He turned to netizens to fund The Perfect Sketchbook

Mr Lian wanted to create a hardcover, compact sketchbook that opened out flat and was filled with top-grade paper.
Mr Erwin Lian turned to crowdfunding to raise money to produce The Perfect Sketchbook. His second campaign on Indiegogo to create a B5 version of the sketchbook ended last week.ST PHOTOS: ALICIA CHAN
Mr Erwin Lian turned to crowdfunding to raise money to produce The Perfect Sketchbook. His second campaign on Indiegogo to create a B5 version of the sketchbook ended last week.
Mr Lian wanted to create a hardcover, compact sketchbook that opened out flat and was filled with top-grade paper.
Mr Lian wanted to create a hardcover, compact sketchbook that opened out flat and was filled with top-grade paper.
Mr Lian wanted to create a hardcover, compact sketchbook that opened out flat and was filled with top-grade paper.

The Perfect Sketchbook was born out of one man's quest to create the ultimate drawing companion.

Artist and part-time lecturer at Ngee Ann Polytechnic Erwin Lian, 36, launched a Kickstarter campaign to produce the sketchbook in July last year with a target to raise US$50,000 (S$70,600).

By the time the crowdfunding campaign drew to a close in August, he had raised US$53,851 from 881 backers to create a 9cm x 14cm leather-bound book filled with 60 thick leaves of 100 per cent cotton paper.

Mr Lian began toying with the idea of making his own sketchbook when he could not find one that met all his criteria - one that was hardcover, compact, opened out flat and filled with top-grade paper.

Instead of scouring the market for a ready product, Mr Lian decided to create his own. He approached local leather and paper label Bynd Artisan to create a prototype of the pocket-sized book, and launched his Kickstarter campaign to look for backers.

But it was a mammoth task getting people on board. "I went online looking for directories, and e-mailed people if they were doing anything even distantly related to watercolour, travel, the arts or sketchbooks. I was like an insurance guy on the street, hustling everyone," he recalled.

Despite his best efforts, with 10 days to go, the project was still 40 per cent from full funding. But by a stroke of luck, the power of social media came to his rescue. Over Instagram, Mr Lian reached out to an artist in Brazil, who had over 100,000 followers, and the artist helped him to spread the word.

"And it started to rain something like US$6,000 a night. We met the target about five days before the campaign ended. It was really amazing," Mr Lian said.

When the campaign closed, Mr Lian had the funds to get production going. The first batch of The Perfect Sketchbook was ready in December last year, and he began shipping them out to backers in January.

Although his crowdfunding experience was successful, Mr Lian said he has no plans to turn The Perfect Sketchbook into a mass-produced commercial product. "There is no way to sustain it because I exhausted all the money on materials, commissions and shipping," he said.

But that does not mean Mr Lian has closed the chapter on crowdfunding. After getting positive feedback, he decided to create a campaign to fund a larger B5 version of The Perfect Sketchbook on Indiegogo. It ended a week ago, with 956 people raising US$54,105 in total.

Mr Lian said: "This second campaign has been more successful. It is very encouraging to see so much interest in it."

Lisabel Ting

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2015, with the headline 'He turned to netizens to fund The Perfect Sketchbook'. Print Edition | Subscribe