Traditional Crafts Get Cool, Creative And Sustainable Reinventions

·3-min read
Bet you never thought that a Chinese lantern could look this contemporary (left) or that ketupat could look so... comfortable!
Bet you never thought that a Chinese lantern could look this contemporary (left) or that ketupat could look so... comfortable!
Bet you never thought that a Chinese lantern could look this contemporary (left) or that ketupat could look so... comfortable! | Photos: National Heritage Board (lantern) and Ng Kai

Traditional Chinese spheres, ketupat weaving, Peranakan beadwork and embroidery, and rangoli. These may be age-old crafts, from our grandparents' or even great-grandparents' generation, but before you discount them as outdated relics, be wowed by these reimagined modern takes on them.

Until 31 July 2022, you can get up close with these modern prototypes of age-old crafts at the National Museum as part of National Heritage Board's inaugural Craft X Design showcase.

How did they even come about? They are the creative offspring of four teams brought together through an open call last year - each team a duo comprising one local craft veteran and one contemporary designer/design studio.

Expect a dazzling modern Peranakan kebaya, a reconstructed Chinese lantern as a dining lamp, and more. Here's a preview:

All eyes on you as you enter the ballroom at your year-end D & D in this breathtaking gown.
All eyes on you as you enter the ballroom at your year-end D & D in this breathtaking gown.
All eyes on you as you enter the ballroom at your year-end D & D in this breathtaking gown. | Photo: Ng Kai

1. Rejuvenation Gown

The brilliant minds behind this contemporary take on the traditional Peranakan kebaya are practitioner Raymond Wong and design studio Aller Row. Called the "Rejuvenation Gown", it features a resplendent array of colours and motifs that draw on Peranakan culture. NGL, I can definitely see this appearing on the red carpet at the next Star Awards.

Traditionally a 2D art-form, rangoli gets a mind-blowing 3D update - totally mesmerising!
Traditionally a 2D art-form, rangoli gets a mind-blowing 3D update - totally mesmerising!
Traditionally a 2D art-form, rangoli gets a mind-blowing 3D update - totally mesmerising! | PHOTO: NATIONAL HERITAGE BOARD

2. Refined Rangoli Metalware

It takes two hands to clap - and the enthralling rangoli-inspired metalware really comes to life thanks to practitioner Vijaya Mohan and designer Jarrod Lim. In a decidedly modernistic meeting of old and new, Jarrod utilised laser-cutting technology to carve Vijaya's intricate rangoli motifs onto slices of stainless steel. The slices were then folded by hand into the form of a lampshade and a bowl. Super wow!

This reimagined traditional Chinese lantern is so aesthetic and IG-worthy.
This reimagined traditional Chinese lantern is so aesthetic and IG-worthy.
This reimagined traditional Chinese lantern is so aesthetic and IG-worthy. | PHOTO: NATIONAL HERITAGE BOARD

3. Harmony Spheres Lamp

This hip lamp is the product of the brain juice of practitioner Jimm Wong and design studio NextOfKin (NOK) Creatives. Drawing on Jimm's experimentation with bamboo's material properties, and the NOK team’s expertise in 3D design, the finished structure moulds rigid bamboo ribs into a form that expresses sleek curvature.

Say real, it's a conversation starter: if you had this as your dining room lamp, I think your guests would be busy figuring how this unique multi-spherical structure was constructed instead of focusing on your cooking.

You can actually take the ketupat layers apart and rebuild them any way you like!
You can actually take the ketupat layers apart and rebuild them any way you like!
You can actually take the ketupat layers apart and rebuild them any way you like! | Photo: Ng Kai

4. Raya Furniture

Who isn't intrigued and bewildered by the intricacies of ketupat weaving, right? But what will astound you more is the way practitioner Anita Tompang has used ketupat weaving in the making of contemporary furniture, aided by designer Andrew Loh.

Instead of coconut leaves and rice cakes, strips of thick felt have been woven around foams of different densities, a technique inspired by the function of ketupats as containers. And yes, you can rearrange the modular nature of the furniture for a variety of functional everyday uses. Go ketupat crazy!

via GIPHY

Meet the creators and participate in a hands-on session

Psst... There'll be a public workshop held on 9 July 2022 at the National Museum where the four pairs of craft practitioners and designers will be sharing more about the entire collaboration process, and their experiences and challenges.

Participants will also be given the opportunity to try their hand at weaving ketupats or creating rangoli in hands-on sessions conducted by Anita Tompang and Vijaya Mohan, respectively.

Find out more here

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