a hiatus

If you chanced upon our blog recently you might have realised that there hasn’t been a new post in a long while. Vivien and I are currently on a short hiatus from the clouds at the moment. She is busy with making her stop-motion film and myself with other design commitments.

Just today I had some time to myself to do some research on bags (I design and make bags as well as run a small workshop as my full-time job) in the midst of production cycles, meetings and preparing for a small exhibition showcase for our bags in June. And it has been an inspiring day indeed. Spurred on by my brother’s recommendation to check out  carryology, a group of likeminded folks who actually think about the functionality and purpose of carry goods. One of the things that struck me the most was how a lot of our conclusions about what made the design of a bag part good were fairly similar, although our aesthetic sensibilities might be different.

Through them I discovered many wonderful bag labels, too numerous to list here. All handcrafted with thoughtfulness and sincerity. A point of interest (for me) is what seems to be an overarching preference for “Handmade in the USA”. Perhaps it shows just how much the idea of sourcing/making locally (as well as maybe a certain disdain for a capitalist model of consumerism) has seeped into public consciousness? The question of concern for me though – is that whilst in the US locally sourced material is easily and widely available, what happens when you live and work in country that doesn’t have any raw materials or resources in that sense? Perhaps local then becomes regional? Or even global?

Enough questions for now… best left to another time, another day.


cacti (by the bay)

Greenhouses are fascinating. At once artificial and natural, they encapsulate the (im)possibilities of science and the natural world of flora (and sometimes fauna) in an almost magical way. We visited the greenhouses in Zurich’s botanical gardens… and it was pretty breathtaking. I spent a long time wandering around the plants, marveling at the concentration of beauty in such a compacted space. Different semicircle domes held plants from different parts of the world. It felt as if you were transported from temperate Europe to the deserts of the Middle East and then into a tropical rainforest in Asia.

Sort of resembles a terrarium, no? Miniature ecosystems living on air and water.

Whilst working on this cloud I was also reminded of a slideshow that I saw online…
“whispering in the leaves – a sound installation at kew gardens”

Went with my parents to one of the garden domes at Marina Bay last year when they did an open house. There were cacti and baobabs, agaves, succulents and desert grasses… all my favourite plants. That’s when I decided to make this cloud. I love the long, snaking cacti growing upwards into the sky.


Whilst working on my previous cloud, I came across some remainder fabric pieces, corner cutoffs from the bags we were making. Layered in stacks, I was wondering if I could make something out of them when I saw Vivien cutting tiny fabric grasses.

I thought about forms that were individual in nature, at the same time when together in large amounts suggested the infinite. Grass, leaves, snow, rain, water, hay, styrofoam beads, yarn… That’s when I started cutting triangular shapes from the remainders. When I piled them up and laid them next to each other, the abstracted arrangement seem to suggest to me an imagery of the sea.

However, when it came to sewing them, every time my sewing needle went close to the edge of the fabric’s edge, the threads at the edges came loose and dissipated. Perhaps the fabric was fairly loosely woven to begin with, which resulted in my ‘sea’ becoming rougher and stormier. That was when I decided to allow two boats to sail into the landscape.

Christmas Trees & Presents

This is the Christmas Cloud that I did, before I took an entire month off work!
It was the last cloud I did in 2011.

As I hand stitched pieces of cream-coloured lace/tulle
I thought of a white christmas somewhere far away, where families & friends battle the cold, dull winter with heart-warming gifts…

Almost a month later, I found myself at the top of Mt. Rokko with my family,
dancing in the snow with my sister(&brother)~~
I guess presents are not the only things that make me happy during Christmas! :–)

old man who lives by the longkang

Everyday when I leave my home and walk to the bus-stop on the way to the studio, I pass a small drain (longkang) immediately after the adjacent block of flats. Next to the small bridge on the grass patch there is always a large metal box (with a lock) and stacks of flattened cardboard boxes placed on it. Occasionally there will be old electrical home appliances or the odd chair here and there. Sometimes a bicycle cart will be chained to the tree nearby.

A while ago, I was surprised to learn that this was the belongings of an old uncle who would collect paper and cardboard boxes for recycling to earn a living. He did not have anything else to his name except for whatever was there. It was a difficult and yet moving reminder for me to appreciate what I have in life.

