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DISCOVERING THE JOYS OF COLOUR: Mr Sim (above) says that the books are meant for adults as there is a fair bit of complexity. But he doesn’t rule out kids colouring in them too.

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DISCOVERING THE JOYS OF COLOUR: Mr Sim says that the books are meant for adults as there is a fair bit of complexity. But he doesn’t rule out kids colouring in them too.

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NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCKS: ATAS, comprising Mr Chai (above-left), Mr Chan (above-right) and Mr Low, are planning to add more neighbourhoods to the collection.

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NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCKS: ATAS, comprising Mr Chai, Mr Chan and Mr Low (above), are planning to add more neighbourhoods to the collection.

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The Marina Bay set has building blocks that represent iconic buildings such as the Marina Bay Sands’ three towers, the Esplanade and the Singapore Flyer (above).

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FIELD OF PLAY: Mr Chew (above) salvages parts from unwanted items and turns them into furniture pieces and fun items, such as a foosball table and a shuffleboard.

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FIELD OF PLAY: Mr Chew salvages parts from unwanted items and turns them into furniture pieces and fun items, such as a foosball table (above) and a shuffleboard.

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FIELD OF PLAY: Mr Chew salvages parts from unwanted items and turns them into furniture pieces and fun items, such as a foosball table and a shuffleboard (above).

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PLAY HOUSE: Ms Jagger (above) designs and makes tents for kids but they can accommodate adults too. 'Many parents get inside and read and play with their kids,' she says.

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PLAY HOUSE: Ms Jagger designs and makes tents for kids but they can accommodate adults too (above). 'Many parents get inside and read and play with their kids,' she says.

Bringing out your inner child

Good news. Childhood pleasures don't have to end when you grow up, not with these kids-inspired activities designed for adults.
Sep 5, 2015 5:50 AM

Sense of wonder

NAME an activity you enjoyed as a child. Catching spiders? Playing with marbles? Doodling and colouring?

Local artist William Sim has launched two colouring books, targeted at adults. Colouring the Lion City was launched last month, and Mr Sim already has a second book out, Colouring the World. Both are published by Marshall Cavendish International (Asia).

"I was approached by the publisher in May to publish the books. They believe my work has the potential to develop into illustrations for a series of adult colouring books," he says.

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Mindy Pang, marketing manager, General and Reference Publishing for Marshall Cavendish International (Asia), says that such books are part of a growing hobby craft trend and it is important for Singapore to be have its own books for artistic expression too.

Mr Sim is a full time visual artist and a partner at Amphibios Creative, which does a mix of design and arts.

He often paints in watercolour or acrylic and he also collaborates on a range of sculptures with his partner, Lush Tan, in the visual arts studio.

"My work is often colourful and has a childlike sense of wonder, the imagery is very toy-like with recurring themes of nature," Mr Sim explains.

Each colouring book took over a month to complete, from concept to the execution of illustrations. "As the pages vary in complexity, they took different amounts of time to complete," he says.

Colouring the Lion City features landmarks and icons of Singapore, such as Raffles Hotel and Haw Par Villa. Whereas in Colouring the World, users get to add their own colours to icons such as the Eiffel Tower or the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Many of the illustrations feature a robot character in them.

"The robot in the picture relates to the specific scape that it is in. It could be seen as a metaphor of the artist or the person colouring and immersing in the artwork, much like a participant in the scene at the moment," he says.

Mr Sim does not have children, but he has nine cats. "They often appear in my artwork and even in the colouring books. Discover them as you apply the colours."

He says that the best medium for colouring is "the medium that the person doing the colouring is most adept at. The paper takes well to coloured pencil and watercolour. But crayon and pen are good too."

As a child, he liked to doodle and was painting under the guidance of a pioneer watercolourist Tan Puay Tee.

On the appeal of colouring books for adults, Mr Sim says: "Colouring can be therapeutic. You can lose track of time colouring away, and it takes your mind off other things in your life too. And you get a sense of achievement when you complete colouring the book."

He says that the books are meant for adults as there is a fair bit of complexity. But he doesn't rule out kids colouring in them too. "Patience is key," he says.

  • Colouring the Lion City and Colouring the World retail for S$18.65 each before GST at all major bookstores. There is a Meet the Artist session with William Sim on Sept 5, 3.30pm, at Kinokuniya, Level 4, Ngee Ann City

Mini cityscapes

HANDS up if you played with wooden blocks as a child, building your dream home even before your first subscription to Architectural Digest.

Local design collective All Things Singapore (ATAS), has taken the idea of building blocks for kids and made them more adult-like.

ATAS is made up of design firm triggerhappy and The Farm Store, the retail arm of design firm, Farm. It is a new brand created to present a range of products that speaks about Singapore.

They've recently launched Neighbourwood, a collection of mini wooden toys that captures the vibrant cityscape of Singapore.

"It is good to educate kids on the various buildings, both old and new, in Singapore and it serves as a series of home decorative objects which captures our local image in a cute and contemporary manner," says Winston Chai, a co-founder of triggerhappy. The remaining partners of ATAS are John Chan and Selwyn Low.

The building blocks may look like toys, but are more meant for adults. "These are meant to be collected, rather than played with, so kids may find them cute, but not very fun," says Mr Chai.

Neighbourwood comes in two sets: Marina Bay and Beach Road. In the Marina Bay set, the building blocks represent iconic buildings such as the Marina Bay Sands the Esplanade and the Singapore Flyer. Meanwhile, the Beach Road set has building blocks shaped to resemble Golden Mile Complex, The Gateway and The Concourse. Each set of building blocks also comes with a fabric district map showing where they are located.

