Published on 31 October 2017

Bartholomew (Photo: Christopher Chien)

Bartholomew Ting is carving out his own path as the only cardboard sculptor in Singapore.

By Melanie Lee

It all started with Rag Day at the National University of Singapore (NUS), where students would build thematic floats for a procession. 37-year-old Bartholomew Ting, then a business student at NUS, would happily build floats for Temasek Hall, where he was residing in.

“For three years, I’d be one of those crazy ones burning up the holidays building the float. It was through this that I discovered how much I liked to build stuff. I’d be using all kinds of materials, including cardboard,” he recalls.

Upon graduating in 2001, Ting worked for a packaging company, where he became acquainted with the different types of cardboard. After that, he went on to an event company where he learned how to use 3D software while doing exhibition design. In 2008, he spent the next two years doing freelance exhibition design work while travelling around the UK and Europe on a working holiday visa. Upon returning to Singapore in 2010, he continued his freelance exhibition design work, but was starting to realise how his designs often turned out differently in actual physical form because the vendors either had budget constraints or interpreted the plans differently.

A well-paying exhibition design project in Abu Dhabi gave Ting some time to tinker around with cardboard towards the end of 2011. It was during that time that he also discovered the Maker website Instructables, where fellow Makers shared detailed instructions on various DIY building projects. He started out with small cardboard sculptures, but moved on to more ambitious projects by early 2012.

“At that time, a few of my Maker friends started sharing this space called Kampung Kampus (as part of the Ground-Up Initiative) at the former Yishun Bottle Tree Park. I started doing my cardboard there. I would drive a small truck to pick up recycled cardboard from Jurong and then do the cutting at Kampung,” he says.

There was no turning back. Since then, Ting’s cardboard repertoire includes F1 cars, furniture, dinosaurs, a bear head dome, and a fire engine. He also runs workshops for the public and schools.

“Cardboard is a friendly and flexible material. You just need a pen knife, white glue, hot glue and zip ties. I feel that people are naturally drawn to my cardboard sculptures because at the back of their head, they probably think it’s something they can do. After all, we’ve all played with cardboard at some point in our lives,” he says.

National Day -Esplanade dome (2016) (Photo: Bartholomew Ting)
MBS CeLaVi F1 (2015) (Photo: Bartholomew Ting)
World Maker Faire - NYC (2015) (Photo: Bartholomew Ting)

The past few years have been a huge learning curve for Ting. As a natural introvert, being a cardboard sculptor has required him to be “in the front line”, whether it’s pitching to clients or teaching other people how to make their own cardboard sculptures. He also receives international commissions through social media and has had his work displayed in Malaysia, Germany and New York.

Ting’s ultimate dream project? Working together with children to design and build a cardboard-only playground. “But it has to happen in a realistic way,” he says rather wistfully.

“I enjoy getting creative but I also hope to be a better businessman and master the art of coming up with suitable quotations and costings.”

Click here to view more of Bartholomew Ting’s work.

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