Two young women wanted to help the Singapore craft community, by letting them use the extra space they had. Such is the humble origin of Itchy Fingers, whose workshops are about getting Singaporeans all crafty.
Stale & Co., Project Coal, The Letter J Supply… These unique brand names are some of the exciting Singapore-born and –made labels emerging from the local craft scene today, but to most of us, they probably won’t ring a bell.
Struck by how little known and little appreciated local artisanry is in Singapore, two graphic designers came up with the idea of running craft workshops for the public. When people experience crafting for themselves, the two believe, they will better understand and appreciate how much time and effort it takes to make even the simplest of crafts.
The pair, Alison Schooling and Sarah Tang, already have a successful graphic design firm of their own, named Sarah and Schooling. The former course mates from LASALLE College of the Arts created Itchy Fingers in August 2015 to run craft workshops.
As part of the local creative scene, they had witnessed the struggles of the craft community, and were humbled and eager to support local artisans. “We had a lot of support for Sarah and Schooling, so we decided to support the crafting community,” Tang, 28, said.
“Our local crafters are actually amazing. Considering that Singapore is so small, our talent pool is really impressive,” she added.
One of the biggest hurdles facing local crafters trying to make a living from selling their creations is the lack of public awareness and support. Singaporeans would rather go for mainstream foreign brands than local ones, Tang noted.
At Itchy Fingers, local crafters are invited to conduct workshops, which are run out of a space in Jalan Besar, which also houses the Sarah and Schooling office.
These workshops, which usually range from $120 to $220, are profitable and the organisers are seeing more participants, mostly working adults. The fees cover materials and students get to take home the crafts they make. Participants have made jewellery, spoons, perfumes, even lamps.
Social media power
Social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have been instrumental in Itchy Finger’s growth. In particular, the platforms’ trend analysis feature has been useful because crafting classes are “a huge trend”. In recent months, data from such analysis shows Singaporeans are keen on learning calligraphy, watercolour painting and flower arrangements.
Itchy Fingers update their classes to match these trends and demand. Thanks to such market research and strong user engagement, their Instagram account has attracted more than 14,300 followers.
New collaborators for their workshops are introduced once every two months. “We want to help the entire community, and not the same old people over and over again,” Tang said. From August to September, they will host workshops conducted by Concrete Everything, Scent Library and FAYY Terrariums.
The organisers also want to boost opportunities for crafters beyond their premises. They recently won a bid for four of their collaborators to conduct craft workshops at the National Library Board Tampines from April 2016 to May 2017.
Back to basics
Tang and Schooling took up crafting as a break from spending most of their time in front of computers at work. The prospect of working with their hands attracted them.
“Time passes very fast when you are crafting. You are in a different zone. It takes a lot of time and effort to [make the crafts]. I do hope people see the value in it,” Tang said.
The size of the workshops ranges from 4 to 14 participants. This allows the instructors to give more dedicated attention to the participants.
“[The public] is always finding something to do on the weekends with their hands or just something different to do. So that’s where we come in,” said Schooling, 29.
Crafting is tangible, in that it gives one the chance to physically experience – see and touch – their accomplishments in real life. There is also great pride in that, and it creates a bond between oneself and one’s craft. Much like life, learning to craft is a long process of making mistakes, understanding and practice.
“The joy is not in the end product,” Schooling said, “it’s the journey, the process of actually doing it, [when] you never thought that you could do it yourself.”
Draft by Rennes Lee Ting
Edited by Bernice Tang