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As if mastering the art of penning beautiful script isn’t difficult enough, calligrapher and entrepreneur Ruth Tan has taken to bringing words to life by constructing original, movable calligraphy sculptures in her debut exhibition, Words Within, held at SPRMRKT from July to September 2016. The 10-piece installation with its pivoting words and secret messages—some cheeky, some thoughtful—was one of our most interactive exhibitions yet. We catch up with Ruth on her inspirations, studio life and everything else!

1) What inspired you to create Words Within?

I think language is a wonderful tool for us to express ourselves, and some words trigger associations that we have experienced in our lives. Words Within is an offshoot of that idea that words in themselves could and often do carry meaning in themselves for the speaker/writer and whoever she’s conversing with. It’s also something that fascinates me because I work with letterings and one day I was just wondering about how letters could be expressed as a physical machinery as opposed to just flat and two-dimensional, which is what I often do for weddings, corporate events and in workshops. This curiosity kept bugging me so I decided to marry the two—word associations and movable words—alongside funny quotes I’ve made up or heard before, to delight an audience.

2) It sounds like there’s a lot you’d like to express and which more than words can say, forgive the pun, is this something you feel about the English language?

Haha yes I think so. I don’t often know what to say because there is a lot going on in my head—it’s like taking too long to decide which food to buy at the canteen and in the meantime all the queues start to form and snake, so I just go with the easiest, shortest one. Because of the copious amount of things going on at one time—and I am pretty easily distracted—whatever I end up saying on the spot would often be a lesser (and probably less confusing!) version. 

3) Why these 10 words and phrases? 

I picked words that visitors could easily connect with! My two favourites are:

ExpertI talk to myself sometimes because I need expert advice

This is a tongue-in-cheek quote that refers to the need for us to listen to our own intuition. I don’t think others’ advice are always right or suitable for our context. We need wisdom to know when to listen to what, and when to trust our gut!

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Can you find the secret inscriptions?

Dreamthe distance between your dreams and reality is called action 

Most of us dream of something bigger than ourselves… that’s a good thing. But even greater would be to put it into action. Don’t procrastinate till it is “perfect”. Get it rolling and keep at perfecting it!

4) You’ve chosen a really unique career to be in especially in Singapore—why calligraphy and what does being a calligrapher in Singapore/Asia mean to you?

I think this kinda fell into my lap! I was an analyst in civil service, then a secondary school teacher. I couldn’t continue teaching any more given the tug-o-war between the long hours and my family. It eventually became obvious that I have to give up a regular job. Not working was not a choice for me either; I am always curious and seeking out new adventures.

When blogshops were popular in the late 2000s, I decided to have a proper webstore and try my hand at online retail. We had a good run with many roadshows including with Takashimaya, and the now-defunct Borders bookstore, and even ran the first ever MT tape exhibition, craft workshops and retail in Japan with the venue sponsorship from National Library Board. When the opportunity struck for my own brick-and-mortar, I knew right away I wanted to include in the retail store a small corner for craft workshops. I have always been craftsy … lettering, sewing, painting and all that. So coupled with my experience in events, one thing led to another and before I knew it, the craft business expanded very quickly. That’s when my studio The Workroom was born.

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Ruth is head honcho at studio-outfit, The Workroom. Together with a team of passionate instructors, they organise creative workshops and accept commissions for exclusive events.

I started off with barely a handful of instructors, all of whom had no experience in teaching, but were passionate about their art. Given my background in teaching, I found that I was in a good place to design and structure lessons better. It was a natural progression for me to dive headlong into teaching calligraphy and committing to commissioned work. I now work with a team of calligraphers, craftspeople and artists to teach students and provide art services to our private and corporate clients. It has been immensely satisfying ride so far and we have had opportunities to work for clients from all walks of life, from brides-to-be to celebrities and luxe brands.

