Hello there Ros! We’d like to know how did art/design became a part of who you are, what started your passion?
Hello! When I was young, my family had a business distributing art and craft supplies to schools in Singapore. I always had drawing materials and craft kits to play with at home. We later focused our business on pottery supplies and that’s how my love for ceramics started. The joy of translating my ideas into drawings/objects made me realize that there is nothing else I’d rather do for the rest of my life than to create/design. Over the years, I discovered my passion in creating lifestyle products for the every day life.
A work in progress peak behind these whimsical Polkaros pottery.
You express yourself through various mediums (seeing that you draw, stitch and even worked with ceramics and pottery), is there any all time favorite medium to use and why?
My favorite medium to work with is definitely ceramics/pottery. I love how flexible clay is and that I’m able to create almost anything that I can think of with my bare hands. It also allows me to create artworks that are functional, transcends through time and can be kept for generations.
Polkaros handmade pots and vases, how whimsical!
What are some of your favorite tools/objects from your studio, things that you absolutely cannot live without?
I love my ‘Tshirt- Kun’ silkscreen machine and Juki sewing machine. But if I had to choose what I absolutely can’t live without, I’d have to say my black felt pen and Puggy’s Best High Stationer notebook. These are possibly the 2 most important things as they are used to record the overflowing thoughts and ideas in my head. I am particular about the type of pen and paper I write/ draw on. The brainstorming stage is always the most fun and exciting. I treasure every idea in hope that they will eventually be materialized in the best suited medium some day.
2 color silkscreen print fabric with her “Tshirt-Kun”
Jam packed with colours, ideas and sketches are Polkaros’s sketchbooks! We love how these books seemed to have weathered through tough times.
Do you have an all time favorite Polkaros project/creation?
This is a difficult question as all the projects are special to me as it reflects a different stage of my life as a designer. If I really had to pick a project, it would be ‘Glee Peeps’, a series of home furnishing products made of characters inspired by the Japanese kokeshi doll. It is one of the biggest series I have created so far with products ranging from bedroom slippers, plush dolls, pouffes and blankets. As for my favorite handmade creation, it would be my black and white matryoshka flower vase that is my first pottery made in Japan. It was made with Japanese black clay and coated with a layer of white clay paste. The white surface was then carved out to expose the clay underneath.
Meet the Glee Peeps – Jose, Hobo, Capo, Boy and Yoki (not featured here). They are from different parts of the world and thus have very different personal styles!
Polkaros’s first pottery made in Japan – the black and white matryoshka flower vase.
You are currently residing in Japan, can you describe your surroundings and environment from where you live? Does it inspire you in anyway?
The neighborhood I live in is very old with many small local eateries and shops that look like they have been around since the Showa period. I love to see the small rustic shophouses and the way of life of the people inside. I’m inspired by old Japanese crafts and toys so it’s always intriguing to find shops that have been selling the same things for the past few decades!
Snippets from Polkaros’s studio
You also visited the MT Tape Factory & MT Tape Expo in Japan and it seemed like so much fun! For those of us who are a million miles away, could you describe some of your favorite experiences there, were there any highlights?
Where do I start, I love every part of the experience. MT tape factory in Kurashiki was amazing. Seeing the endless roles of colorful uncut MT tapes piled up in the factory was definitely an unforgetable sight. I was lucky to stay in MT hotel where the rooms were decorated with MT tapes. Hotel guests were given a limited edition MT tape gift set which are the best tapes I’ve owned. I also really enjoyed MT tape expo as it was held in an old elementary school and it was completely covered in MT tape inside out. That might be a once in a lifetime opportunity to see such a massive exhibition of tapes.
Cutting MT Tapes at different length
There’s even an MT Hotel!
We think it’s so, very, extremely brave of you to leave the comforts of living in Singapore and move to Japan to pursue your dream. What made you decide to make this move?
Since young I’ve always wanted to experience living in a country with four seasons. In 2002, I exhibited my ceramic artworks in an event called ‘Design Festa’ for the first time in Japan. The experience opened up my eyes to a whole new world. It is ‘ok’ to be different, creative and make silly things. It is “ok” to devote your life to doing what you love even if it’s not the norm or might not make you rich. I felt empowered to pursue my dreams. After returning to Singapore, I was determined to move to Japan and applied for the ‘Takashimaya scholarship’ by Singapore’s National Arts Council. I was extremely fortunate to be awarded the scholarship to study language and design in Japan. Without doubt, I packed up and went on my pursuit.
How different was it living in Singapore, and now in Japan? Was there much of any culture shock (creatively and socially) for you at all? You seem so right at home over there now!
Life in Japan is very different as you can imagine. There are a lot of social etiquettes to learn so as to not stick out like a sore thumb in the society. In the process of learning and interacting with friends in school and at work, I’d probably experienced a few cultural shock along the way. But those experiences only made me a wiser *Gaijin (*a Japanese word for “non-Japanese).
Polkaros hosted a cookie workshop with her friends over at her Tokyo apartment – and look, she made a Jose Glee Peeps cookie, how fun is this?!
Being born and have studied in Singapore, and then having experienced all that you have in Japan for so many years, what changes would you wish to see happen in order to better the creative environment here?
I wish that there would be more emphasis on learning and understanding different crafts. I think culture can be passed down through crafts and to learn about our culture, we need to learn about our crafts. Having a good knowledge of craft will also be very helpful when creating something new. I also believe that having more modern craftsman would add a nice balance to our creative environment.
Advent calendar by Polkaros
Lastly, is there anything that you can say to encourage all creative individuals out there who might be contemplating making a location move to pursue their dreams, much like yourself?
I’d say go for it! I feel that life experiences make you a better artist/designer. Living in a foreign country, experiencing the culture, facing the challenges and being independent will definitely give you a new perspective. It will probably make you work a lot harder and as you discover more about yourself, you will get one step closer to your dreams.
Polkaros for the Ikimononouta group exhibition
Polkaros lifestyle zine is available at the little dröm store, each zine comes with a tote bag!