TAKE YOUR PICK
Celebrate the best of independent businesses in Singapore. From boutiques to studios, ateliers to diners, and crafters to niche service providers, we present a teaser of thoughtfully sourced businesses for your sampling.
Of Trying Times
Make Of Trying Times your pick for handcrafted wearables with inspirational stories.
Al et Clar
Make Al et Clar your pick for contemporary and timeless womenswear that does not compromise on quality, and that is beautiful and accessible.
Make Hepi your pick for garments for girls that are beautifully made, thoughtfully designed, environmentally sensitive and socially conscious.
A little more than a hour ago, someone robbed me.
I never thought I’d ever used those three words. It always seemed like something to someone else, not me.
And so, ‘I was robbed’ has now become some sort of remembrance for my 3rd week of moving into this big, bad city called London.
I’ve been meaning to write a post about moving here for a while now, but explaining something like that feels a little strange, almost a little narcissistic. But as with all the collections here in Of Trying Times, inspiration hits at our lowest moments in life. Cutting a post-robbery-wallow-in-self-pity moment short to blog suddenly doesn’t feel so weird anymore.
“You’d love London”
Three words I’ve heard one too many times before my move here.
Three words that I’ve yet to embrace.
Three words that I hope I’ll repeat proudly someday (or sometime soon).
I came to London for school. Slightly more than 5 months ago, I went for an university admissions interview on a whim and after a long painful process of self doubting and contemplation, I found myself accepted into a course that was only recently made available. University has never really been a priority for me especially after I started Of Trying Times because I knew I didn’t want to pursue a degree just for the sake of it. Like everything else, I wanted to know that I am and will be fully invested in the course and everything that came along with it. So when a degree called Design for Arts Direction opened up at London College of Communications, I decided to pursue it because it finally answered many of the doubts I had about school and the purpose of it.
Travelling so far from home for school has been an incredibly terrifying experience. Leaving loved ones and familiar grounds aside, I was terribly afraid of losing grasp of ‘Of Trying Times’. It is after all my baby of sorts and having built it from nothing, I constantly worry that it will wither to nothing it if I was no longer physically around to built its presence. I absolutely love working on Of Trying Times. For the very first time, I had full control of creating not just an product but an experience through branding, social media and build a community of people that I could go on talking to for days. Moving to a new city meant that I risk losing all of that.
But moving to a new city also meant losing my reliance on connections and familiar grounds. While I made it a point to expand my horizons in Singapore, I felt like I was constantly circling around the same spots and ideas; while I met more people and learnt more things, I felt like the world closing in smaller and that I was no longer as intrigued and curious. That might as well be the most dangerous thing that could happen to a 20 something. As Youth Lagoon aptly describes “Don’t stop imagining. The day that you do is the day that you die.” If anything else, I felt the need to put myself in the most uncomfortable situation so that I can once again feel comfortable.
Which just reminded me that
1. I am terribly homesick
2. I was just robbed
3. I am extremely uncomfortable
4. I am itching to start making things again
But in spite of all this discomfort and sobbing, I did experience some highs in London. Like making friends with people from literally all over the world, making use of the geographic location as well as feeling challenged and inspired by my tutors just within the first week of school.
After all, it has only been 2 weeks and it could have been a lot worse, I’m just really glad I’m ending this post feeling a lot less upset then before. Best lessons are learnt during #oftryingtimes indeed.
P.S Don’t worry I won’t let this baby wither, we’re just on a little hiatus trying to adjust to life here in London but I’m definitely going to keep things going with Of Trying Times.
We’ve always pride ourselves on being a small independent start-up. There’s loads to celebrate about being an independent start-up like the endless freedom to wreck havoc and design/make as we please with our hand. Unfortunately, being a small start-up also comes with its restraints – loads of them. Like how we’re are usually quite broke or go without salary, how we cannot hit the minimum order quantity for many things and how moon phases don’t get made if we fall sick.
Many many moons ago, I approached @thefingersmithletterpress on a collaboration but having just started out (back in nov!!) and on a whim, we didn’t think we could sustain this label long enough to make full use of the collaboration.
10 months later, here we are preparing for our big move to London next Saturday and feeling extremely happy (and throughly exhausted) that our 3 months worth of work -making an enormous batch of jewellery – had paid off; seeing them in these @thefingersmithletterpress boxes that are heading to @naiise!
We’re also feeling super grateful for the 5 pair of extra hands that helped packed everything into these boxes when we were feeling so extremely overwhelmed by the workload.
And so while we may be really small but these moments are reminders that we not on our own.