As for being a calligrapher in Singapore and Asia… frankly I don’t think of it as extra special from other kinds of craft. There are other forms of art that are a lot more intricate and laborious and I really admire people who invest their lives in that. For me, calligraphy is both extremely gratifying and practical form of art. For one, I get to use my skills to add a special pizazz to special events and that’s really moving for me, to be able to contribute to and share a part in clients’ happy occasions. I always tell my students that calligraphy has also got to be practical. For most of our purposes, we really are learning calligraphy to communicate in a beautiful way to others. There is little point in being “beautiful” but illegible… for example, if we are writing placecards, and the guests cannot identify their names, can you imagine the confusion and discomfort? I enjoy typography, design and lettering, and I have learnt italic, copperplate and modern calligraphy. I would like to continue to share my knowledge and skills with new learners, and to share the beauty of writing with clients for their events’ needs. 

5) Have you had any strange/interesting requests because of your skill as a calligrapher?

Not really, unless you count designing a lettering for a client’s tattoo as strange! It is the most unusual request to date, and I thoroughly enjoyed working on it. The client was superb to work with. She knew exactly what she wanted and communicated it very clearly so I could work in the right direction to process the exact thing she had in mind. Right now among the projects I’m working on, the most interesting one is to letter a Bible verse for Class 95FM DJ Jean Danker’s wedding. This will be printed on her aisle runner! I can’t wait to see the end result.

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“Reunited today with Ruth! She used to helm a store in holland village called the little happy shop (check her out now at http://www.thelittlehappyshop.com) and I never forgot her positive spirit and great energy. Fast forward to today and she’s going to be the one handwriting all my place cards/wedding invites/aisle runner/coffee cup sleeves… basically everything that requires words, she’s the woman behind it!…”  (Photo credit: @jeandanker)

6) We understand you have also been holding calligraphy and other creative craft workshops for the past 6 years—who are your students and would you be able to describe what a class at The Workroom is like?

Most of our students at the studio are ladies in their 20s – 40s from all walks of life. Increasingly we also have expatriates and foreigners on holiday in Singapore! I’m always very grateful for everyone who take time off to learn from us… we know how precious weekends are! A typical class at the studio is very hands-on. The students usually go straight into the making/ crafting, and everyone on the team is more than eager to share all that they know, from history to where to get supplies and tips to make your art better. We make effort to sincerely sustain the community we build. I also now have two of my students now on the team, teaching their own students how to write lovely calligraphy. Class size varies depending on the craft… something that requires a lot of 1-1 coaching such as fine art botanical painting would be restricted to a very small size of 4 or 5 students, whereas modern calligraphy classes are often capped at 10 pax or so.

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Workshops held at The Workroom (Photo credit: @theworkroom.sg)

7) From your website, you’ve listed that you’ve worked with quite a number of big corporate clienteles such as Chanel, Dior & SK-II, would you be able to share some of the more exciting projects you’ve done with any of them?

Sure! For Chanel, the client was from the Fine Jewelry store in Takashimaya and the brief expanded from just live calligraphy service for their VIPs on the Valentine’s weekend, to coming up with original watercolour paintings of Chanel’s iconic representations such as the plume (feather) and the camillia (flower). VIPs then get to choose a famous quote by Chanel to be written on one side of the card, and to have her name (or the name of the recipient) on the side of the illustration.

More recently, I wrote for SK-II’s invites to their VIPs to the global launch of their Masterpiece Pitera collection — the most luxurious series of all. The launch was to be held in Tokyo and among the invites I was writing, there were those going out to big names around the world.

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Brush lettering for SK-II (Photo credit: @theworkroom.sg)

The two most unique calligraphy services I did were for IWC and Clarins. Writing placecards for guests was commonplace, but for IWC’s private luncheon for their VIPs, I wrote placecards for the beautiful, exquisite ladies’ watches. The styling was so on point with each watch displayed among flowers (and with my placecard) in a glass bell-jar. For Clarins’ trade and media event at Gardens By The Bay, I wrote patrons’ names on Tree Certificates —these are certificates to thank patrons for their support for their green project to plant trees in Northern Thailand. It was such a treat!

8) What would you consider to be your dream project? 

It would be a dream come true if I would have the chance to work with Guo Pei Couture. Guo Pei is a Chinese high fashion designer and she makes the most beautiful couture pieces, based on traditional Chinese imperial court design. I really admire her beautiful pieces with stunning structure and texture and intricate embroidery. I wonder what it would be like to combine modern calligraphy or lettering on high fashion!

9) Coming back to art, what made you decide to showcase your debut exhibition at SPRMRKT?

