest support and motivation all along?

A: For Food and Beverages industry, , there are a lot of licenses and clearances to get. It can get very tedious. It can also be very disheartening when the idea you have conceptualized is hard to get implemented. My family has been my greatest support. They have been very understanding towards this.

Q: You believe that active lifestyle helps too. So do you do any sports?

A: I try to do exercises on my own and at home. I do run in the evening at times. I do static workouts and video workouts like Insanity workouts.

Q: Do you plan on having more flavours?

A: Yes! We have been working on it!

Q: What are your thoughts on Singapore’s bespoke artisan industry?

A:  There have been quite a few innovations around. Some of the stuffs that they have done are quite inspiring. There are a few tea and soda projects that are definitely interesting and not something that you can find in the mainstream market.

 


 

3. Lorraine and Glen (Founders of Strangely Yours)

strangelyPRO650Q: Tell us more about yourselves and how did you guys meet?

A: Hi, we are Lorraine and Glenn and we make quirky little locket necklaces and movable trinkets. Our style is a mix of vintage with a little bit of whimsy. They are usually inspired by fairy tales and old detective novels with hidden nooks and crannies! We have a slight fascination with lockets and secret messages. As people who enjoy collecting small findings on walks, like a strangely shimmering stone, or a bunch of tiny twigs. We loved the idea of finding something special and being able to carry it around with you. Most of our items are personalised, which is what we love as customers are able to add their own personal touch to the pieces! Glenn and I met in our 3rd year in art school, doing graphic design. We were classmates and buddies before we started going out.

Q: What was your motivation in setting up this business?

A:  I had been selling on Etsy since 2008 but I was doing more of clay art and into a slightly darker theme back then. I sculpted creepy figurines and steampunk accessories (still with the movable components and lockets). It’s how I first came up with the name “Strangely Yours”! Things are considerable less creepy now but they are still “strange” in a sense that they are not your everyday type of jewellery pieces! It started out as a hobby for me. I was still in school and it was a cool way to be earning some extra cash! After getting to know more about Etsy and my early creations, Glenn couldn’t help but got bitten by handmade bug as well! He is inspired by interactive vintage toys in the era where batteries didn’t exist, and we found that worked well with the wooden accessories we had in mind to create. We put our heads together, and Strangely Yours woodcrafts was started! Glenn is the brain behind each intricate design and how each piece comes together. I think the fact that people buy our creations is the biggest motivation! They leave us such supportive comments and it’s a warm fuzzy feeling to know someone else appreciates our designs too!

strangelypic650Q: Why the movable components and quirky lockets?

A: I personally love things that have little surprises to them! When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a detective and I used to make fake books to keep my cash, things with hidden compartments or double uses to them. As mentioned earlier, this fit right into Glenn’s love for interactive vintage toys. We didn’t want it to be just another piece of jewellery!

Q: What are the hardships you have faced and who or what have been your greatest support and motivation all along?

A: I think our biggest supporter is my dad! Being in business himself, he’s constantly full of advice (sometimes unsolicited haha!) and is the one who pushed us to getting all the equipment in the early stages. Because he travels a lot for work, he also helps immensely with the sourcing of our material. I think the hardships we faced (and are still facing), is figuring out the basic administrative tasks that we never learnt in design school like accounting and paper work.( ARGH! ) Also, it is tough to handle every aspect of the business, from customer service to design and marketing, to production, to painting and assembly, packing and shipping. At times it gets too overwhelming and certain aspects get neglected because everything seems important! During busy periods It’s a 25 hour work day and then it’s eat, sleep, repeat.

Q: Knowing that you also cater for wedding events too, do you plan to cater to more events?

A: Yes! That would be so exciting! We are planning our own wedding as well so this will be a fun chance and excuse to create a lot of new wedding- related products in the process. We are also coming up with new designs for various occasions. Designing new things are probably our the part of the job that we love best.

Q: What are your thoughts on Singapore’s bespoke artisan industry?

