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Perfect Draw

In Cubes Indesign C71, we had the founders of bookbinding atelier Bynd Artisan in conversation with their first capsule collection collaborator designer Larry Peh. Here, Luo Jingmei speaks to their second collaborator Erwin Lian on the making of the perfect sketchbook.

Perfect Draw


January 23rd, 2015

As The Perfect Sketchbook project show, the art of sketching requires more than just a simple piece of paper. Erwin Lian is an artist who lectures part time at Ngee Ann Polytechnic School of Film and Media and sketches intensively as a hobby. When he couldn’t find the ideal sketchbook that ticked all his requirements, he looked to Grandluxe, a Singapore bookbinding manufacturer with a long history of craft and quality.

Erwin Lian (centre) and the Bynd Artisan team

Bynd Artisan is the boutique arm of Grandluxe, set up last year to explore conceptual projects with creatives alongside a bespoke range of notebooks and leather products. The Erwin Lian x Bynd Artisan capsule collection is the second of such projects. The result is The Perfect Sketchbook, initiated and made possible on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. It features 100 per cent cotton (most sketchbooks contain only 20 per cent) sourced from a traditional British mill, high quality synthetic leather cover finishing from Switzerland and friendly artist features like an expandable pocket and built-in value charts to help artists pick the right colour tones.

The project, which started in August 2014, raised more than US$53,000 with backers from over 40 countries. The SG$40 sketchbook was launched on 18 January 2015. Luo Jingmei finds out more from Lian.

The Perfect Sketchbook

How did you start sketching?

I had for the longest time set aside this idea of sketching-on-the-go as it was my dream to sketch the world. Fear of depleting my hard-earned savings for something ‘intangible’ prevented me from proceeding. An episode of heartbreak two years ago landed me at the beginning of my travels. Without an objective in mind, I began my journey of sketching and travelling around the world.

What is your medium of choice?

Instead of sketching with a pencil, I forced myself to deal with the imperfections of life by using permanent ink for every single sketch. I do not attempt to erase errors that I make in drawings; I simply work with every mark that I make.

The Bynd Artisan showroom

How did you get to know Bynd Artisan and how did this collaboration start?

One day, out of sheer boredom, I looked up the company that produces the Monologue sketchbooks I use most often. Being in a country that relies extensively on imported goods, I was impressed when I realised that these sketchbooks were manufactured by a Singapore company. I wrote [them] an email, attached it with a watercolour sketch and asked if I could try a sketchbook for free. Unexpectedly Grandluxe replied to my email within a day and generously sent me a few sketchbooks to review.

The Bynd Artisan showroom

How did this lead to the current Erwin Lian x Bynd Artisan collaboration?

I was really happy to receive their sketchbooks and thought to myself: it really isn’t that tough to customise the sketchbook to suit consumer requirements. I gave them my feedback on the perfect specifications and over the next few days, I began to conceptualise The Perfect Sketchbook. I drafted an idea, drew the design and proposed a crowdfunding project, [though] at the beginning it was simply my ardent interest to design a sketchbook. I was unaware of the costs and work involved.

Bynd Artisan’s craftsman at work

So what were the key challenges in creating The Perfect Sketchbook?

Too many! With almost no budget, I designed a sketchbook that demanded expensive materials, which would have to be imported from various European nations. This meant that I would have to put in so much more into this project to [produce the right] quality. For instance, I sourced for and tested all the paper in the world [made from] 100 per cent cotton, redid our promotional video trice and demanded new prototypes from Bynd Artisan before launching the project. And I went knocking on everyone’s door to elicit support.

The Bynd Artisan workshop

Can you elaborate on the process and experience of collaborating with Bynd Artisan?

It was really a spontaneous project and I am still amused that Bynd Artisan got involved with me on this. When I approached co-owner of Bynd Artisan James Quan, he asked me why I was doing this. My first reason was that Made-in-Singapore products cannot and should not compete with lesser-developed nations over pricing. We have no natural resources and [labour] is not cheap here. Our manufacturers will need to focus on high quality in order to compete with developed countries. However, how can we do that when few of us are willing to take the initiative or show support? I approached Bynd Artisan with this project without asking for remuneration [and did everything on Kickstarter by myself].

Secondly, Singaporean artists have always been stigmatised as an unworthy lot. This perception should be changed. I have exhibited through this Kickstarter project how a Singaporean artist can work hand-in-hand with a company to forge a highly probable symbiotic relationship. If a Singapore company can set forth globally with a high quality product, the related Singaporean artist can be endorsed in the same breath. I hope that Singapore can one day be the home of companies that sell artistically created high value products.

Images courtesy of Bynd Artisan

Bynd Artisan

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