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Selling craft made in Singapore

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Jan 14, 2014

As small, independent craftsmaking businesses start to take off here, a group of university students are hoping to help these craftsmen fly the "made in Singapore" flag as a collective.

Four final-year communications undergraduates at Nanyang Technological University have started Makers Of Singapore, a non-profit initiative to raise awareness of the local crafts scene.

They also hope to link up craftsmen and designers across disciplines, from leathercraft to graphic design, so that they can share their knowledge and create business opportunities. There are also plans to compile a one-stop directory of the different craftsmen in Singapore.

Ms Wong Jing Ying, 22, Ms Sophial Foo, 22, Mr Alex Tai, 25, and Mr Loh Jun Wei, 25, are helming the initiative as part of their final-year project.

Ms Wong says they were inspired by the Maker movement in the United States and Indonesia, which they discovered through research online. These movements, which are not connected but have the same goal, bring together people who sell self-made products to form a vibrant craft scene in those countries.

Ms Wong adds: "Singapore's craft scene is fragmented with many pockets of talent everywhere. This is a timely start as we have seen the recent rise of local initiatives in support of craft businesses such as Market of Artists and Designers (Maad), Public Garden, Temporium and The U Factory, for example, which have gained traction in the public eye.

"We want to complement such efforts and improve the awareness of local craft businesses, whose goods are produced entirely in Singapore, from conceptualisation to production."

Kick-starting Makers Of Singapore tomorrow is The Makers' Forum, a closed-door talk which will see about 100 craftsmen, designers and entrepreneurs discuss the booming craft industry here and how to turn a crafts hobby into a thriving business.

Held at rooftop bar Loof in North Bridge Road, it will be fronted by four panellists who are veterans in their fields: Ms Jasmine Tuan, founder of BlackMarket, an independent fashion retailer that supports Singapore designers; Ms Carolyn Kan, founder of Carrie K., a jewellery and accessories label; Mr Felix Ng, an award-winning creative director and founder of Anonymous, a multi- disciplinary creative and design studio; and Mr Jeremiah Ang, founder of The J.Myers Co, a one-man company that produces fine leather goods.

The panellists will also talk about craftsmen collaborating across disciplines such as leather-making and industrial design, for example.

Ms Michelle Yu, 24, who runs two-year-old The Gentlemen's Press, a letterpress company, is excited at the prospect of exchanging knowledge and ideas with other local craftsmen. She will attend the forum tomorrow as a participant.

Ms Yu, who graduated from the Temasek Polytechnic School of Design in 2011 and runs the company full-time, says: "The craftsmaking industry is small and everyone pretty much knows one another through regular crafts events.

"But we don't really talk about how to help grow the group or exchange ideas. It's a good start to help budding craftsmen who might want to pursue their craft full-time or find other like-minded people to collaborate with."

Others hope that the Makers Of Singapore initiative will help spread the word about local products.

Jam-maker Joey Gan, who left his job as a conservation officer at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve to start GSH Conserves last October, hopes that the project will highlight work and products made in Singapore.

Currently, he sells his jams through social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram and at public craft events. He makes four different types of jams, with fruit sourced from the region, and a chilli dip, out of a kitchen in MacPherson. A 50ml bottle costs $4.

The 31-year-old says: "In Singapore, there's a revival of demand for things made by hand. For a long time, it was always overseas brands, even with jam, that buyers preferred. But as more locals get to know about us, they find that they don't need to overlook the good stuff here."

natashaz@sph.com.sg

The Made In SG Market, a showcase-cum- retail event, will take place next month. It will be open to the public. For details, go to www.facebook.com/makersofsg or www.makersofsingapore.com.

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Jan 14, 2014

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