Maker movement

Forget Shopping, Go D.I.Y

Having a water-tight budget for my new 3-room BTO was perhaps one of my BIGGEST blessings in life!

But before you shake your head at such a disturbing statement that will cause anyone’s Ma and Pa to gape in horror, my quest for furniture that are cheap, beautiful, artistic and that screams my own taste and character has led me down a path to enlightenment –  D.I.Y. This ‘dirty’ word (or as many locals put it off as “wasting time”) which once made my sanitised clothes and hands cringe in fear has now added meaning to “independence” for me as a woman.

Using recycled pallet wood to create stunning, organic furniture pieces was a must-have for my house which adopted a Scandinavian-industrial cum vintage-art theme. It looked easy online to take any pallet wood apart, but trust me, it is not! My ached muscles and tear-filled eyes were a testimony to my first, untrained attempt. That was why I attended my first pallet wood workshop from OneMaker’s Group (OMG), where I was given an informal group training with professional advice by friendly and helpful carpenters – Robin Oh and Neo Poh Hong – who truly enjoyed their jobs. Who cares about the dust sprinkling on my clothes while I attempted to sand, saw and drill my pallet woods to create anything I wanted. I can exchange this with shopping and facials at any time! My very first piece of hand-crafted piece of furniture was crystallised into an unconventional-looking shelf fit for my wall.

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Bring on the drill, baby!

Set up through a concerted effort by 6 local companies – Simplified3D, Sustainable Living Lab, Eian Williams Consulting, Home-Fix, FocusTech Ventures and SmartSpace – OMG is a result of the growing maker movement or maker culture in Singapore, in which a rebirth in interest in making one’s own furniture, prototypes and other innovative hardware melts with curiosity, creativity and community, thanks in part to high cost of living and increased desire for customised pieces at a budget. OMG’s fun-filled and hyper interesting workshops which include soldering, wood engraving. laser cutting, drone-making, pet-house-making etc. are what drives people to keep coming back.

I decided to find out from Robin, who is also OMG’s lead executive officer, what makes them tick.

What prompted you to start OMG and why?
Before OMG was formed, I was working on my own customised wood furniture business – www.designed.sg. Together with my partner Poh Hong, I worked as a part-time woodworking instructor with SL2. I enjoy learning and teaching others through making, and I do hope to share my passion for making with many more people.

Describe the challenges and struggles that OMG faces.
There is a great interest for making, but most people shun away from taking action, so this is a constant challenge. We need to listen and talk to people to understand their thinking and in some sense, we are shaping the culture, but most people are not receptive to changes.

Which kind of classes are the most popular at OMG?
Wood-working classes! I guess it’s because everyone aspires to make a furniture for their own home. Houses in Singapore are getting smaller, and finding a customised one is hard and costly.

What do you think have spurred the growing maker movement in Singapore and why?
Technology have changed our lives significantly. We have improved so rapidly that people fail to notice that we can also start making things using these technology. The way we live and have been brought up restricts us from involving ourselves in making. You can’t drill, hammer or saw your furniture at home, the resulting dust is a turn off, neighbours will complain etc. People now want a personalised product that is unique to them. Instead of spending money to get people to make something for you, why not do it yourself where it is more cost effective and you get to learn a new skill!

Singapore is still very much a shop-and-buy culture. Do you think that this will change with the growing maker movement?
The growing maker movement actually helps inject customised features for the consumer culture in Singapore. We now live in a world of mass customisation, where a single product can be used by different consumers in different ways..

How do you think Singaporeans view the D.I.Y culture and those who work in this field?
“It is not a proper job. it won’t make you rich” is always the comment I get when I tell people that I work as a carpenter. Here in Singapore, qualifications are important in securing a proper job. However, not many people can understand that the passion you have for your work is a thriving motivation that keeps people staying and working hard.

What are the common misconceptions people have of D.I.Y?
D.I.Y is only for people who have sufficient knowledge and for experts. D.I.Y takes a lot of time (not true if you know how to manage it). D.I.Y is generally a man’s thing (WRONG!)!

One Maker's Group

One of the classes at OMG

Do you see more women participating in such classes?
I do hope to see more women participating! We intend to run classes related to fashion like jewellery making and wearables that combine different technologies and machines together. As a matter of fact, majority of our woodworking class attendees are women! You go, girl!

What can participators anticipate when they join your classes?
Come with an open mind to learn, and participants can expect to make something special and bring it back home!

What do you think are the best gifts people can create for each other?
I believe the best gifts are the ones that you have put your thoughts, your time and your skill into it. It does not need to be aesthetically beautiful or intricately constructed, as long as you have derived a sense of achievement in conveying a message to whom you are giving it to. That is the best!

What is your aim for OMG in the next 5 years?
OMG aims to set up maker spaces in other parts of the world that will help people discover new dimensions of themselves through making.

What are some of the best items that you have created?
To call it the best would be too early, but I enjoyed making my own laser cut wood rings!

Do you think D.I.Y should be for everyone?
D.I.Y should be for everyone! Everyone should have something they want to make for themselves, right?

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My finished piece…at last!

To participate in any one of OneMaker’s Group’s workshops, visit http://onemakergroup.sg.
Images courtesy of OneMaker’s Group.

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