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Hans Tan Works the Asian Angle

“Les Découvertes” award winner for best product at Paris’ Maison & Objet, Hans Tan tells Michele Koh Morollo why he thinks his creation stood out.

Hans Tan Works the Asian Angle


November 2nd, 2011

Hans Tan is a 29-year-old designer, curator and design educator from Singapore who stumbled into his profession when he was doing his mandatory military service at 19.

“I always imagined I would end up studying business administration, but while I was conscripted, I chanced upon a prospectus for an industrial design course at the National University of Singapore (NUS), which must have fallen out of someone’s bag. I went with my gut and just signed up for the course without any idea of what I was getting myself into.”

Hans Tan

Spotted Nyonya

Tan says design clicked almost immediately with him because it wasn’t too academic and he “likes making things with his hands”.

Hans Tan

After graduating from NUS, Tan continued his education at the prestigious Design Academy Eindhoven on a DesignSingapore scholarship. Today he runs his own design studio and teaches at NUS. His Spotted Nyonya collection – a contemporary interpretation of traditional Peranakan tableware that he developed for Singapore-based creative agency FARM – won the “Les Découvertes” award for best product at Paris’ Maison & Object 2011 in September.

Hans Tan

“I wanted to experiment with used porcelain to create something that was inexpensive to produce with a perceived high value,” says Tan. He bought industrially produced vases native to the Peranakans of Southeast Asia, created a dotted pattern by overlaying the original multicoloured surfaces with stickers, then masked the vases and sandblasted their exposed surfaces for a look that is both Asian yet international.

Hans Tan

Hans Tan

“I think Spotted Nyonya impressed the judges because of its ’Asian-ness’ conveyed in a modern context. Many Singapore designers today intentionally veer away from traditional Asian aesthetics and opt for a more globally accepted look. Product design in Singapore is heavily influenced by Japan and Scandinavia, so I think that playing on the distinctly Southeast Asian Peranakan culture gave me an edge.”

Hans Tan

Petrified Victoria: Another collection by Hans Tan at Maison & Objet.

Hans Tan Studio

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