A: It’s exciting! There’s definitely a market for bespoke items anywhere you go and you feel connected to the maker when you purchase something made specially for you. I think from flea markets,  we can see that there are so many local artisans ready to create something special for you!

Q: Any shoutout to the readers?

A: You can always find us on StrangelyYours.com or Strangelyyours.etsy.com. And as for fleas, we’ll be at the Public Garden Flea Market every weekend till Christmas. We’ve been working on a few new pieces the past week and we hope you’ll enjoy it too! We hope to create more time on our hands so we can bring every idea we have in our minds and sketch books to life!

 


 

4. Quan Mei (Founder of Sketch-A-Tote)

sketchPRO650Q: Firstly, a short self introduction about yourself

A: Hello! I’m Quan Mei, 22 years old, born and bred and a self-proclaimed true-blue Singaporean.I like doing hands-on-projects, DIY projects, and crafts in general. I’m more of an artistic individual. I like pretty, organized and visually- appealing things. You could say that I find joy in crafting and creating pretty things. I am really blessed to be musically- inclined and trained since young, specifically in piano playing and singing. Thus it did help me in honing my creativity and artistic character.I have been actively keeping a lifestyle blog (www.quansss.blogspot.com) where I write mostly on food, crafts and  some of my life events. It is an online space where I can combine both of my passion,photography and writing.People who know me would described me as cheerful, optimistic and independent (and blur at times). Although I might be independent and tough, I am in fact a very emotional and sentimental girl.

Q: What was your inspiration or motivation to get into this business?

A: Back when I was in year 2 of University, it was where blogshops sprung up  every month. I thought to myself, “Hey, I want to own one too”. Unfortunately, that didn’t come true due to many factors such as high start-up cost to import stocks, and the fact that there’s too many blogshops for clothing out there. At that point in time, it was also the time where carrying canvas tote bags were trendy. Almost every teenager, including myself, can be spotted carrying one from mainly Cotton on and Topshop. The designs for tote bags were so limited that I find myself doodling and personalizing on my own tote.My first official “product” was drawn for a friend for her 21st birthday. Since then, I’ve started selling customized tote bags on a Facebook account as a “Blogshop”. One year later, in 2012, I decided to revamp the business properly and to kickstart it officially as Sketch-a-Tote. I named her Sketch-a-Tote as the primary concept and existence of her is to bring out the uniqueness in every individual. No two totes are the same as every piece is hand-drawn by me, as emphasized in Sketch-a-Tote’s slogan, “Be Tote-ally Different”.The birth of Sketch-a-Tote satisfies my desire to own a business and my passion for creating creative and pretty pieces.

sketchpic650Q: What are the hardships you have faced and who or what have been your greatest support and motivation all along?

A: The greatest difficulty that I have faced is to find time to hand-draw each order, yet not being burnt out, as it gets really draining and tiring at times, especially when you have to constantly come up with new design ideas. However, I would see this as a happy problem as I’m doing what I love therefore I love what I do. The greatest motivation that keeps me going is returning customers emailing me to order more because they love their previous purchases so much, or even them sending me a photo of their orders and many more. I am really blessed and thankful for every single one of them, that I told myself that I must work even harder to not disappoint them.

Q: What are your thoughts on Singapore’s bespoke artisan industry?

A: For this more artsy-fartsy market, it is different from other mass-produced products. If you are looking for quick and mass-produced products, we are not the place for you to look for. However, if you are looking for customized, personalized and good quality crafts, you can definitely count on us for it. I think the market for hand-made crafts is starting to boom and I’m glad that more Singaporeans are starting to appreciate and value the beauty of hand-made crafts, something that is uniquely and “tote-ally” different.

Q: Any shoutout to the readers?

A: Find us on Instagram (www.instagram.com), facebook (www.fb.com/sketchatote) and website (www.sketchatote.tictail.com) and if you like what you see, do come and say hi!

 


 

5. Joelle Rozz , Addynna & Adlina ( Founders of Forest Child)

forestchildPRO650Q: Firstly, a short self introduction about yourself. How did you guys get to know each other?

