Retailers conduct craft workshops on their premises to engage community

Some lifestyle shops are holding crafts workshops to give customers hands-on experience

You go to artisanal shops to buy their specialist wares, but more of them are teaching you how to make stuff.

These days, more retailers, often cool design-centric ones, are offering DIY workshops related to or themed around their products.

For example, since the middle of last year, lifestyle and design chain Naiise offers regular weekend workshops across three of its six stores islandwide, at The Cathay, Orchardgateway and Clarke Quay Central.

Naiise is known for carrying quirky indie designer items, including homeware, clothing and lifestyle gadgets.

Its classes are typically conducted by local creatives and cover topics such as ice cream-making, calligraphy and casting of marbled concrete planters.

Its newest store in the basement of The Cathay, which is 8,500 sq ft in size, includes a dedicated area for workshops.

Over at Keepers, a showcase of Singapore designers and craftsmen located at the National Design Centre, there are classes such as silversmithing and woodworking. The 1,400 sq ft space comprises a retail section, design studio and workshop space.

Another workshop organiser is multi-concept shop K+ Curatorial Space on the third floor of Scotts Square, which houses a retail, gallery and a community space in its 4,000 sq ft unit.

  • Decorate a bottle lamp


    What: Participants will learn how to make a bottle lamp using a bottle filled with fairy lights. They will decorate their lamps using the decoupage technique, which involves layering paper cut-outs, paint effects and other decorative materials on a surface and using varnish to seal each layer.

    The 21/2-hour workshop is led by local crafters blink.a.bottle and Scottie Crafts.

    Where: B1-08, Naiise @ The Cathay, 2 Handy Road When: Oct 23, 1 to 3.30pm Admission: $125 a person or $225 a pair with a set of materials each Info:

    Paint plum blossoms


    What: Brazilian-born artist Deise Dias developed a passion for Chinese brush painting after moving to Singapore in 1996.

    In this three-hour class, she will teach participants how to paint plum blossoms on paper.
    Where: Scene Shang flagship store, 263 Beach Road When: Sept 24, 11am to 2pm Admission: $150 Info:

    Watercolour basics


    What: Home-grown illustrator MessyMsxi will teach participants how to paint their own botanical watercolour illustration.
    They will also learn the basics of sketching and how to mix colours in this 31/2-hour workshop.

    Where: K+ Curatorial Space, 03-11 Scotts Square, 6 Scotts Road When: Tomorrow and Sunday, 1.30 to 5pm Admission: $150 (all painting materials will be provided) Info:

    Set goals


    What: Learn to set personal goals, break them down into smaller, more manageable steps and keep track of your progress using the Goals Journal from stationery shop kikki.K.

    The 11/2-hour workshop is led by the company's regional manager Shahrul Hussin.

    Other self-improvement and DIY craft workshops are also available throughout the year. Check the website for details.

    Where: kikki.K, B1-22 Raffles City Shopping Centre, 252 North Bridge Road When: Tuesday, 9 to 10.30am Admission: $50 (inclusive of Goals Journal which retails at $44.90) Info:

    What's your type?


    What: In this three-hour workshop, learn how to customise notebooks and postcards using letterpress printing techniques. The process involves steps such as composing (setting the letter-blocks or type), locking (fixing the type) and inking (adding ink to the type before printing).

    The workshop is by The Royal Press, a letterpress museum from Malacca.

    Where: The Little Drom Store, 02-01 School of the Arts, 1 Zubir Said Drive When: Oct 8, 10am to 1pm Admission: $110 Info:

    Make your mark on trinkets


    What: Artisan jeweller Carolyn Kan will teach people how to personalise silver jewellery with their initials when they purchase customisable designs from Carrie K. at Keepers, a showcase of Singapore designers and artisans.

    The five-hour event is part of Designer Pit Stop at National Design Centre, which brings together Singapore makers.

    Where: Keepers, 02-03 National Design Centre (access via Queen Street), 111 Middle Road When: Tomorrow, 2 to 7pm Admission: Free, with purchase of customisable jewellery Info:

The workshops at K+ are often led by artists and designers whose creations are showcased in the shop.

Local artist MessyMsxi will be conducting a watercolour workshop this weekend.

Gallery & Co, the museum store of the National Gallery Singapore, also offers craft workshops such as candle-making to appeal to art and design enthusiasts.

It organises workshops once every few months, often collaborating with artists and local labels that produce capsule collections for the store.

The Straits Times estimates that there are at least eight companies here that organise workshops within their retail spaces.

These workshops can accommodate between four and 20 people and prices range from about $50 to $150 a person.

It may seem counter-intuitive for these companies to teach their customers how to make things instead of just selling them.

But these businesses say workshops teach people to value their products more and hence increase their appreciation of the skills of the designers behind them.

Keepers founder and artisanal jeweller Carolyn Kan, 44, thought of offering workshops after learning how to silversmith and finding it challenging initially.

She says: "When I was making things myself, I realised that it takes so much effort just to make a simple silver ring."

Attending a workshop, says Ms Kan, would hence help consumers better "understand and appreciate craftsmanship".

The most recent workshop at Keepers took place last month, where customers could stamp their initials on customisable jewellery.

In a busy retail environment, companies that offer these workshops also seek to differentiate themselves from their competitors, while at the same time create a community of design and craft lovers around their shop.

Ms Ng Li Tying, 24, the partnerships and buying manager of Naiise, which organised its first workshop in 2014, says: "Consumers are increasingly more interested in what goes behind the products they see in stores and are keen to pick up a new skill themselves."

Offering workshops can also be part of a business strategy to maximise the use of space in a shop.

At Scene Shang's new flagship store in Beach Road, workshops were initially introduced to maximise the use of space.

The company, which specialises in Asian-inspired furniture and homeware items, had previously existed primarily as an online and pop-up retailer. It moved to its 1,000 sq ft Beach Road store in April.

"It was a huge space expansion from our previous shop and we needed to fill it with interesting things," says co-founder Pamela Ting, 32.

"We decided to introduce workshops because we wanted to create some kind of energy and vibe in the space that was not just about products."

The Scene Shang store includes a workshop space where sessions are organised about once a month.

These workshops tend to be related to Asian culture. For example, its upcoming workshop is on modern Chinese brush painting.

Some shops are even planning workshops that have little to do with their core business.

Plain Vanilla is a bakery in Yong Siak Street known more for its cupcakes than its DIY classes.

But founder Vanessa Kenchington, 32, introduced a series of workshops from June to August as part of its inaugural summer event, Picnic Days.

The classes were held in its new adjoining space, The Workroom.

These included bookbinding and paper garland-making sessions along with family-friendly events such as film screenings, setting up a lemonade stand and a children's street trail.

She says: "Consumers are increasingly seeking out experiences. But I didn't want us to just be a workshop venue. It's about having a nice way to engage the community."

While she is open to organising more workshops in the future, no dates are planned for now.

It seems that there is enough hunger for new experiences in Singaporeans for workshops to fly.

One of the participants at Plain Vanilla's kokedama workshop last month is student Giulia Pulvirenti, 19, a permanent resident here.

Kokedama is an ornamental plant which grows out of a moss-covered ball of soil. The workshop teaches participants how to make and care for their own kokedama.

Ms Pulvirenti says: "A workshop is a fun and interactive thing that people can do together instead of the usual thing of going to the movies or having a picnic."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2016, with the headline Retailers conduct craft workshops on their premises to engage community. Subscribe