Playing with concrete
Who Alvin Chan, 31
What Chan’s exploration into concrete was completely by chance – he was looking around for a material to experiment with and found some leftover cement from the renovation done at his HDB void deck. He took a bagful of cement home, watched some YouTube tutorials, played around with the material and, as they say, the rest is history.
While you might think concrete is similar to pottery making, Chan says it’s closer to cake making – at least in terms of the steps taken. The materials needed for concrete casting are surprisingly few, namely: cement, water, a mold and a stirrer. Once the cement mixture is created and poured into the mold, it’s left to set overnight and is ready the next day for additional designs.
But it’s not just building bricks that can be created out of cement. “I try to explore new forms and shapes that concrete is capable of creating; a design element comes in to create something that’s visually interesting,” says Chan. On his website, you’ll find aesthetically pleasing homeware items like pen holders, lamps, planters and even side tables for sale.
Where Chan runs concrete play workshops ($60-$80) in his home studio to ensure costs stay low and to maintain a cosy relaxed atmosphere. You get to select one product you want to create – choose from a marble square lamp, planter and alphabets – you’ll be guided through the creation process in the two separate two-hour sessions.
Who Ng Seok Har, 48, and Michelle Lim, 33
What The duo became friends at Awaken the Dragon, a community art project held in 2013 that raised awareness of the two remaining dragon kilns in Singapore, and put their heads (and savings) together to create Mud Rock in 2013.
From unassuming bowls to a tiffin-inspired tea set that President Tony Tan gifted Queen Elizabeth II on her 90th birthday, Mud Rock’s kitchenware is made of mud and clay that are sculpted, engraved, glazed and fired in-house. And they work as well as they look – Ng and Lim ensure functionality is weaved into the designs.
Their studio, which is currently stocked with nine wheels, two tables and three electric kilns, is also where the pair conduct workshops. If you haven’t spun clay before, we recommend you sign up for the introduction course. Over four lessons, you’ll learn about the different raw materials, techniques and intricacies of ceramic-making while having a go at shaping your own wabi-sabi masterpiece.
Once you’ve got the basics down pat and are looking for a space to practise your craft, Mud Rock’s clay commune grants you full access to its tools and equipment for a small fee.
Where Weekly pottery classes (from $240/four lessons) are held at the Mud Rock studio – but book in advance. There’s also a limited number of ceramic wares in the studio you can buy (cups start at $20), as well as the occasional large sale.
Who Sarah Lim, 46
What Trading her pen for a pair of gardening scissors, former advertising executive Lim followed her love for all things beautiful when she founded Poppy Flora Studio in 2000.
Lim and her team handcraft every bouquet you see in the store. Don’t expect uniformly rounded globes of roses – each flower is allowed to curve and bend to create an airy, bountiful and vibrant mix that looks as if, as Lim describes, they’re ‘dancing’. Every last Saturday of the month, Poppy allows you to pick out flowers of your choosing to fit a bouquet bag – think of it as a fit-all-you-can flower buffet – for $69, mimicking Europe’s flower markets. Besides roses, lilies and tulips that are available all year round, Lim sources the globe for seasonal flowers. In August, it’s sweet peas, zinnias and dahlias.
For last-minute, grab-and-go bouquets, Poppy does pocket posies of both fresh ($18) and dried flowers ($19) – the latter comes with a handmade paper poppy. (Because real poppy flowers aren’t allowed to be imported into Singapore due to their narcotic properties.)
Where Besides having a retail store in Capitol Piazza, Lim conducts weekly floral arrangement workshops (from $145) – they range from floral crown-making and Bridal 101 – at 311 Old Birdcage Walk in Seletar Aerospace Park.
Who Prachi Saini, 42
What Saini is proof that you can turn your hobby into a full-time career: she started out making perfumes at home for friends back in 2005 and, eight years later, set up Je T’aime Perfumery.
To create personalised fragrances, Je T’aime Perfumery uses five professional perfume kits, each holding over 150 individual ingredients across five scent categories: citrus, fresh, floral, woody and oriental. Before you start sniffing and dropping oils into your take-home bottle, you’ll have to fill up a personality test to determine your primary and secondary scent categories.
Those who don’t have the nose for scents can try their hands at the simpler gender-specific perfume kit where Saini has prepared seven to eight fragrances per category for you to mix and match – the end result is almost guaranteed to smell good. Regardless of the kit you’re using, a formula card keeps track of your concoctions, so you can replicate the fragrance in the future.
In the spirit of National Day, Saini has distilled the scents of 50 orchids native to Singapore – and you can make a perfume out of their oils. Her nose has even led to her recreating the smells of Lao Pa Sat, giant pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia’s enclosure and even opium (without the high, of course) for museum displays.
Where You can customise perfume-making sessions (from $145) to suit individuals, couples or larger groups. Saini also caters to mobile bridal showers and corporate events.
Design and build
Who Pan Yi Cheng, 36
What Produce builds furniture and designs interiors, but not in the way you’d expect. Pan, a top honours graduate of the Architectural Association in London, founded the design firm with the idea that model-making should be a major weapon in a designer’s arsenal. In other words, he rapidly prototypes models at every stage of the design process to iron out kinks – and he’ll even fabricate certain final products himself in his workshop.
Designs that come out of Produce are a sight for sore eyes. Not only are they beautiful, they’re also functional – for example, Pan and his team have customised a feature wall that can house a TV, movable storage boxes and, here’s the clincher, two cat climbs. If you’ve ever dined at Wild Rocket, that complex lattice ‘nest’ that clings onto one wall of the restaurant was designed, built and assembled by Produce.
Produce doesn’t have a retail showroom so much as a workshop, where digital fabrications are conducted inhouse under close supervision. On any given day, its Computer Numerical Control machine – think of this as a giant, automated wood-cutter – is hard at work cutting out life-sized models based on digital files fed by the team.
Where There’s no retail space as most items are built to order, but Produce produces out of a workshop in Eunos.
For better leather
Who Xie Hui, 28
What Way before the dawn of YouTube tutorials, Xie was already looking up books and magazines to DIY his own leather accessories and eventually opened his own leathercraft studio in 2008.
Xie and his team of five regularly impart leathercraft knowledge to budding makers in their workshops, where you make and bring home products that range from coin pouches to watch straps to cuffs that double up as smartphone stands and cardholders – no prior experience needed as they’ll guide you from cutting to finishing.
That said, leathercraft is not for the time-starved. Depending on the complexity of the item you’re making, a session can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. For a truly handmade experience, Xie will even teach you how to construct your own wallet or handbag, but it’s not a piece of cake: it takes a few sessions before you can walk away with a one-of-a-kind piece.
Where Stone for Gold holds leathercraft and stitching workshops (from $79) in its studio and at The Refinery Workspace. And the goods also retail at excluniqueeee, which has outlets in Mandarin Gallery and Marina Square.