Motivation gets one started, but commitment is what keeps you going. Committing to her love for glass art, Florence Ng recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of her business in glass art, Synergraphic Design, which she now runs alongside her daughter Sara Ang.
For most of us, glass is a functional material found in construction and daily useful objects like windows and bottles. For artist and businesswoman Florence Ng, however, it is a magical medium that gives form and life to her imaginative creations.
A lover and practitioner of glass art, Mdm Ng founded glass art and design firm Synergraphic Design in 1986. Today the company is a leading name in its field in the region, counting among its commissions “The Partners”, the glass sculptures for the Taipei 101 building in Taiwan; installations at The St. Regis Hotel, Singapore; and the “Crystal Glass Tower” for Brunei.
To pursue a career in art, says Mdm Ng, one really needs to be armed with passion and drive to see through the many challenges.
“I don’t know whether it is ignorance or courage, but I just do it,” says Mdm Ng.
“In the early days, my tagline was ‘your one-stop source for all your glass needs’. I wanted everybody to know how to use glass,” she recalls. “I wanted to make it [Synergraphic Design] into a place where they can … learn how to apply glass in all sorts of ways, in combination with other materials… to make something for their homes.”
Blast from the past
Still, running a business in glass art was simpler then. “Our overheads were low. The only challenge was about the availability of some materials, and the requirements were less extensive,” says Mdm Ng.
Thirty years on, things have changed dramatically. Trends have evolved, and the new technologies adopted in the business have also changed the way Mdm Ng and her team work at Synergraphic Design.
“For example, the enlargement [of an image], instead of being hand-drawn, it’s [now] done by the computer… with new software,” she explains. “They help you to cut down the time and labour costs. And with advanced printing technology, what used to be impossible to achieve is now made possible, giving us limitless possibilities in our design approach today.
“Our challenge here now is going on a bigger scale… You have to meet customers’ high demands, rising costs and tighter deadlines. There are many things to consider.”
Synergraphic Design has grown exponentially since starting the business with just $500. Their business has also expanded from projects in Singapore to projects worldwide, particularly in the region, including Taiwan, Vietnam, Myanmar and Hong Kong. And three years ago, Mdm Ng’s daughter, Sara Ang, decided to join her mother in her glass art business.
In terms of promotion, the company has also adopted the use of social media platforms such as Facebook, having gained more than 1,000 “likes”. Mdm Ng, 60, says: “Social media is much more efficient, and I have got no choice but to learn how to use it… especially with all the young people around… but Sara helps me with it.”
Like mother, like daughter
Entering a working relationship with her mother was a challenge for 27-year-old Ms Ang initially. “There was no line drawn between personal life and work. No matter where I was… [we would] continue talking about things,” she recalls.
“In the end,” she laughs, “I actually got used to the blurring of lines, and I realised that I was also bringing up work as and when.”
Working with her mother definitely has its perks as well. Both Ms Ang and Mdm Ng share a unique relationship – learning from as well as supporting each other.
Ms Ang says: “Sometimes we think too much when we attempt something new, and having another option means we can still give up… But for [Mdm Ng’s generation], it was very simple… [they] would just follow through the decision [they] made.”
For Mdm Ng, the support from her daughter is much needed. “It is always my daughter who says that you will always not be prepared,” she comments about still getting nervous when speaking to a large crowd. “She is my driver – literally and metaphorically.”
Undoubtedly, many expect Ms Ang to continue the legacy of Synergraphic Design. However, Mdm Ng feels differently. She knows helming the business is likely to entail sacrifices, for instance, in terms of the family.
“She [Mdm Ng] doesn’t want to see that happen to me,” Ms Ang says. “I think she wants my happiness above the work. It’s not the business that comes first, even though it is something that she dedicated her life to.
“She is a special mother, and a special woman, and that makes all the difference.”
Clearly, the synergy lies not only in the business, but also in the mother-daughter relationship. As Mdm Ng puts it, “What started during those days, until today, the soul has not changed. It has always been a synergy of beautiful things.”
Draft by Isaac Sim Boon Chuan
Edited by Bernice Tang