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Artisans: A Presentation on Craft

Students of Singapore Polytechnic were at the recent Maison&Objet 2013 to showcase their contemporary take on Southeast Asian craft. We spotlight their works.

Artisans: A Presentation on Craft


February 19th, 2013

This year, students of Singapore Polytechnic were at Maison&Objet (18 – 22 January) for the first time to present products that marry traditional craft with contemporary design.


The Gradient Mat being woven using traditional techniques

The social design project, suitably titled “Artisans”, was organised by Design Facility – a research and development unit under the polytechnic’s Diploma in Experience and Product Design, The Design School. It was supported by Vietnam’s Duy Tan University.


The traditional weaving process

As part of the project, the students travelled to Da Nang, Vietnam on a three-week adventure to learn the age-old craft of straw weaving from the villagers. Having no prior background in weaving or textile making, the students took on a project brief that required them to design contemporary products that were relevant to the Vietnamese way of life while communicating the tradition and heritage of this 500-year-old traditional weaving technique.


The Arch Stool is inspired by the way the Vietnamese typically roll and carry their mats


The manufacturing process

Through various observational exercises, hands-on weaving experiences and daily visits to the village, the students developed many design ideas, of which five were selected for further development for commerce and presentation at Maison&Objet.


The Gradient Mat is dyed with newly developed dye mixtures and (top image) inlaid with a cushion and carefully aligned magnets so it can serve a resting function and as a wall art display

Says Winston Chai, head of Design Facility, “Through this [project], we hope to [provide education on] the values and beauty of craft making and at the same time, [expose our students to] different cultures and way of life.”


Citronella is infused into this straw woven badge, thus leveraging on the scent diffusing properties of straw

“Unlike typical classes,” Chai continues,”this overseas immersion programme offers students the opportunity to learn and acquire craft skills and apply their design knowledge to develop new and contemporary object typology within its local context.”


The New Ethnic Mat marries contemporary aesthetics with traditional Vietnamese weaving patterns.


Like Gradient, the New Ethnic Mat is also inlaid with a cushion while magnets allow the mat to self-support when folded

The aim, says Chai, is to make this a sustainable social project “where developed products can be commercialised and provide not just greater returns for the villagers but [also] raise the awareness of the beauty of Southeast Asian Crafts”.


Straw Case is an iPad case. Rubber paint is used to enhance the texture and tactility of woven straw. With gradual use, this protective skin rubs away to reveal the traditional Vietnamese weave

Design Facility

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