SPRMRKT is extremely supportive of indie art and crafts. It is my pleasure to accept Sue-Shan’s invitation to create a series of lettering for the exhibition! As a commercial artist, we don’t always have the time or space to create for our personal projects… this exhibition gave me a great opportunity to do just that!

10) Who are some of your favourite artists or what are your favourite artistic periods?

My favourite artist is Claude Monet. When I had the opportunity to visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum last October, I was in awe standing before the original works. They were immense and breathtaking and so much more than I had imagined. I am particularly drawn to the French Impressionist paintings, and Monet’s works are always precious to me. There is a sense of freedom, tranquil and solace in his works. Impression, Sunrise (1872) and the earlier Water Lilies are my favourites. 

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Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet

 

11) What’s next on your art calendar—are you exhibiting anywhere else after SPRMRKT? If no, why not?

I am currently working on returning to library@orchard for the 2nd run of ‘Calligraphy Travels’. As with 2016’s exhibition, the contributors for 2017 will be calligraphers from Singapore, and I hope we will delight patrons with a gorgeous display of letters in different calligraphy scripts!

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Ruth doing a watercolour demonstration at a modern calligraphy workshop held at library@orchard earlier this year (Photo credit: @theworkroom.sg)

12) Any final thoughts you’d like to share about your debut exhibition Words Within?

I hope everyone enjoys checking out the hidden quotes/messages within!  

Missed the exhibition? Get in touch with us (contactus@sprmrkt.com.sg) to take a closer look!
For more information about Ruth, her team and their creations, step into The Workroom.

Glossary

Bloom – Plant yourself where you may bloom.

ShineOne day the people who didn’t believe in you are going to tell everyone how they met you.

BaeBe mine always.

ExpertI talk to myself sometimes because I need expert advice.

LaobanDon’t let this face fool you. I roll like a boss.

ArtistI am an Artist. Sleeping is an art.

DessertDessert is not an option. It’s why I started eating in the first place.

DreamThe distance between your dreams and reality is called action.

ShoesRoses are red, violets are blue | You can keep the flowers, I’d rather have shoes.

CertaintyNothing is certain except death and taxes. And laundry.

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The opening reception for “My Tokyo State Of Mind” was a RSVP only party held on 14 January 2016, with invites sent out online and via our event page.

Tokyo-State-of-Mind-EDM-Final.jpgPreparations were already underway the day before as we worked with Cheryl of Articulate Consulting to arrange all of the work on our walls.

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“My Tokyo State Of Mind” is a collection of 43 ink portraits ranging from pop icons…

 

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and pin-up girls…

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to prints drawn from nature and myths.

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Lucky Guns finding a snug place on our retail shelves

All done by the end of the day and ready for launch night!

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Though Mr. Fix could not grace us with his presence, he was very much there with us in spirit through this clip he made specially for the exhibition.

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Ceiling projection!

The evening began with a little primping, with help from Bobbie and her wonderful crew at The MakeUp Roomimage1 2.JPG

Ice cold craft beers courtesy of Eastern Craft  tabled and ready for clinking.DSC_6211

Assorted cream puffs by Amiral Patisserie decorated with a nod to Jap Pop and the artwork!

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DJs Ginette Chittick and JINMART warming up the house

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The first of the guests arriving and taking a look at the backroom hangs

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Beers beginning to flow as more guests arrive

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Serving up housemade kamikazes

 

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Taking home digital copies 🙂

Modern Asian snacks by Chef Joseph were so popular we didn’t manage to take a picture of the grilled risotto 😦

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Egg & Roe Crostini

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Mixed Mushroom and White Truffle Oil Crostini

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Chad Potato Salad with Mayo & ‘Togarashi’

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The night ensued with some poring over the portraits…

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Rock ‘n’ Roll legend David Bowie’s passing 4 days earlier made these ‘Rebel Rebel’ prints all the more poignant.

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Bump-ins and getting acquainted… DSC_6272.jpgDSC_6509DSC_6463

Smiles for the camera…

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Our resident geishas with the amazing Sae of Amiral Patisserie

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Our director Sue-Shan with Cheryl from Articulate Consulting

Not forgetting the outfits and our subtly applied geisha rock theme…

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And these game poses!

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Thank you all for coming down and we hope you guys had fun because we hella did! More photos from the night can be found on our Facebook page.