After the elections, when the estate was won by a different party, for a while I was worried if he would be chased away by the new town council, cleaned up and re-housed. In some ways I was thankful that he could continue with where he had chosen to make his home-of-sorts. Over the Chinese New Year this year I noticed he had hung lucky charms on the tree sheltering his bicycle. Catching the breeze, these charms swayed gently, beautifully. I was hoping to capture something of the mood I felt standing there watching these.

It took me a long time to work on this cloud… I wanted to use so much hand stitching to impart a sense of movement and texture to the piece. I’m very happy to have completed it.

rain, rain, go away

“The idea that people actually wear themselves on their faces seems to me to be less real than what life actually is, which is a series of concealments and containments.” Tilda Swinton

It has been a while since I have updated this blog. We have been busy with life, as usual. Hopefully we can get started again this year and work hard towards our 100 clouds!

When I started this cloud I wanted the imagery to relate to the local geography and events happening at home more than with the other clouds. To people living in Singapore the buildings depicted would definitely be familiar. They have been around for more than 30 years and lend a landmark to the rochor area. They are also slated to be demolished sometime in the near future, with an expressway being built in place of it. I have yet to decide whether ‘progress’ in this case is something we should look forward to, or be saddened by. In my immediate environment there seems to be no room for sentimentality. Or is there?

This is the first time I am using text in my clouds. All of a sudden it adds a story to the imagery. An exciting development…

strange shapes

A (surrealistic) landscape inspired by triangles, lines, circles, layered shapes and patterned leaves. For me it’s reminiscence of Dorothea Tanning, Joan Miro, Yves Tanguy & Tolkien-esque spaces. Was working in an organic way where the shapes and textures of the fabric suggested the forms to be sewn, slowly adding to the balance and composition of the image. I am quite fond of this cloud… although the damask I used as the background makes it tough to photograph.

of maps and mountains

In the process of making this cloud I was trying to see if I could let go of the rather finished applique techniques I had learnt so far, to push myself to try something different; something more visually raw or layered. Inspired by the use of lines and brushwork in Ian Woo’s paintings, I felt that I could try to establish layers of areas of colour, line-work and overlapping forms. I placed cut-out lines of mountains inspired by Tolkien’s maps within slightly more textured 3-dimensional side views of hills/mountain slopes.

Although I’m not quite sure if this piece works, nevertheless I have enjoyed the making process thus far.

learning about trees 1

It has been quite a while since I have found time to post on this blog. We have been ever so busy with our december open studio, our first pop-up store and of course my upcoming wedding lunch reception this sunday!

With all that avalanche of work these last 2 months have not been as productive for pipedreams as Vivien and I had hoped it to be. We were striving towards completing 50 clouds by the end of this year. Although yet to be totaled, I reckon we have managed roughly 42?43? clouds… so not too far off the mark though lots of work ahead in the upcoming year to look forward to.

Have been working on this particular batik inspired cloud for almost 3 weeks… with various interruptions, so I was very glad to be able to complete this yesterday. Almost a landmark to mark the end of the year and the beginning of the next.

Earlier in the year I was cycling in Bukit Brown (Coffee Hill) cemetery with Benny early one morning. We were trying to hunt down the largest grave in Singapore. Morning mist filtered through the branches of the ageless rain trees. I love old trees. The humid weather was mixed with mosquito attacks and a threatening thunderstorm. I detest mosquitoes. I recalled the first time I was brought there to search for overgrown ‘lalang’ leaves to transform into toy ‘arrows’. Soon all this might be gone.

No matter how we document and record a place, once it is torn down, removed, it is gone for better or for worse. When we choose to prefer the new and the convenient over nature, the aged and the worn, these become what we begin to inherently believe to be the real and the important. One of my friends said that in our grandparents’ generation they believed in leaving legacies for the future, hence they donated money to build schools, to construct public buildings and institutions. What does our generation believe in? It seems we are still trying to figure that out.

In this cloud I wasn’t trying to say anything or record any event… Just wanted to make an old tree which had the feeling of having ‘aged’, through the layering and use of different textures and colours. I don’t think I’ve really succeeded in that sense. It was a good learning attempt.

I am looking forward to the new year.

The frog in a pond

For this cloud, I imagined the Enterprise landing on some strange giant rock & Captain Kirk exploring the misty landscape :

And the mysterious frog in a pond :–)

It could be a monster frog if your imagination allows for it!