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#15

Ng Si Ying

Rattan Artist & UX Designer
While the rest of our fast-paced world is sprinting towards digitalisation and efficiency, designer and rattan artist Si Ying has every intention to hone her craft at her own pace. Recreating and innovating with the traditional medium of rattan, Si Ying has rediscovered timeless weaving techniques and even used it often to repair broken objects, giving them new leases of life and turning imperfections into art. We spent a restful afternoon admiring her charming handmade pieces and learning about how she consciously champions the sustainability concepts of repair and mindfulness.

rattan artist singapore local maker ux designer

I am currently a UX designer, at the moment I’m designing for digital experiences, where previously I was designing for physical experiences for museums. Atinymaker is technically my side-hustle, a way for me to get away from the screen and to focus on something more physical through making with my hands.

atinymaker rattan artist singapore local art tradition weaving technique material ng siying

Atinymaker started as (and still is) a documentation of my exploration and findings. I thought perhaps if I documented my progress online, it would keep me more accountable, and would also serve as an impetus to keep evolving and learning new things.

atinymaker home interior calligraphy trees branches twigs plants woody rattan collection material art tradition local singapore artist

“I actually discovered rattan by accident. A good friend of mine wanted to buy some rattan furniture for a new place and I simply tagged along on the adventure. That’s where I met Uncle and Aunty Zeng who own a rattan shop. To cut a long story short, I went back about 2-3 times after the first visit, and they finally agreed to teach me.

atinymaker home ng siying local singapore rattan artist collection material rings basket

The interest in rattan grew and developed into a rather investigative one. Prior to discovering rattan, I had been trying to find a medium that was not yet commonly explored.”

atinymaker ng siying rattan artist rattan rings collection weaving technique

I wanted to exhaust the material completely, experiment with it and push its aesthetics, as well as its physical and cultural boundaries.

rattan chair repair rattan collection bags basket atinymaker ng siying art tradition

Rattan as a material that was forgotten and seemingly left behind in the contemporary world, fitted perfectly as my ideal material of study and exploration.

art & tradition rattan weaving atinymaker ng siying technique
An experimental piece exploring dynamic patterns of rattan weaving on flat and wide ceramic shapes. Image courtesy of Ng Si Ying

With rattan, I always try to plan what I want or have to do, but most of the time I end up steering away from the plan. I’ve learnt that there are always alternative plans, and I try not to get too fixated on the first idea that comes around. 

Sometimes things don’t feel or look right, so I leave them on the side for awhile until I’m ready to get back to it. No hurry.

atinymaker ng siying writing sketching planning rattan artist weaving techniques art & tradition

Burnout is definitely a relatively common experience for everyone I suppose. For me, recalibration happens when I create, read, take walks, have tea and snacks, and go to my garden plot to harvest some vegetables and fruits. If I'm really tired, I clear my entire plans for the (non-work) day and just do whatever I want: read, watch a movie, take walks, lie down—and remind myself that’s being productive too.” 

atinymaker rattan artist ng siying sojao bedsheets stone minimal knit cushion cover moss navy stoneSiying’s bed is dressed in a Classic Flat Sheet in Stone, Checkered Rib Cushion Covers in Navy and Stone and Minimal Knit Cushion Cover in Moss.

My room’s the one space I feel that truly belongs to me! It’s filled with many things that I like, lots of rattan and pieces of nature. I enjoy chilling on my rattan chair and reading, taking a nap or just thinking.

interior wooden atinymaker ng siying rattan artist mushrooms playing cards decorations

I try to keep objects with a story, so I can’t really say I have a favourite. Some objects that I treasure in my room: a collection of shells from a 5am trip to the beach, a beautiful terracotta pot from a maker in Bhuj, hand-dyed wool from Oaxaca from a friend, lots of tree branches, leaves and what nots from my walks, rattan-woven works and pots that I’ve done over the years, and the list goes on.

atinymaker rattan artist ng siying rattan collection weaving art & traditional technique seashells sojao bedsheets stone minimal knit cushion cover moss stone navy wooden

I try to only own pieces of work when I know the maker or where it’s from. For instance, knowing the weaver behind a handwoven scarf, or a crafter behind a handmade bag.

Knowing how much dedication and time goes into each work helps me refrain from buying more than I need, and care for each piece more deeply.

atinymaker ng siying rattan artist she-hustles rattan bag material collection books wooden shelves speaker design books art traditional weaving technique

“In the morning, my routine starts with waking, petting the cat, going through what needs to be done for the day (it’s been easy to lose track of days since the pandemic), and having breakfast (can’t work when I’m hungry).”

atinymaker ng siying rattan artist ux designer cat blackfungusboi sketching planning process weaving technique she-hustles sojao

”It can definitely be daunting when there are expectations of you to always create something beautiful or something new. But since crafting with rattan is something I wanted to do and explore for my own sake (and not my livelihood), I have the liberty to choose what I want to work on.

atinymaker ng siying rattan artist ux designer she-hustles sojao art & traditional weaving technique

We are already each of our own worst critic—that in itself can be tiring enough, so if you don’t enjoy a particular project or commission, don’t do it.

atinymaker ng siying rattan artist umbrella repaired rattan repairing weaving material art tradition
One of Si Ying’s favourite projects: a rattan wrap commissioned for the damaged handle of an umbrella that had sentimental value to a client. Image courtesy of Ng Si Ying

@atinymaker

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