By Chern Huan Yee (22S06A) and Shreya Singh (23S03C)
Looking for a new hobby to pick up in the future? As part of our mini-series on RI students with interesting hobbies, we’re introducing three hobbyists with creative past-times that are a bit less common than most – perhaps here you’ll find your next passion project!
Laura Ng (23S03C): Clothes Making
“It’s like gene expression, going from a simple DNA code to a whole polypeptide.”
This analogy by Laura Ng (23S03C) detailing how clothing patterns transform from 2D to 3D brings a whole new meaning to fashion.
“Since young, I’ve liked creating things,” recounted Laura, going on to explain how she first started making clothes when she was in Secondary Three. At the time, she was getting into cosplay, so her friends suggested they make their own costumes for AFA (Anime Festival Asia).
With the power of YouTube tutorials (and some sewing skills), Laura was able to make a jacket. Her first creation, albeit of “shoddy quality” as she put it, gave her an immense sense of satisfaction.
It’s said in fashion you can become a success overnight. And yet, progressing from this first piece was riddled with challenges. First off, Laura had to get a sewing machine. Then, she had to find paper patterns.
She opted for paper patterns in place of drafting. Drafting is done directly on the fabric, making it harder to modify without ruining the fabric’s original structure. Laura explains that paper patterns are a more “beginner-friendly option” since it offers more wiggle room for error.
Unfortunately, it was difficult to find paper patterns. Additionally, Laura was unable to find books about sewing, making it near impossible to acquire the right fabrics.
The cost combined with the inaccessibility of good materials meant that she had to make several trips to places like Little India, Chinatown, and Geylang, to name a few.
Making your own clothes entails taking your own measurements. Laura shared that one of the reasons she dabbled in designing clothes was because she was unable to find clothes that were of her size. Additionally, taking her own measurements was challenging.
Yet, even amidst these difficulties, Laura has now become much more confident in her abilities, having worked with a variety of fabrics like cotton, wool, and double gauze. She hopes to work with silk and chiffon in the future.
One of her favourite pieces was the lemon dress she created for her secondary school graduation. During the process of creating the dress, Laura shares that she had “this innate tendency to try it on.”
Laura is also part of a community here in RI that consists of others like her: Raffles Runway. Even though designing clothes is a niche hobby, she was able to meet more people with a shared love for designing clothes.
If you’ve decided to trade school hallways for runways after reading this article, fret not! Laura has some tips for pursuing fashion in your free time.
Upcycling clothes you already own is a great way to get started. You can trace designs on a shirt and deconstruct it to create a basic top. You could also try making small pouches and scrunchies if those sound less daunting.
In terms of fabrics, Laura recommends cotton. It’s cheap, durable, sturdy, beginner-friendly, and easy to pin. Most importantly, you can find it almost anywhere.
Whether you’re looking to become the next Coco Chanel, or simply enjoying fashion for fashion’s sake, there’s no denying the opportunity fashion presents to us to express ourselves in a way that’s true to us.
On that note, here are some videos Laura recommended to us:
Kevin Tan (22S06A): Aircraft Modelling
Kevin Tan (22S06A) describes aircraft modelling as a hobby requiring “deep pockets”, a “very high” level of interest, and “patience that many people don’t have”. It involves putting parts together to create a scale model of an object, then carefully painting it to completion.
He first picked the hobby up in Primary Three, when he was introduced to it by his father on the basis that he was interested in airplanes, “so why not?”
According to Kevin, the modelling community in Singapore is mostly made up of people outside of his age group. And of the people who frequent his mentor’s modelling shop, a majority focus on figure painting (humanoid figures) as opposed to aircraft like he does.
“So I am a rare breed,” Kevin said jokingly. “But it’s fine.” He explained skills are transferable between different kinds of modelling, so he can still practice techniques that figure painters use.
Niche community aside, other caveats to Kevin’s hobby include the monetary cost of sourcing the model kits, in addition to the equipment needed, which includes pliers, paints, and knives. Additionally, when actually constructing the model, due to variation in manufacturing quality, the parts may not fit well together.
