Stop and smell the Bandung roses

Stop and smell the Bandung roses


A miniature cup of teh si siu dai by clay artist Jocelyn Teo. (Credit: Jocelyn Teo)

In the spirit of “New Year, New Me” resolutions, we thought it would be timely to spotlight art workshops you can attend this year, to try your hand at something new, and embrace novel experiences.

We are especially excited about the miniature clay art workshops run by artist Jocelyn Teo, owner of the clay art studio, AiClay. Her miniature food creations were recently included in the hawker centre diorama that is part of the Our SG Hawker Culture Exhibition.

The exhibition, which is travelling around the island, is canvasing public support to nominate hawker culture in Singapore for the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

With more and more of us trying to ditch our smartphones and laptops, and to make something with our hands – hello sold out pottery and terrarium classes! – focussing one’s attention on crafting something small and beautiful seems like a rewarding way to spend a weekend.

What we learn from speaking with Jocelyn, however, is that crafting miniature replicas of objects is more than just about the product. It is also about re-learning how to notice and pay attention, not just to things generally, but to the details that make up the objects, like the foam in a glass of sugarcane drink, or the charring on toast.

Here is what else she had to say about her unconventional career in clay; warning: you might come away inspired to sign up for a workshop in making miniature clay sculptures.

What attracted you most to miniature clay art, and what do you think attracts others to want to learn it?
I was really captivated by how it can be so tiny and yet encapsulate so many details; that got me started on my miniature food making journey. My guess is that others feel the same way too, and also, the smallness of it provokes in them a sense of cuteness.

What are the main tools and materials you use, and what is the biggest technical challenge you face?
I use a lot of tools and materials from my own miniature food craft kit, Pocket Kitchen Ultimate, and my most-used items are polymer clay, tweezers, the needle tool and tissue blade.
It is challenging when I need to create messy-looking food, such as achar (South Asian pickles), yet still have it be easily identifiable. To achieve this, I must analyse the actual food item and take note of little details, such as the way a thin carrot slice curls; every detail matters.

Do you make your mini sculptures based off photos or the actual objects?
The latter. In mini food sculpting it is very important to get the translucency and the colours right, to achieve realism. It is harder to gauge these off a photo, or computer screen, so having the real item before me helps.

What was the most challenging item you made for the recent hawker culture exhibition?
The sugarcane drink was quite a feat to create. I did a lot of research on how to create the foamy top layer. In the end, I used a blend of white resin and tiny glass beads to recreate the effect.

What effect does miniature art have on you as an artist, and on audiences?
For me as an artist, it trains my patience and attention to details. For those looking at my works, I hope they are inspired to slow down and observe things around them; they might come away amazed.

If you were not making miniature art, what would you be doing?
I do have a passion for singing, though it is just for fun. Perhaps I will be helping my mom start a bakery, she is a pretty good baker.

The interview was edited for clarity.

Details on AiClay workshops here.

 

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