Close to Culture, Close to Creativity, Spot on Asia.

Articles tagged “craft

J.MYERS: The Leather Goods Craftsman

Posted on June 18, 2013

This interview was first published on the Project Passion 365 website and was told through visuals. Lilian was kind enough to let us republish and remix it a little. All photos and text provided by the author. The editor first met Jeremiah in a dusty block on the fringes of Chinatown. Upon entering his workshop, his front lobby had a kind of European rustic charm: what catches the eye was a vintage leather sofa and a stylish messenger bike complementing the decor.


Commercial Photographer and Leather Goods Craftsman at J.MYERS COMPANY

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

I am a father, a husband and an only son. Made in Singapore by my father, an artist and my mother, a retired seamstress. I went to film school and majored in audio engineering but photography was my biggest interest. However, there wasn’t a photography major that I could enroll for. Which I attribute to the fact that those were still film days and it probably wasn’t as cool to sling a camera over your shoulder.

While I was assisting photographers, I picked up the hobby of leather crafting which eventually turned a little too serious and POOF! It became The J.Myers Company.

What is your passion in life?

No matter what I do, I can never stop daydreaming and making things. Usually I daydream about making things. So yeah my passion is making stuff, it could be making a beautiful photograph or just trying to bake bread. As long as I can turn raw materials and ideas into a finished item, I am happy.


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Collectible Anthropology

Posted on May 12, 2013


Charisse Aquino-Tugade, Philippines

Anthropologist, Cultural Explorer, Founder of The Manila Collectible Co.

Weaving through the cobble-stoned streets of what was once a fortress-city, I wondered how I would be able to spot The Manila Collectible Co (TMCC). Its home, tucked within an enclave of Spanish colonial shops and galleries and sitting behind the iconic Manila Cathedral in Intramuros, is a charming, light-coloured baroque building with a little signage bearing the name, Villa Blanca. I had the privilege of interviewing its founder and owner, Charisse Aquino-Tugade, an anthropologist and cultural travel guide who was happy to share the story behind her shop and advocacy with Open Brief.

What is the story behind The Manila Collectible Co.?

My background is in anthropology and I’ve always been really crazy about our (Filipino) indigenous cultures and history. As a cultural travel guide, I would organise tours and go on expeditions to various parts of the country. The Philippines is so rich with artistry, ingenuity and craftsmanship, all of it deeply rooted in multi-cultures and history. Yet, (I noticed) not everyone really knows much about these artisans and craftsmen and what they create. By everyone, I mean, most of their own fellow countrymen. The reason for this is really geographical accessibility. Being an archipelago with over 7,000 islands, it’s just not easy to get around. Most of these indigenous artisanal communities dwell in obscure, tucked-away corners all over the islands. Their craft is a prime source of livelihood, yet how do they reach their market? How can they put a premium price on their work, when they themselves don’t actually realize the high value of their creations?

I am passionate about indigenous cultures and artisanal crafts, so I felt drawn to create a way — an actual physical space — to bridge this gap and just help make it more accessible. Also, my experience of working with museums and my love for the curative experience have shaped the concept of TCMM—which is a one-stop-shop anthropological gallery of art, crafts, and functional products for daily living, wherein everything is direct from the source and not mass produced for mass consumption.


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An Ode for the Creative Soul

Posted on May 7, 2013

If we were living in the Dark Ages, creatives who pursue a craft would find themselves in a respectable profession making things. Whether they were contraptions to build castles or battle armors for knights, these craftsmen made something valuable with their hands that influenced the outcome of wars.

As I sat down writing this piece I realized many people were just getting by with their skill. A majority find themselves crafting marketing material that fills into a junkyard of messages we’re already being bombarded by on a daily basis.

As creatives do we really need to craft marketing material to tell everyone else about their inadequacy?

Or can we put our talent to better use by making something useful?

Do we live to design or do we design to live?

Or if you’re a writer… Do we live to write or do we write to live?

Designers. This is our time. It’s a time for designers who hone their craft of making things, by initiating personal side projects to push the boundaries even when nobody cares. Because an artist creates and they cannot stop creating even when they struggle to pay bills.

Designers. This is our time. You’re not just in the business of making things pretty. You craft and skills mean so much more. You never followed the herd, you picked a profession that won’t make you filthy rich and you did it out of passion. Yes, you’re an outlier. Yes, you won’t easily fit in everywhere. Until you find somewhere you belong, don’t stop looking.