On why these two "neighbourhoods" were chosen, Mr Chai says the Marina Bay area is something they think most tourists and foreigners can relate to. "As for Beach Road, we felt this is a cool neighbourhood because the buildings here are iconic and have heritage significance to Singapore's architecture and cityscape, albeit less celebrated."

There are plans to add more neighbourhoods to the collection. Some shortlisted areas include Shenton Way and the Rochor area with its colourful HDB blocks.

"The challenge is to find a neighbourhood that is relatable to tourists and at the same time, meaningful for locals," says Mr Chai.

  • The first production of Neighbourwood has sold out. New stock will be available from online store Naiise and The Farm Store by the end of the month. The recommended retail price for each set is S$25.

Fun with junk

SINGAPOREAN-AUSTRALIAN Darren Chew scours junkyards in Ho Chi Minh City for a living. He salvages parts from unwanted items and turns them into everything from dining tables to bar stools, which he sells under his brand District Eight Design, which is based in Vietnam.

His pieces appeal to homeowners who fancy the industrial look. But furniture aside, he hasn't lost his sense of fun, adding a foosball table and shuffleboard to his repertoire.

The foosball table was inspired by a road trip that he took in the United States some years ago. "I played across the country and once back in Vietnam, I wanted a table too," says Mr Chew. "But all that my partners and I could find were ugly. So we made one that would look good in the home."

He adds: "I also like having a product in the showroom which is interactive for the clients."

His foosball table, which is popular with teenagers, is a luxed up version. "Our signature foosball table is designed and engineered to the finest detail," he says. "Every component has been identified and designed to meet the function and aesthetics of the complete piece."

Reclaimed hardwood, recycled from renovated colonial era bridges, factories and warehouses in Vietnam is used. The field of play is set in natural volcanic basalt stone, the football players are made of brass pieces and the entire table stands on the brand's distinct cast iron legs. The table is also available in hard fumed oak.

Mr Chew says the foosball table has been well-received by customers, mainly due to its size, and there is much interaction among players. "It seems to resonate with our customer base," he says. The table measures 150cm by 150cm by 93cm.

Riding on the success of the foosball table, Mr Chew next designed a shuffleboard.

The timber frame top is constructed from reclaimed hardwood, while the game board is hand laminated North American white oak, finished with a high durability lacquer to ensure that the table is long lasting and resilient to heavy play.

The shuffleboard comes with District Eight Design custom pucks, and hand stitched umber leather is used to create a soft landing surface for runaway pucks.

This table is supported by three solid cast iron legs, which are hand laid using the traditional sand mold casting technique by local craftsmen in Vietnam.

Customers can expect more. "We are currently working on a couple of other game tables, which will be available in Singapore early next year," says Mr Chew.

  • District Eight Design retails at Journey East, 315 Outram Road, Tan Boon Liat Building, #03-02. The foosball table retails for S$9,650, while the shuffleboard is available on order only and price upon request

Endless possibilities

PART of the reason why parents buy fancy toys for their kids is so they can play with them too. So when Sarah Jagger started designing play tents for kids, she made them big enough for adults to squeeze into.

If you were deprived of a playhouse when you were a child, you can make up for it with Ms Jagger's Domestic Objects tents, which can be used indoors as well.

Says the mother of two from Vancouver: "An adult can totally fit inside the tent. Many parents get inside and read and play with their kids. An adult could sleep inside but their legs would come out the door," she says.

The tents are available from online shop etsy, or from local lifestyle retailer Naiise. The inspiration for the first play tent came from her own kids, now aged three and five.

"The kids love to hide in and under things and a play tent seemed like so much fun," she says.

She hunted for one that suited her style and her growing kids while still fitting into her home, but failed to find an appropriate one. Armed with some sewing experience, she decided to make her own instead.

The first few she made were immediately snapped up by family and friends. Encouraged by the response, she decided to start Domestic Objects. That was early last year, and today, her tents are shipped worldwide.

The base of each tent measures about four feet (1.2m) by four feet and is 5'6" (1.52m) tall when set up. And they can be easily packed away when not needed.

"The first few play tents I made were actually significantly larger. Way too big for most people's spaces," says Ms Jagger on refining the design of her tents.

The poles are made of PVC pipes, which are extremely durable and also lightweight. "It is also the safest material I can think of that won't break or splinter," says Ms Jagger. Knowing that PVC is not the prettiest choice, Ms Jagger covered up the poles with fabric. Next she added windows on each side, and Velcro door ties. Each tent also comes with a padded floor mat.

Ms Jagger picks fabrics that she thinks will work with customers' homes. "I look for prints and colours I love, and I've got some amazing wide stripes coming very soon," she says.

The tents work for a wide age range from babies to 10 year olds. "I have customers who buy them for their babies' nursery, or toddlers' play room. The older kids like to set them up with sleeping bags and have a sleep over with friends," says Ms Jagger.

She recently made a giant one for adults, which will be marketed "as an item to go into an office space of a tech start-up as a way of segmenting space. It will be big enough for adults on bean bags to work on their computers", she says.

She says that she has sold "hundreds and hundreds all over the world, and about 30 to 40 per cent of sales are from Singapore".

Ms Jagger adds that for kids, the tent is not just a tent, but "a castle, a spaceship, a house, or a secret hideout". For the imaginative adult, the possibilities are endless too.