Still, the hardest step comes afterward – it’s difficult to feel completely satisfied with the product, and any attempts at fixing imperfections may instead make them worse. Add all of that to the fact that a single model can take up to two months to complete, requiring him to squeeze time out of his already hectic schedule, and it is clear that this hobby requires many sacrifices.
To Kevin, though, pursuing modelling is still very worth it. He started it off “for [himself] and [his] own entertainment” – he recalled becoming very motivated upon getting his first airbrush (a small device to spray paint onto the model with compressed air).
“It felt like I was with the big boys now,” he said, explaining the device allows for techniques that normal paint brushes and spray paints don’t.
Besides his personal satisfaction, Kevin noted there is also a degree of being motivated by people saying it’s “really cool”, and remembering him as someone who creates these models.
“It’s like [the hobby] has become part of who I am,” he said.
Turning the topic to beyond just modelling kits, Kevin said he wishes to create a young people’s modelling community within the school. He believes it “helps with stress” and is “unique”.
“It’s a hobby that deserves to stay,” he concluded.
When asked why he thinks not many people around his age participate in modelling currently, Kevin answered that it’s a “low-key” hobby, not something people are actively exposed to. Furthermore, the aforementioned monetary cost may put people off — he estimates needing around $100 just to start.
The hobby itself may also not suit most people. “Young people – I sound like a boomer – focus on immediate gratification, and they don’t want to wait for things,” he said.
He described the hobby as being more about consistently working toward an end goal, requiring patience that most people do not have.
So for those who are considering starting the hobby, Kevin has this advice to give:
All of us, even professionals, start from somewhere. The first model is never the best, but when you complete it you should be like ‘Yes, this is my first one, and that’s why I love this hobby’.Kevin Tan (22S06A)
“The most important part,” he emphasised, “is to have fun.”
For more pictures of Kevin’s creations, his modelling Instagram can be found here.
Tan Jia Xuan (23S06Q)
Instead of the usual fairy lights and streamers, Tan Jia Xuan (23S06Q) enhances celebrations with her balloon sculptures.
For a Teachers’ Day party, she twisted flower balloons and tridents for her teachers and classmates, making for a fun addition to the festivities. It turned out to be one of her proudest experiences; when she saw her teachers’ faces light up, she knew pursuing her balloon sculpting hobby was worth it.
Jia Xuan makes a large variety of these sculptures. Beyond just party decorations and a typical balloon dog, she also makes snake and crocodile balloons.
“The animals actually employ interesting techniques,” Jia Xuan said. For instance, a balloon snake doesn’t require much twisting, but you have to “stretch the balloon to curl around your fingers while inflating it, so it comes out curled”.
Jia Xuan was first motivated to pick up balloon sculpting at a young age. At the malls she visited, she noticed the balloon vendors there charging exorbitant amounts for their sculptures. “[I thought] it would be nice for me to learn to twist [balloons] myself,” she said, “so I wouldn’t have to buy at these high prices.”
Jia Xuan began her journey in Primary Two, teaching herself to sculpt from YouTube videos.
Unfortunately, access to high quality balloons was limited at the time when Jia Xuan first started using them. “The balloons I bought from NTUC were of poor quality,” she said. She was, however, able to quickly circumvent this issue by switching to online bulk shopping.
Another unexpected challenge was preserving the balloon sculptures after they’ve been created. There isn’t really a way to preserve the actual balloons. In fact, “they deflate over time and get kind of sticky,” she added. The only way to capture the design in a tangible form is by taking photographs.
Despite the initial difficulties she encountered , she is now able to create unique sculptures such as the trident pictured above that consists of 4 long balloons.
In the future, she intends to create more complicated pieces that require more balloons such as animal hat balloons.
If you find yourself interested in this esoteric hobby of sorts, Jia Xuan recommends following the tutorials on the Balloon Animals YouTube Channel. The 3D perspective the videos provide are very helpful for understanding how exactly to create the structure.
She also suggests purchasing balloons online from China. This is particularly for novices who don’t wish to break the bank but still hope to find decent quality balloons that won’t pop instantly.
Clothes designing, aircraft modelling and balloon sculpting are all different types of artistic expression that are slightly more unheard of as hobbies. Having been introduced to these more out-of-the-way hobbies, perhaps you’d be interested in trying them out for yourself!