Cultural staples such as Chinese lanterns, Ketupats, Rangolis and Peranakan beadwork are usually a sight to behold during festive periods. But what if there was a way to fuse their traditional elements with a modern touch? That is precisely what four teams of designers achieved after their six-month collaboration with local craft veterans, culminating in a showcase called: Craft X Design, by The National Heritage Board (NHB).
From furniture pieces to clothing, these traditional crafts will be reimagined in the form of contemporary prototypes and will be showcased from 1 to 31 July, at the National Museum of Singapore.
Indeed, Craft X Design aims to reinvigorate the local traditional crafts scene by opening up new markets and customer bases by creating contemporary works using traditional techniques and materials. Mr Yeo Kirk Siang, Director of Heritage Research and Assessment at NHB, further adds that the showcase “conveys the important message that traditional crafts continue to have a place and relevance in our society today through innovation”.
With the showcase highlighting culture melding with the contemporary, here are some key prototypes you can look forward to!
The first prototype is ‘The Harmony Sphere’ – a reinterpretation of the traditional Chinese lantern as an elegant dining lamp. The prototype is a collaboration between designers from NextOfKin (NOK) Creatives, Melvin Ong and Xu Xiao, and Jimm Wong, one of the last traditional Chinese lantern makers in Singapore.
Through the partnership with Mr Wong and NOK, the Harmony Spheres perfectly symbolise traditional and contemporary harmony. The unique multi-spherical structure is inspired by the Chinese ivory puzzle ball, a ball with intricately carved layers that can rotate individually, and the lamp makes use of a layered design here. The lighting functions of a traditional Chinese lantern are preserved here, further giving off a layered and textured lighting effect by way of the lamp’s open-ended spheres.
Furthermore, the bamboo strips seen within the Chinese lanterns are also retained here in the Harmony Spheres. This time the rigid bamboo ribs form the lamp’s sleek round curvature, conveying a sense of modernity but still steeped in the traditional.
Next up, is ‘Raya Furniture’. If you thought Ketupats were merely a delectable delicacy, you’ll be pleasantly surprised! Designer Andrew Loh, who has worked with worldwide leading brands on things like consumer electronics and sports equipment, has transposed the designs of the Ketupat onto contemporary furniture!
In collaboration with Anita Tompang, a veteran at Ketupat weaving, Mr Loh used strips of thick felt to weave around foams of different densities, to mimic the coconut leaves and rice cakes and create the bench and stool that is on display. The modular nature of the furniture also encourages users to experiment with reassembling the modules, providing a variety of different everyday uses functionally.
Another prototype to keep an eye out for is ‘Refined Rangoli Metalware’. Inspired by rangoli patterns, Designer Jarrod Lim created it in collaboration with Vijaya Mohan, a veteran rangoli practitioner and Guinness World Record holder for the largest rangoli pattern created!
Since Rangoli is an artform commonly drawn on the ground, Refined Rangoli widens the possibilities of rangoli art by having its patterns onto the three-dimensional form, in this case, metalware such as a lampshade and a bowl. What this brings is a product that retains the artistic flavours of rangoli but showcased in a wholly unique way. The intricacies of rangoli motifs, like the peacock, are in full view to admire, having been carved onto stainless steel slices and later folded by hand.
Lastly, imagine a Peranakan Kebaya as a couture gown. It sounds like the clash of two completely different worlds, but that is precisely what designers from Aller Row, Joanna Lim and Joanne Quek, created in collaboration with Mr Raymond Wong, one of the last few Peranakan kebaya makers in Singapore.
Named ‘Rejuvenation’, the flamboyant and intricate couture gown incorporates elements of the Peranakan kebaya onto a cape-sleeve couture gown, which fuses Ms Lim’s and Ms Quak’s vision of creating fashion tailored for modern women with Mr Wong’s expertise in traditional embroidery techniques.
Featuring a vibrant array of colours like turquoise, and motifs such as the fuchsia flower that draws on Peranakan culture, Mr Wong’s lacework can be found on and around the printed motifs, bringing a softer touch to an elaborate design.
While the stunning prototypes might be enough to capture your interest and attention, there is more to look forward to! For those who would like to try their hand at Ketupat making or Rangoli drawing, registration is open for hands-on sessions conducted by Anita Tompang and Vijaya Mohan on 9th July 2022 at the National Museum. The four pairs of craft practitioners and designers will also be present to share more about the collaboration process and their experience adapting traditional crafts into contemporary products.
So what are you waiting for? Head over to the Craft X Design showcase, open daily from 10 am to 7 pm throughout July, at the National Museum to soak in the best of both traditional crafts and modern design!
Visuals courtesy of the National Heritage Board.