I’ve always been interested in forming bonds with my peers in design. There is something about what we do that becomes bigger and better through sharing and openness. Unlike other disciplines or trades, where secrecy is expected, design is bolstered by communality.
This discovery has set me on a continuing journey across Asia to learn from the masters of arcane or dying crafts. In Myanmar, I sat for days with local carvers as they worked chunks of jadeites into exquisite objects and jewelry. In Bali, I stayed with wood carvers who made enormous decorative panels in the hyper detailed style of the island.
I was in Japan recently with fellow Singaporean designers to develop new objects in collaboration with traditional Japanese craftsmen. I spent days in pottery and textile studios, and observed up close the trancelike crafting of handles for samurai swords. There is something deeply spiritual about that craft that I would like to emulate. It is not only the act of making but also the entire mental attitude towards it that makes the craft transcendent.
As I was setting up StudioNorm, I decided to focus on the hospitality and corporate sectors. I wanted to touch as many people as possible and in various situations as we offer bespoke design solutions in furniture, furnishings and interior architecture to clients across the region.
Similarly, when I created our in-house label normform to manufacture and distribute products across the hospitality industry, I intended to be in a situation where I would collaborate with clients to create new products – I didn’t want it to be an isolated experience of me and my team working in isolation at our workshop.
I join trade expositions, such as the International Furniture Fair Singapore and Asia Talents, not only for commercial benefits but also for the terrific collegial spirit that allows us to form bonds and cooperation.
Today, I make time to connect with young designers as an adjunct lecturer at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and the Temasek Polytechnic Design School. It has been interesting sharing ideas with students and investing in the future of the next generation of designers. I have also been mentoring design start-ups in the propagation of craftsmanship and the development of its commercial aspects.”
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