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Blk 1015 Geylang East Ave 3, #02-141
WHAT annoys you most when you are at a restaurant? Bad service, poor lighting, food portions that are way too small for the price you pay?
For Vera Ong, nothing gets her goat more than food served on plain, boring plates. "There are so many pretty plates available, and I find it irritating when a restaurant doesn't use them to plate their food," she says.
Ms Ong is a self-confessed crockery hoarder - she even calls herself that on her business card. The former Singapore Airlines stewardess is also the founder of Lovera Collections, a store where she sells crockery. She quit flying in 2013 to run the crockery store full time.
Ms Ong says she has always had an interest in crockery. "I like to cook, and would serve the food on pretty plates. They look much better in photos this way," she says.
When she was still flying, she would often check out markets in Europe to find crockery. These days, she would head to countries such as South Korea and Taiwan to source for plates.
Some of the pieces in her collection are limited edition pieces, and there are only about six of each kind.
Lest you think the plates are only good for display on the walls, Ms Ong begs to differ. "All the crockery that I sell are food safe," she says.
She usually sources for plates that have loud prints, bright colours, have Moroccan style prints on them, or have vintage floral designs. "My customers say I have got an eye for good design," she quips.
She also tries to bring in more affordable brands, and some of the plates start from S$8.90 per piece. Some of the more expensive pieces can cost from S$75 for a dinner plate. Most of her customers are women, although she does get the occasional husband who is more keen on crockery than his wife. Most Singaporeans, she says, are used to buying many pieces of the same kind, but Ms Ong advises them to buy one or two pieces each time. "Usually, people would buy six sets of crockery, all in the same design and print, but that can be so boring," she says. "I advise customers to buy fewer pieces and mix and match the plates instead."
For those who are clueless, Ms Ong will suggest safe colour combinations, such as blue and white. She will also put together several table settings to show endless possibilities, such as using a colourful charger plate below, and a white plate on top.
She personally likes plates with trimmings. "This way, you can put the food in the centre, and the food will not block out the details of the plate," she says.
Her collection of pastel crockery have been a big hit. "The colours are not too loud, and they provide some contrast to homes, which are mostly in neutral tones," she says.
Lovera Collections began as an online store, but now has its own showroom in Paya Lebar. Ms Ong hopes to bring her brand overseas, as well as to change the mindset that only one set of crockery is needed for life. "That's not true, you can always add more pieces to your collection," she says.
What makes her happiest is when customers post pictures of their plates on social media and tag Ms Ong in the photos. "I enjoy seeing how my customers are loving their plates as much as I do," she says.
IF you have been to Whitegrass, the hottest restaurant in town, you would have noticed what looks like portobello mushrooms on the table. Those who have dined at the restaurant may have mistaken them for real mushrooms, but they are actually butter and salt dishes made from ceramic. And no, they don't come from some studio in Bali, but from a HDB flat in Hougang.
"Chef Sam Aisbett saw my works on social media and got in touch to commission us some pieces," says Lee Huiwen, co-founder of Studio Asobi. Besides the portobello mushroom dishes, Ms Lee and her husband, Kenneth Lau, also produced some vases, sugar bowls and petit fours plates for the restaurant.
What started off as a hobby for the couple to do together has become their new career. In 2014, Ms Lee left the corporate world, went on a sabbatical and headed to Tajimi, one of Japan's most famous pottery town and trained under a 74-year-old master.
Upon her return to Singapore, she decided to be a full-time ceramics artist. Mr Lau had experience working with clay in his student years. The couple began creating pieces, some of which they sold to raise funds for charity organisation, Oxfam. Friends liked what they did and began asking them to do pieces as wedding and birthday gifts.
Studio Asobi was started and the couple soon started holding workshops in their flat. They have a few potter's wheels and a hobby kiln where they fire the pieces. For 2016, they plan to start a retail line for their works. "We will do that in the second half of the year," says Mr Lau, who designs houses in his day job.
Ms Lee adds: "From now till then, we will work on creating several series of objects in different styles."
Meanwhile, they are accepting commissions. Their sake sets are most popular they say. Depending on the complexity of the design, each sake set, consisting of a sake vase and two cups cost from S$200. Other commissions include tea sets and rice bowls.
Ms Lee who has no background in arts, is surprised by how she has taken to clay. "It is fascinating that clay, which is basically dirt, is so worthless but can be transformed into a piece of art," says Ms Lee.
