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Photograph: Fabian Loo

The local crafters inspiring sustainability through homeware

Craft studio Chokmah explores design through an eco-friendly medium and materials leftover

Fabian Loo
Written by
Fabian Loo

To create art is to produce works that are appreciated for their beauty and form. But would you still choose to continue creating these beautiful pieces, when the production process is an ugly, wasteful one? For one artist, she decided that exercising her creativity should not come at the expense of the environment. 

That artist is Joyce Orallo, an interior design graduate from LASALLE College of the Arts. Through the many years working as a crafter, from conducting painting classes to holding polymer clay earring-making workshops, she saw that almost every medium creates a sizable amount of wastage. “During my experimentation and production, I realised I was creating so much rubbish,” says Joyce. “Like crazy a lot.” 

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Thus began her hunt for an eco-friendly alternative. Joyce’s search led her to Jesmonite, a water-based composite material. Originally intended to be used as a concrete substitute, savvy designers like Joyce are discovering this versatile medium and using it to realise their artistic expression instead. Outside of its usage as a building material, Jesmonite also works on a small-batch production scale: no volatile organic compounds mean no harmful fumes are produced, and there is no need to use a kiln, oven, or any other high-energy machinery to cure the product. 

Broken pieces aren’t wasted, either. The versatility of the product allows for what would typically end up as discarded material be re-moulded and transformed into new, one-of-a-kind, products. Joyce puts it in a more poetic way: “once broken, considered new”.  

Once broken, considered new 

Marbled plates and terrazzo planters are among some of the items that she, along with co-founder Halim Wahab, fashion out of the eco-material, and retails the unique pieces through their craft studio, Chokmah. “Each piece is made responsibly with care of the environment,” adds Joyce. 

More than just retailing creating gorgeous, colourful wares, Chokmah also conducts a series of Jesmonite workshops to help inspire the message of sustainability. “Most consumers only get to see the end-product nowadays,” says Joyce. “They don’t get to really see the entire [crafting] process and what are the waste created in the process.” 

Chokmah’s workshop, thus, provides a hands-on introduction to sustainable crafting. Customers can experience the entire no-waste process; Joyce uses silicon supplies in place of single-use materials, and leftover Jesmonite products are crushed up into terrazzo chips and can be re-used to create new works of art. “The whole idea is really about encouraging the concept of crafting sustainably,” says Halim. 

Education is an important mission for the business, and Chokmah regularly participates in outreach programs to further the message of working with the environment in mind. There are even plans in the pipeline to set up an academy, to further spread the critical message of sustainability. “They don’t really teach this in school,” adds Halim. 

Sustainability might be a trending movement in recent years, but the green approach has yet to find firm footing in the local art scene in Singapore. And this is why Joyce loves what she’s able to do now – to inspire a new generation of crafters and artists that puts the environment on the forefront. “It’s rare for art and sustainability to co-exist together,” she says. 

A new mould

What to expect from a Jesmonite-crafting workshop?

Terrazzo-Style Tray Workshop ($120), one of Chokmah’s two available classes, runs for two hours. In the session, you’ll learn about the basics of Jesmonite. But the fun comes from selecting your own colourful blend of terrazzo chips. Any colour story works – Joyce shares that the process is “abstract” enough so there’s no need to worry for those that are not artistically inclined. Create a base colour with a hue of your choice, then stir and pour everything within a mould. After minutes, the product hardens, and some elbow grease is needed to sand and smoothen the tray to reveal a kaleidoscopic product you can bring home. Visit to book, or browse its range of products. 

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