Of Trying Times was built on the need to re-direct anxiety into positivity and encourage the act of finding a silver lining during trying times. It was conceptualised during quiet moments in late nights but its intention has always been to connect others through shared experience and enlightening conversations. For a while now, the label has told its story through visuals and short writings through social media but it is finally ready to extend a new platform for anxiety-ridden thoughts, the blog. Through interviews, personal stories, guest writers and story submissions, the blog hopes to act as a meeting point for strangers to review and exchange stories about growing up (and growing old) and being a quiet reminder that we’re not alone in this scary journey.
The first ever theme of the blog is ‘Going Away’.
Our twenties is meant for adventures and learning to be independent. Lately, it seems like one of the scariest and most exciting bit about all also happens to be going away. Going away on a solo trip, going away on a school exchange and going away to further our studies. While it sounds like an exciting new adventure, it is also scary as hell but here are Of Trying Times we are all about reminding each other that we’re not alone.
You’ve shopped the stylish furniture pieces at Ethnicraft, lusted over them, and even brought them home – but have you ever wondered about the creative minds behind these best-selling works?
Here is an inside scoop to the designers we work with, and what inspired some of the Ethnicraft furniture pieces you all know and love.
With its clean lines and contemporary aesthetic, the Tripod Side Table by Heidi Earnshaw is, without a doubt, a winning piece. The Toronto-based designer and furniture maker takes her cue from Japanese and Scandinavian architecture and re-interprets historic pieces into modern furniture. But more than that, her background in fine art and a deep understanding of the nature of wood make her designs versatile enough for every home.
Often described as one of the most influential designers of his generation, Nathan Yong is the man behind the N-Chair collection. The Singapore-based innovator isn’t just proficient in furniture design – he also dabbles in various fields from interior design to architecture, graphics, product development, and branding. Pieces from the N Chairs collection bear all the hallmarks of Yong’s design ethos: modern, elegant, and eye-catching with a clever use of material. And this year, Ethnicraft has launched a new version: the N4 High Chair, another eye-catching piece to spruce up your interiors.
It takes a creative genius to come up with something as inventive as the Utilitile Collection. Someone like Patrik Turner, one of Canada’s most innovative furniture designers. Much of his designs have been featured in respected publications and even housed in the Mint Museum in the U.S. – making every piece from the Utilitile Collection a must-have collector’s item. Whether it’s the Utilitile Hooked coat hook, Utilitile Keyed shelf or Utilitile Mirror tile, these space-saving pieces are perfect for homes that are short on space but big on style.
Swedes are famous for their clean, minimalist, and classic design aesthetic. The Pettersson Dining Table by Swedish designer Patrik Pettersson is the perfect embodiment of the signature Scandinavian look with its sleek lines, beautiful oak and teak finish, and signature crossed legs. Pettersson may have first studied to be a lawyer, but clearly, design is his calling – as evidenced by his strong international reputation, having participated in many celebrated fairs such as Maison & Objet in Paris and the Design Weeks of London and Milan.
It’s true what they say: behind every masterpiece is an artist. And with Ethnicraft furniture pieces, that is what you’ll get. A masterpiece conceptualised and crafted by some of the world’s most creative minds in design.
Ever wondered how Ethnicraft Online came to be? Well, you’re in the right place. Hear from Jonathan Roelandts and Katrien Bollen, the Managing Director and Marketing Director of Ethnicraft Online, as they fill you in on everything you never knew about us.
What is the philosophy behind Ethnicraft Online?
Katrien: Quality, customer service, and convenient shopping form the DNA of Ethnicraft Online. We believe in providing superior customer service, whether it’s for an online order or for a purchase at our showroom. We also aim to offer customers functional, contemporary, high quality solid wood furniture.
As a company that started in Belgium, how did Ethnicraft make its way to Singapore and other parts of Asia?
Jonathan: I joined Ethnicraft in 2010 as Business Development Manager for Asia Pacific. Inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit and story of Ethnicraft founders Philippe Delaisse and Benoit Loos, I pitched the idea of launching Ethnicraft Online in Singapore to them because I believed that our values will resonate with customers here.
Katrien: After graduating from Insead Business School in Singapore, I was keen to start an online venture in South East Asia. I also found it challenging to find great looking, high quality but affordable furniture in Singapore. That’s where the idea to launch an online furniture store here started.
Why did Ethnicraft immediately start an online store instead of an actual brick-and-mortar store?
Jonathan: Ethnicraft has always been about providing customers quality products and services and a great customer experience. Online is an excellent platform through which we can provide our customers convenience: they can browse our website, select their preferred products, measure dimensions, and make their order online, all in the comfort of their own homes.
