a triple bill of projects

oh dear oh dear. I’ve been away for so long that all the posting buttons have changed and wordpress looks slightly different. how, I’m not sure, but things are definitely not where I left them.

in the last couple of months I’ve started doing a lot of the crafty things I didn’t have time for when I started the new job way back in july, but just haven’t found the time or space to sit down, photograph and write about them. (even though I’ve been on holiday for the last two weeks – absolute bliss!)

last weekend I made three skirts – 2 pencils, 1 maxi – in a sew-a-thon over two days. let’s have a quick look at the fabrics:

from left to right: polyester made into a maxi skirt, printed sateen into a pencil skirt, kimono cotton into an a-line skirt

I’m really happy with the results, especially as I’m about 5 or 6 months out of practice. I’m good with invisible zips now and am so, so much more careful with basic techniques that’ve got me into trouble before… like straightening the grain. (for non-sewers: when you make clothes, you want the grain of the fabric to run a certain way, because it affects the way the fabric drapes on you. get it a little off, and you get a crooked drape. especially important for a maxi skirt because you want that long, smooth line straight down.) I almost beat up my serger while making these skirts though, because threading a serger is like feeding a metal monster of moving, cutting, chopping arms with four little threads – somebody, somebody has to go down. I won, obviously, and the serger lives on my mercy.

this week I’ve churned out cards while glued to downton abbey and since I’m sending most of them out for christmas I won’t be posting photos. can’t spoil the surprise, can I? here’s one I’m keeping as a happy birthday card (or similar):

really ridiculously easy: all you need are card stock, colour pastels, some fixative to fix the pastel (this could be optional – but fixative will prevent the pastels from rubbing off on fingers and envelopes), a rubber stamp and some ink. I got a real factory line going with this: colouring the blocks, fixing the pastel and then inking up and stamping. nothing like a bit of period soap opera and rubber stamping.

finally, I had a lovely afternoon yesterday at notabilia’s book arts class, where I learned about bookmaking and made a star tunnel book. this is my effort:

the completed product: have had a thing about stripes lately so thought I'd try a lattice. messy desk in background is actually even messier, as I heaped everything on one side to clear off this side for the picture...


in closer detail - I am oddly enamoured by the math-yness of the structure.

I also found out about fancy papers, a paper supplier on north bridge road, which I will have to physically avoid for the next few weeks as I already have a ton of materials and ideas at home that have yet to see any action… not to mention the metres and metres of fabric I’ve hoarded through the year. (about 15 metres, at last count, but nowhere near my mother’s collection of 2 cupboards!)

there is just So Much To Do, people! I am excited. let’s hope this frenzied crafting energy keeps up well into the new year.

a(n unexpected) hiatus

I have gone two weeks without projects now, and no posts about my wonderful trip to Africa in june either – so perhaps an explanation is long overdue. a couple of weeks ago I started a new job (as some of you may know) and my creative energy has been channelled into that on a full time basis. it’s taking me a while to settle in, coping with new responsibilities, environment and all, so I’ve decided to take a break from weekly projects. I am definitely still making and thinking and learning, all the things I started out to do, just on a daily basis now. which is quite exhausting as you’d imagine.

I hope to be back by the end of the month, perhaps early August, when things are more settled and work does not consume me as it does now. thank you all so much for your kind words and thoughts so far and for following my exploration into fields unknown – I will see you soon.

who has time to make things?

I was on a very, very long series of flights last weekend (took off and landed three times – my eardrums have just about recovered) and was plunged straight into the rush of life on this crazy little island. everything, and I mean everything behaved like it needed to be done right away. so wednesday came before I knew it, and the week’s project went neglected. today is a little better, although I’m feeling great inertia on many fronts. with so much to do and so little time, how was I to make something this week?

I set myself a time limit: 1 hour. in this hour, I grabbed two pieces of felt, jumped on the sewing machine and made:



a felt ribbon trim for a little black notebook. you can use the ribbon for lots of other things: to trim a collar, make a hairband or a necklace, glue onto a boring old purse for a pop of colour. if I hadn’t been dawdling taking photos and deciding what to do with the trim when I’d made it, I could’ve finished this little project in half an hour. who says you need time to add a touch of handmade to everyday life?

the start of an untitled short story

this is the first piece of fiction I’ve written for five years. I’ve forgotten how painful and wonderful writing can be, and I’m glad the weekly project’s made me try again. it’s not a short story (yet), just a little snippet. I have definite ideas for continuing this so you may see more popping up here and there in the weeks to come.

in the last three weeks of travel I’ve also filled up my notebook with all kinds of little thoughts and sketches here and there, but I have no idea how to work them all into something that makes sense. that will all need to stew for a while.

p/s: this is a little delayed due to an internet outage yesterday.