For more information about the exhibition and art for sale, write to us at contactus@sprmrkt.com.sg.

“My Tokyo State of Mind” runs from 15 January to 6 March at SPRMRKT so if you didn’t manage to swing by on launch night, it’s not too late!

Contributing writer: Hui Li

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The opening reception for British artist and writer Nicola Anthony’s latest solo exhibition was held on 14 October. Guests were greeted by a wave of words penned in turquoises and blues as they stepped through our glass doors.

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Installation of text art handwritten by Nicola during her many trips down

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These words were actually the secrets and confessions gathered from the public through the confession slips we left at the shop, face-to-face confession sessions with Nicola or from submissions online.

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Wide angled shot of the embroidery hoops from the Atlas series hanging from strings and hooks (Image credits: 20Twenty)

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Detail of The Only Constant Is Change: Four layer burned drawing on rice paper and brown paper (Image credits: 20Twenty)

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Professional independent curator and performance artist Daniela Beltrani (R) was chiefly responsible for the beautiful arrangement of art pieces on the walls

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Nicola Anthony (L) speaks with a guest about her works from the Constellation series in the inner sanctum

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Wide angled shot of the Constellation series

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Taking a closer look at works from the Constellation series!

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Last minute confessions 🙂

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Perusing the catalogue of artwork

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Examining 3 of the big drawings, drawn with pigment ink and watercolour on paper

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Left: Loving Kindness; watercolour and pigment ink on paper Middle: You are, like everyone, not in the least bit ordinary; pigment ink on paper Right: Where the Story Begins; pigment ink on paper, drawing using co-ordinates

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Dry laksa cups

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Rainbow layer cake befitting of the ‘layered’ theme of the exhibition

Sea bass and Two Rabbits Chilli crostini that also tied in with the sea-related in the Atlas series

Sea bass and Two Rabbits Chilli crostini that also tied in with the sea-related in the Atlas series

Pan fried carrot cake with balsamic glaze and pork floss full of local touch!

Pan fried carrot cake with balsamic glaze and pork floss full of local flavour!

Housemade punch and infused water

Housemade punch and infused water

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He has a secret to tell

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Way to round off the night!

For a closer look at the artworks, access the catalogue and pricelist here.

More on Daniela Beltrani’s curator’s essay coming up next.

Contributing writer: Hui Li

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At the opening reception of Indian artist Malavika PC on 4th June. (The opening reception was changed from 3rd to 4th June as the artist was flying into Singapore for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content and we wanted to catch her!)

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Kamiliah, assistant to gallerist Stephanie Tham of Galerie Steph, is pictured here orientating guests 🙂

The show started with a presentation by Sue Yian Quek, founder and publisher of The Magic Bird collection of children’s books. Magic Bird’s profits are channeled towards social projects, which it calls Wisdom Clubs, that benefit kids with no opportunity to read. Since 2012, Magic Bird has donated over 26,000 books, built 17 reading spaces and conducted multiple reading programmes through its Wisdom Clubs.

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A customer picking up a copy of the The Magic Bird book, written by Ken Spillman and illustrated by Malavika PC.

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Malavika PC pictured here giving a toast to guests.

Depending on where you are in the CBD, the fast and furious pace can get in the way of imagination and creativity. We hope that by showing these works – many of which are amazingly illustrated, people will be inspired.” – SPRMRKT co-owner Sue-Shan Quek

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SPRMRKT co-owner Sue-Shan pictured in the centre orientating guests about the unique art pieces.

The exhibition featured original collages on hand-textured sheets from the children’s book of the same title written by Ken Spillman. Malavika’s approach to making the collages mirror the book, which she says is about “the core yearning in us to learn, grasp and respond to the occurrences outside of us. And how reading, literacy, vocabulary and articulation equips a mind for expression, constantly letting us know how expansive the universe around is.” As such, her works are layered with paper to give depth, distance and flight, and rooted in very organic typography so as to appear gentle and uplifting.

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#18/22 The Magic Bird Series, 2014-15 Paper, Inks & Adhesive 30 x 30 cm Unique Work SGD 850

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#23/23 The Magic Bird Series, 2014-15 Paper, Inks & Adhesive 30 x 30 cm Unique Work SGD 850

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#21/22 The Magic Bird Series, 2014-15 Paper, Inks & Adhesive 30 x 30 cm Unique Work SGD 850

Please note that some of these works are still available for sale. More information can be found below.