Why do you think customers should purchase from Ethnicraft Online, even though online shopping for furniture can be quite risky?
Katrien: We provide detailed product descriptions and good picture representations of our products on our website, so that they can make informed decisions. Still, we understand that online shopping can certainly be risky and that’s why we also have a dedicated showroom in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Shanghai. Customers can visit our showroom to view our products in person and get personalised assistance from our team.
Why should customers choose Ethnicraft?
Katrien: Ethnicraft furniture is natural, functional, and strong. They’re designed and made to last, so you’ll be able to build a lifetime of happy family memories with our pieces. Plus, Ethnicraft furniture is also environmentally-conscious. Our teak is harvested from sustainably managed plantations or reclaimed from neglected buildings in Indonesia, and our oak come from responsibly managed plantations in Europe.
Jonathan: Last but not least, our prices are competitive: all our products include delivery, installation, GST, free return and a life-time warranty – no hidden costs or nasty surprises! We also offer a 5% discount for purchases above S$2,000 and 10% for purchases above S$5,000.
What is your favourite Ethnicraft product?
Jonathan: My favourite piece is the Slice Dining Table which I use at home every day. It looks modern and stylish with its unique ‘slice’ tabletop. The high technical expertise required to craft such a table from solid wood is also incredible.
Katrien: I absolutely love the Horizon Shoe Rack! Stylish and practical, this beautiful furniture stores my prized possessions – my favourite shoes.
What’s next for Ethnicraft Online?
Katrien: Exciting times are ahead for us! We are looking to expand internationally. We opened in Kuala Lumpur in 2013 and in Shanghai earlier this year, so look out, you never know where we might open our doors next!
Want to know more about Ethnicraft Online? Check out our website to learn about our history, dedication towards the environment, our services, and everything else that makes us one of the best furniture brands around!
WHO WE ARE
By the grace of God, Studio Asobi was founded by Huiwen and Kenneth, a husband and wife team of ceramic artists. We initially took up pottery in Singapore as a hobby, but very soon fell in love with the beauty and complexity of this art form. In 2013, Huiwen took a sabbatical from her financially rewarding corporate career and after a pilgrimage of discovery in Tajimi, one of Japan’s famous pottery towns, she decided to take a big step of faith and practice ceramics full-time. Trained in art and architecture, Kenneth has always held a special love for ceramic sculpture, and since joining Huiwen in this practice, now helps to chart Studio Asobi’s artistic direction while designing homes in his day job.
“Asobi (遊び)” means “play” in Japanese. The Kanji word “遊” also translates to “journey” in Mandarin. We see life both as a spiritual journey of exploration, and also as a joyful adventure, and our decision to become potters is a big part of this adventure we are embarking on as a couple. We also want to embed this spirit of a playful journey into our work, lovingly naming each vessel we create and weaving in the dreamy beauty of haikus into our art.
We create our ceramic art as a reflection of our spiritual journey of faith, using clay to express our love, our hope, and our struggles. We also run introductory ceramics workshops from our cosy home studio.
Isaiah 64:8 says “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.”
Every day, we wake up full of gratitude for the life we are given, and we want to share this gratitude and love with the people around us. We have thus pledged to donate 20% of our profits to local charity Mercy Centre, for their wonderful ministry towards the homeless in Singapore. We also believe in using our gifts as a force for good, and we have donated our works in support of charitable causes such as Room To Read and Oxfam Trailwalker.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
I could not shake away the sense of eternity that was placed into my heart. A question hung in my mind – how was I to respond given the time I have in this earthly life? Since leaving a comfortable corporate career to reassess my life’s directions, I have embarked on a journey to discover what it really means to have a life well-lived.
In early 2014, I spent a month from winter through spring at a stay-in studio program in the old pottery town of Tajimi, Japan. As the days of one season passed into another, I sensed a soft stirring within my heart which grew stronger as I marvelled at the raw and natural beauty I was immersed in. Creating my own little pieces of art in this wonderful environment made me all the more aware of and amazed at God’s work all around me, and this is how I fell deeply in love with the art of pottery.
Nothing man-made can ever compare with the work of our Creator. Yet, I always feel something special when enjoying an object made by hand over hours of dedicated work – this warm, spiritual connection with its maker that simply transcends the physical nature of the object. It is my hope that the vessels I make can also create these same connections with those who use them. And that these clay vessels, formed from the humble ingredients of mud, water and love, can convey my renewed joy of living in this amazing and beautiful world.