A: Addynna and I have been friends for about 4 years. She is a really crafty person whereas I am not. Yet, we both love leather a lot.Back then, I was only a painter. At a Sunday artists’ market, I saw that her booth was doing really well and mine was really quiet. I told her that her products have really great potential and that she should produce more of them so as to sell and earn more! She went on to mention about manpower issues so I suggested to her that we could work together. We found a friend later- Adlina, who wanted to learn about leather crafting  and she became our apprentice. Eventually, she became one of us (Forest Child)

Q: How did you guys get started in this business and what were the hardships that you have faced or are still facing? Who or what have been  your greatest motivation all along?

A: We started with buying just a piece of leather to experiment with it. We didn’t go to any schools and had no teachers to guide us along. In fact, we googled, made friends and asked around with regards to how to do leather crafting. Besides, to get leather from Singapore wasn’t easy. We didn’t know where to get it. In addition, it is an “uncle” industry. We had to google from one “uncle” shop to another and asked them where to buy the necessary tools. The tools are crucial because we were clueless with regards to how to cut leather using what. Moreover, this industry is not a friendly industry. People don’t really share tips. Even though it is supposed to be a crafting community, it got to become a business that is really competitive. Along the way, we found one veteran to share with us some tips.The 1st few crafts were ugly. Yet, it was sweet of our customers to purchase from us ever since our first craft was launched. We owe it to this people who understand the whole meaning and industry of leather crafting. Not to forget, we started out in my room at Woodlands. Our entire workshop was in a 100 square feet room. My room was packed with leather, literally looking like a jungle or a forest. Customers’ feedbacks have helped us to improve on our products a lot. In addition, so far, most leathercrafters are men.  We are probably the first and the few women leathercrafters. We want to encourage people, and more women, to start crafting too. We have Maketh project. It is another channel where we share our skills for free because we want people, especially, more women, to experience leather crafting. If you have the correct techniques, it is not that hard. In fact, more ladies than men have come our workshops to do their own crafts.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAQ: What are your thoughts on Singapore’s bespoke artisan industry?

A: I think it is growing but the artisan bespoke industry is still very niche. I feel that it has to cater to more people. Right now, the bespoke artisans’ products are generally targeting people with higher income. They usually sell  high-end products. Hopefully, in the future, they will cater to other people too. For us, we cater to everybody. We have products that cost 5 to 800 SGD. I understand that it is not easy to custom- made and handmade things but if you focus on outsourcing for cheaper material, it can be possible to allow more people to purchase bespoke items.

Q: What are your future plans for this business and what you hope to achieve for this business?

A: To start making products for ourselves because we haven’t made anything for ourselves yet! Just kidding! We want to establish our brand and also include ready- made products (still handmade by us), not just customised products. Now, we are only known for our customized products. Eventually, we hope to have products that are ready- made and  can be sold at a lower price. We are focusing on and trying to make time for that. We are exploring other channels of selling our handmade items, like selling them in quantity to others. That channel is a whole new industry and more sustainable. If we can tap on this market, we don’t have to worry anymore for the future. Now,  we only depend on customers buying. It is very risky. We need to plan for future. The workshop will always be running. So, do not worry about that.

Q: Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs out there?

A: I have one good advice for them- don’t stop working when you have a new startup. Continue working but probably, switch it to a part time job. Slowly start up your business and be strategic. Get an investor, go read business books and most importantly, think smart. There is no such thing as doing things without errors. Do it sincerely and it will happen.

Q: Any shoutout to the readers?

A: Do come by our shop. We have a proper shop now. We are extending our retail area. It is going to be a shop, a workshop and an office. You can see whatever we are producing with your own eyes. It is an experience when you pop by. You will see how we make things step by step.

 

So, here we conclude our journey of local bespoke artisans. Their stories have been inspiring, their hardwork have not gone unrecognised, their products have and will always be captivating. If you have missed the first part of this journey, fret not, click on this link. If this has inspired you to give them more support, do check them out on their respective websites! Do not worry, they don’t bite!

Share with us if you buy a local bespoke product by tagging us @shioksg #proudtobelahcal!

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