IMG_1128More photos of guests and the serene opening launch to Malavika’s show.

IMG_1133SPRMRKT thanks Malavika PC, Galerie Steph & The Magic Bird for all the hard work and effort placed into getting this exhibition together!

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One of the pieces which sold! #20/22. The Magic Bird Series. Paper, ink & adhesive. 30 x 30cm.

Some of Malavika’s works are still being exhibited and sold at Galerie Steph in Helutrans. For those who’d like to find out more about the artist, do check out a recent interview of the lovely Malavika posted below and contact Galerie Steph or SPRMRKT for more details!

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A Thousand Words Poster

The series of exhibitions featuring Magic Bird Publishing books began with Malaysian artist C.K. Koh, whose illustrations are influenced by manga, pop culture and Western fairy tales. C.K. has illustrated two picture books which feature his signature box-head characters.

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Sue Yian Quek, founder of Magic Bird Publishing, at a book signing during the opening reception!

C.K. Koh studied in the UK and is currently senior lecturer at the One Academy, Malaysia’s award-winning college of art and design. He has exhibited widely across Southeast Asia. Becoming a father led C.K. to take his “search for hidden hope amongst the monstrous, grotesque and ugliness of our imperfect world” into the world of children’s books, and to the creation of Box Boy and his quests for answers.

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C.K. Koh pictured here explaining how Box Boy came to life 🙂

A really well received reception where a few prints were sold on that evening and where one customer requested for the frames to be white 🙂

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Nice black frames that matched our wall lights!

Pictured above from left to right:
1. Sunshine Smile, 2015, Digital Print on Hahnemuhle fine art paper, 76 x 52 cm

2. Humpback Splash!, 2015, Digital Print on Hahnemuhle fine art paper, 76 x 52 cm

3. You Are My Dream, 2015, Digital Print on Hahnemuhle fine art paper, 61 x 61 cm

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Where customers quench their thirst at SPRMRKT, we found these cute elephants doing something quite similar 🙂

This was one of the pieces where a customer requested the frames in white and it worked just as well as the black frames!

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Great spotlights on these 3 prints!

Pictured above from left to right:
1. His Nose Began To Grow, 2015, Digital Print on Hahnemuhle fine art paper, 76 x 52 cm

2. Liar Cloud?, 2015, Digital Print on Hahnemuhle fine art paper, 76 x 52 cm

3. I’ve Got No Nose!, 2015, Digital Print on Hahnemuhle fine art paper, 61 x 61 cm

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Kamiliah, assistant to Stephanie Tham of Galerie Steph, describing the details of the artwork while showing one of Ck Koh’s illustrated books to one of our guests!

It was a relaxing reception which brought out wonderment with some of the guests who were working in the vicinity and just wanted to get away from the typically stressful environment of the CBD.

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IMG_8321People came, mingled and ate. We sold 50 over books that evening!!

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Some of these books are still on sale till mid August!

For more enquiries on the artist and the availability of his works, please reach out to Galerie Steph or contact us at contactus@sprmrkt.com.sg

ON THE MENU

BBQ Pulled Pork on Brioche Buns

Mixed Roasted Vegetable & Quinoa Cups

Sea Bass with Two Rabbits Smoky Chilli on Cucumber Bites

Potato with Grilled Ham & Cheese Croquet

Berries & Cream Tartlet

BBQ Pulled Pork on Brioche Buns

BBQ Pulled Pork on Brioche Buns

Mixed Roasted Vegetables on Quinoa Cups

Mixed Roasted Vegetables on Quinoa Cups

Sea Bass with Two Rabbits Smoky Chilli on Cucumber Bites

Sea Bass with Two Rabbits Smoky Chilli on Cucumber Bites

Potato with Grilled Ham & Cheese Croquet

Potato with Grilled Ham & Cheese Croquet

Berries & Cream Tartlet

Berries & Cream Tartlet

The spread!

The spread! Speak to us for your catering enquiries today +65 6221 2105

Tokyo-Cinderella-Dolls-EDMThe cast and crew of Tokyo Cinderella Dolls came to town at the start of the new year and here we are to take you through the best moments of the evening.