IN today's society, when most people share their memories on social media, Make History is a breath of fresh air. Instead of posting key milestones online, Make History allows users to create their own history using physical items. The company was started in 2013 by Dutch mum, Anouk van Der EL.
"People love to create stories and leave their legacy. Make History's product lines help people to save their most precious stories and celebrations with their loved ones in style," she says. She currently has four products in her collection: TimeCapsules, Little Quote Jar, Growth Chart and Treasure Tin. These are sold in design shops, concept stores, galleries and kids boutiques in over 20 countries worldwide. In Singapore, customers can get the products from Tangs Orchard, Mondays Off, Cuckoo and Deer Industries and online via Bloesem.co and KookiesandMilk.com.
She comes up with ideas for the products but works with a group of award winning Dutch designers such as textile designer Mae Engelgeer and product designer Ivan Kasner.
The collection started with TimeCapsules. When her son was born, Ms van Der EL noticed that many of the baby's gifts were of a temporary nature, such as baby clothing or stuffed animals.
Her grandmother, whom Ms van der EL describes as a very cool lady who has travelled the world since the fifties, donated money for her great-grandson's first trip and wrote down a personal bucket list with her best travel tips for when he turns 18.
"Inspired by Andy Warhol, who used to collect bits and bobs of his daily life in boxes that remained sealed for exactly 25 years (he called them TimeCapsules), I decided to put my grandmother's letter in a box together with some other special letters, pictures and a stack of newspapers and magazines of the day of my son's birth," says Ms van Der EL. "That's when the TimeCapsules idea was born; a capsule to capture the big moments in life."
Each TimeCapsule comes with a DIY kit comprising a journal, stickers, washi tape and wrapping paper for users to customise it anyway they like. "Use it for your wedding day, a newborn in the family or memories from a cool trip you wish to save in style," she says.
As she loved the idea of saving memories in style, all following products are in that same theme. A Little Quote Jar for all spoken gems worth remembering, a stylish Growth Chart for keeping track of your kids' growth, and a Treasure Tin for all your small treasures such as shells from far flung beaches, Polaroids, jewellery, or your kids' milk teeth.
Items start from S$39 for a Growth Chart.
"I think our customers appreciate our aesthetics and the deeper meaning of our products. It is not just a nice looking item you put on the shelf. Our products actually hold your most precious memories for years to come. It is like a time machine, with treasures far more powerful than the memory alone," says Ms van Der EL. "With every peek inside our products it takes you back to a place filled with nostalgia."
DESIGNERBOX allows you to own unique pieces of home accessories, created by designers from all around the world, without even having to leave home.
Here's how it works: you pay a subscription fee and a DesignerBox is delivered to you each month. Inside each wooden box is an object created by a designer, along with a design newspaper and some other goodies.
DesignerBox was founded by Tomas Erel, art director of Iconic Product Collection. The French company aims to showcase designers whose products are often seen in magazines.
Mr Erel explains his motivation for starting DesignerBox. The first of which is business innovation. To get their product out to the shops, most designers have to find a distributor. DesignerBox cuts out that step. "I wanted to find a new business model, one where the product goes directly to the consumer. This business model that values the work of the great contemporary designers but without the constraints."
For the consumer, a DesignerBox subscription lets them understand design, and in the process, designers better.
"I have regular chats with customers and I am very proud when people don't just talk about a carafe that they received from DesignerBox, but also talk about the designer and sometimes the story behind the product. So the product becomes more that just a functional carafe, it starts to be a way to socialise, to share stories with people," says Mr Erel.
DesignerBox recently launched its 32nd edition and while declining to give exact figures, Mr Erel says it has "thousands of subscribers".
Some of the designers who have created objects for DesignerBox include Ron Gilad and Piero Lissoni. Names from Singapore include Outofstock and Nathan Yong.
Designers are told to create an object that is as personal as possible. "It doesn't have to please people but to tell something from the designer," says Mr Erel.
Some of the objects created include a marble pencil holder by Mr Yong, a candle holder by Japanese designer Kazuhiro Yamanaka and porcelain pot by Mr Lissoni.
Each edition is produced in limited quantities. "We have to estimate the monthly growth so we produce a bit more to ensure delivery to every new subscriber," says Mr Erel. "It also allows new subscribers to buy past editions, or sometimes people want to buy a second box for a gift. But it's not at the same price."
A box costs 35 euros (S$55), but if you take out a year-long subscription, each box will cost 29 euros a month.
"The long term subscription with a monthly payment is the most popular as it is the best way to live the Designerbox experience," says Mr Erel.