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Konstfack exhibition Photo: Flickr, eifp

Echoing the Swedish design experience

Posted on March 29, 2013

Previously we had a top-level overview of the Swedish design industry and how it’s been affected by globalization in “Globalization and the Swedish Design Economy”, while “Ties that bind the Swedish design ecosystem” offered insights on the vibrant design ecosystem in Sweden. Both articles left lingering questions on educational systems and various lessons applicable to countries, in the hope of creating a more mature creative industry. We shall attempt to answer them in this article.

While interviewing a few Swedes during the course of penning the articles, equality was a common theme among the answers given. More than just equality in governance, Swedes also expect equality in the workplace and at home.

“There is a social norm to treat all people with equal respect and deference, and generally say what you really think while expecting others to do the same. To say no is not a bad thing but quite the opposite!” says Maria Eriksson, currently the Partnership Director for Hyper Island (a Swedish tertiary institution specializing in digital media).

The disparity in power distance within the workplace in many parts of Asia, including Singapore, is apparent. A survey conducted by cultural pyshologist Gert Hofstede on global IBM employees in Singapore indicates employees scoring high on the Power Distance Index (PDI). The sample size was taken at a time when majority of its employees were ethnic Chinese. Other Asian countries that are within the same range would be Indonesia and China, while Malaysia and Philippines have even wider power distances.

Countries with the higest Power Distance Index. Source:

Countries with the higest Power Distance Index. Source:

Quoting the summary report, “Power is centralized and managers rely on their bosses and on rules. Employees expect to be told what to do. Control is expected and attitude towards managers is formal. Communication is indirect and the information flow is selective.”

Oz Dean, Creative Director of Digital Arts Network, a division of TBWA Tequila\Singapore, mentioned during a joint workshop session, “I try to make our meetings as collaborative as possible but sometimes, it’s hard to get the junior creatives to speak up even when I encourage them to.”


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The Imaginarium of littleoddforest

Posted on March 12, 2013

Photo: Lynda Lye

Photo: Lynda Lye


Founder/Designer of littleoddforest™

Tucked in a quiet room within Lynda’s cozy residence lays a mini-showroom and workshop filled with the handcrafted creations of littleoddforest™. Some might see it as an imaginarium of odd wonder, while for others a cumulation of a lifetime worth of work. As a sole entrepreneur who built an entire business thread-by-thread and dollar-by-dollar, Lynda is no stranger to blood, sweat and tears.

Tell us about your brand and the idea behind it?

Founded in 2004, littleoddforest™ is a quirky, whimsical, independent lifestyle fashion accessories label, whose nature, fairy-tales and wanderlust-inspired creations include limited edition, one-of-a-kind quality handmade bags, purses, pouches, plush cushions and toys, home decor, wearables, and various other accessories including sleep eye masks, indoor footwear, baby goods and so much more. littleoddforest™ goods are all as honestly produced as much as I possibly can ensure; made with lots of love and in limited numbers, with many one-of-a-kind creations, both in my tiny Singapore home-based studio and our very own fair-wage labor workshop in The Philippines, which was set up almost 8 years ago. We are the anti-orthodoxy of big brands, shiny leather bags and all things flashy. Many things in our mass-produced world tend to be too de rigueur, slick and cold, and my wish is to make good quality and usable goods that are fun, quirky, odd, and colorful with personality. I make only what I like and my unbridled passion is in pervasive creativity — I will lay my hands on everything if I could!

Tell us about your previous working situation and did you have a background in design?

I’ve worked in both the United States and Singapore as a Graphic Designer after graduating from The School of Art Institute of Chicago with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communications. Even while schooling in the Science stream, I’ve been making pencil cases, hand-sewn cards and soft toys for friends, with rave reviews, ever since my Mum gave me her very retro-looking vintage Singer sewing machine (it was part of her wedding dowry!) when I was 13, when we had to start our Home Economics classes in Secondary One. It came as no surprise to me when some of my favorite classes in art college in Chicago eventually turned out to be Fashion Accessories Design and Packaging Design, which I took for 2 semesters.

Sewing Machine from Lynda's Mum

Sewing Machine from Lynda’s Mum

What is your favorite part in the process of designing accessories

I enjoy conceptualizing and prototyping because I can go wild with ideas while sketching, and then transforming that drawing into a raw working craft piece excites me, even when a particular idea doesn’t work out eventually (and this happens more often than not!).


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