IMG_4967The exhibition launched to a private reception on 7 Jan and took off where the two dolls from Karin Shikata’s photographic journey in Tokyo “came to life”, re-enacted their time in Tokyo and gave a full theatrical performance, engaging both guests and staff!

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With ex-performers of the Takarazuka Revue Studio and hair and make up stylist Misa Ujii

With ex-performers of the Takarazuka Revue Studio and hair and make up stylist Misa Ujii

Models Mirei Uchida, Yu Ranma and Japanese photographer Karin Shikata were all ex-performers at Takarazuka Revue, a 100 year old all-female musical theatre troupe in Japan.

Karin (with bouquet), with models, make up artist and guests

Karin (with bouquet), with models, make up artist and guests

And the night started off with a cocktail aperitif, Tokyo Breeze, specially concocted by a member of staff.

Tokyo Breeze. A cocktail made with Citizen Pop's Lemon & Thyme Fresh Fruit Soda and Vodka!

Tokyo Breeze. A cocktail made with Citizen Pop’s Lemon & Thyme Fresh Fruit Soda, triple sec & vodka

While we browsed around the exhibition, we discovered a photograph of the dolls eating Takoyaki! A very popular Japanese snack both in Japan and in Singapore.

Eating their way through in Tokyo with something fun and familiar - Takoyaki!

Takoyaki

Chef Joseph and his team at SPRMRKT went along with the Japanese theme to create their own version of a Takoyaki out of fried risotto (otherwise known in Italy as arancini), worcestershire sauce and bonito flakes! This was featured with a Grilled Teriyaki Pork Bao with Coleslaw, Fried Chicken Wrap and Corn & Crab Chawanmushi.

Arancini with Worcestershire Sauce & Bonito Flakes; Grilled Teriyaki Pork Bao with Coleslaw; Fried Chicken Wrap

Arancini with Worcestershire Sauce & Bonito Flakes; Grilled Teriyaki Pork Bao with Coleslaw; Fried Chicken Wrap

Corn & Crab Chawanmushi

Corn & Crab Chawanmushi

Even the dolls couldn’t resist tucking into these! 🙂

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Feeling a little bashful from getting caught by our camera for tucking into some food :)

Feeling a little bashful from getting caught by our camera 🙂

But the evening could not have been more entertaining with the guests who came, ate, drank, talked about Japan, food and art to a curated soundtrack of Japanese electronic house and pop music!

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Gallery owner Stephanie Tham introducing a guest to the exhibition

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Food quickly came and went!

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Models with artist Karin

Models with artist Karin

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Music Writer for JUICE

 

And some might say the real highlight of the evening was when one of the dolls started feeding our guests and shocked a few!

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but all was good and guests started to play along 🙂

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Another lucky guest getting fed which caused some excitement 🙂

Finally when the crowd subsided a little, we went to the back of the shop only to discover that Karin was shooting and working on her next exhibition of these dolls and their time spent in Singapore!

IMG_5018We can’t wait to see where her next exhibition of these dolls on the streets of Singapore will take her… though we hear it might be in London or Paris!

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Some of our hardworking staff who wanted to let loose for a while and join in the fun :)

Some of our hardworking staff who wanted to let loose for a while and join in the fun 🙂

IMG_5044Big thanks to Galerie Steph for presenting another fun and remarkable exhibition with us!

With the beautiful and brainy Kamiliah of Galerie Steph! Photo courtesy of Karin Shikata

With the beautiful and brainy Kamiliah of Galerie Steph! Photo courtesy of Karin Shikata

All photographs are for sale and if you were wondering about the photo frames and where you could purchase these, they were all actually put together and lovingly handcrafted by the photographer, Karin, with original origami paper and is part of her artistic expression with these photographs. Here’s a quick glimpse of some of the designs from the show:

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Thank you to all who made it. We had a blast and we hope you did too. For those who missed it, do pop into the bistro to catch the wonderful photographic series of Tokyo Cinderella Dolls before it ends on 8 March.

Tokyo Cinderella Dolls at SPRMRKT, 2 McCallum Street. From 8 Jan - 8 Mar 2014

Photo credits and information on Tokyo Cinderella Dolls !