The owner flipped open the register and dusted the pages.

“Sorry, sand gets everywhere. If you could fill it in, please?”

Lilah looked at the open page. The last entry was two weeks ago – a couple that stayed one night. She wrote her details and left the number of nights blank.

“I’ll show you to your room.”

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a minor technological mishap

my apologies! due to a lack of a SD card reader and my leaving my camera USB cable behind, I can’t get my photos off my camera. understandably this makes showing you what I’ve done this week quite difficult, as I’ve been drawing.

next wednesday, I’ll be in zanzibar and unlikely to have internet access. next week’s project is obviously photography (I am on safari this weekend, and in dar es salaam and zanzibar the rest of the week) so I won’t be able to post then as well. the week after that though, I plan to do some writing, so that should be unaffected by lack of photos.

so, here is my promissory note of 2 projects to be duly handed in at the end of june when I’m back in singapore and have access to these photos.

negotiating home, history and nation

(in foreground) sutee kunavichayanont, history class (thanon ratchadamnoen), 2000. singapore art museum collection


negotiating home, history and nation: two decades of contemporary art in southeast asia, 1991-2011 is presented by the singapore art museum, running from now to 26 june 2011. I had the chance to attend the curator’s tour by SAM director tan boon hui last tuesday evening and learnt a lot about southeast asian contemporary art – something I know very little about despite half a degree in southeast asian history & politics. (hey, what else is a university education for, apart from finding out that you know a lot about very little?)

I enjoyed this exhibition; it is a great collection of art that vigorously contests what it means to be southeast asian – race, gender, living and working in its great cities. the central message of the exhibition is that contemporary southeast asian art has a social message. throughout the exhibition every piece spoke to this: through the use of history, race, culture and the use of traditional art forms and the vernacular. history class (above) is an arrangement of wooden classroom desks and chairs – just a classroom on first sight, but on closer look you realise that the desks are carved with scenes and words from thai history that are left out of thai history textbooks.

I thought a lot of the art was very literal – angry people making angry pictures – which makes for some powerful work. there were some subtler pieces though; in particular, I enjoyed suzann victor’s installation (below), which was made in the context of singapore’s ban on public performing art (josef ng snipping off his pubic hair in 1994 – I was a kid then but even I remember this). a piece of work performing without the body of an artist – the lightbulbs clinked against the mirrors, gently, musically almost, in a pool of glinting, threatening glass shards. oddly seductive.

suzann victor, expense of spirit in a waste of shame, 1994. singapore art museum collection

the catalogue is now available at the SAM bookshop (and it’s on my list of things to save my pennies for!).

p/s: this isn’t a scheduled post – I am actually blogging about singapore and southeast asian art from kampala, which is a funny feeling. meant to write this before I left, but life got in the way as it does. earlier, the kids from the school next door were in the field having a kickabout. the noise of small children playing football is the same everywhere.

isabella bird, the golden chersonese

isabella bird – what a woman. born in 1831, doctors told her to travel for the sake of her health. she took their advice very seriously. through her lifetime in the 19th century she travelled, usually solo, across continents, wandering through america, australia, asia and the middle east. the golden chersonese is her travelogue from asia. she begins in hongkong, explores canton, saigon, reaches singapore where she stops briefly and then travels onwards through the malayan peninsula. I first came across her work during my studies on victorians in late 19th century japan and when I found this volume, I had to read it.

her writing is stunning at times. almost immediately we are hurled into the life and spectacle of late 19th century china. from canton she writes:

“Colour riots in these narrow streets, with their high houses with projecting upper stories, much carved and gilded, their deeply-projecting roofs or eaves tiled with shells cut into panes, which let the light softly through, while a sky of deep bright blue fills up the narrow slit between.”

she tackles the multi-sensory experience of travel – particularly important in noisy, smelly asia perhaps? – and she hardly shies from difficult scenes. prisons in canton, dead tigers, trekking through malayan jungle, sleeping in a sampan, isabella does it all. and all the while wearing a dress.

“There was nothing for it but to walk, and we tramped for four miles. I could not have done the half of it had I not had my ‘mountain dress’ on, the identical mud-coloured tweed, in which I waded through the mud of Northern Japan.”

her character alone is reason enough to read this book. as I write, I’m packing to leave for 3 weeks in uganda and feel ashamed that I’m thinking about how I don’t have any hand sanitiser. I’m also ashamed to be daunted by 2 plane journeys, as in the course of the book, bird travels by ship, pony and trap, sampan, elephant… whatever it takes to get her somewhere that sounds interesting. the spirit of travel that drives her writing is so undeniably alive.
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