Tell us about yourself and your journey thus far?
- Serene (S): I’m a graphic designer and I love all things analog. This is very much rooted in me since young, as I love to create with my hands. After becoming tired of being on the computer all the time, I returned to explore the analog methods of communicating visually.
What is “Let’s All Do A Little Bit More” about?
- S: The piece stems from my struggle in discerning how craft may coexist in a Singapore that is obsessed with productivity and absolute efficiency. It sparked my curiosity on why our drive to increase productivity plateaued in recent years and how craft may offer an alternative direction. “Let’s All Do A Little Bit More” is one of the slogans from the Productivity Campaign in the 1980s that have ingrained apathetic attitudes towards work and life in Singapore. Inspired by the ideologies of John Ruskin and William Morris, I attempt to introduce the values of craft as means to intervene mindless work and life. Quotes from John Ruskin are paired with all too familiar slogans and the working bee image to offer alternative approaches to increasing productivity, starting from individual efforts to policies that affect the society as a whole.
Why embroidery and not other forms of communication?
- S: Embroidery is a less than productive mode of presenting these ideas and subverts the definitions of productivity and efficiency in Singapore. Perhaps it is through less than obvious approaches that we find a solution to increase Singapore’s productivity during this dry spell. On a personal note, I appreciate the frankness and flaws that comes from making things with my hands amidst our perfect digital landscape. Also, a funny story: I recall getting scolded by my mother for sewing a piece of paper at a mere age of 5. Playing with needle and thread is pretty much a personal muse.
What’s the process like for embroidering these pieces?
- S: Much thought was put into the colour palette of the series as additional colours are introduced with each subsequent piece to engulf the black slogans. I had to test out how the mediums interact, and the various embroidery stitches suitable for the piece. Even though this was a craft-based series, I applied what I learnt from graphic design. Explorations in the letterforms for the final slogan of the series, and even the thickness of the threads are part of what makes a balanced composition for the circular frames. All these are elements that I had to experiment on before formally putting them together in the actual pieces.
What do you think the creative scene needs to improve on?
- S: Singapore has nurtured a climate that is very suitable for creativity, which is key to productivity. We should encourage a greater spirit of creativity nonetheless by providing an environment where people may exchange ideas without judgment. It is difficult to cultivate a vibrant creative scene when there is no room for failure. If we can overcome the fear of judgment and failure, and allow for open exchange of ideas, we can then move forward in encouraging individual creativity and our creative culture as a whole.
Takeaway message for readers?
- S: In my attempt to address productivity, it is essentially about embracing individual creativity and how it ripples to affect our broader society. Many creatives have come before to set a foundation allowing individuals like myself to exist and contribute in our own ways. I look forward to seeing more creatives step out of the conventional and make ripples of their own in Singapore.
Read on for some facts about Serene!
22 // Capricorn
Creative Approach // As creators, we must always be emotionally in tuned with the world around us. This is what makes our work worthwhile.
Fact // The first impression people have of me is that I’m very stern, but I have quite the quirky personality.
Message // This is a quote from John Ruskin which was included in my work:
“What right have you to take the word wealth, which originally meant ”well-being,” and degrade and narrow it by confining it to certain sorts of material objects measured by money. There is no wealth but life. Life, including all its powers of love, of joy, and of admiration. That country is the richest which nourishes the greatest numbers of noble and happy human beings; that man is richest, who, having perfected the functions of his own life to the utmost, has also the widest helpful influence, both personal, and by means of his possessions, over the lives of others.”
FUSSY // I’m quite serene for the most part, I don’t really like to fuss. I LOVE organising and there is certain satisfaction to seeing my tools kept neatly. Sometimes things go disarray and that is fine with me. Life’s too short to fuss really.