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It has been three months since I announced our production break, which is also my own personal deadline for officially going back to work as before.

“So what have you been busy with?”
That’s the question everyone has been asking. Which is to be expected, as it is something I keep asking myself too!

I find myself trying to justify my ‘pause’: “oh I have been quite busy actually… Doing more workshops, prototyping new products, and actually for quite a bit of those 3 months, I was still busy finishing up back orders!”
All true, which does sound like I have been very busy. But in truth, I found myself a bit aimless at times without the need to actively churn out products since nothing really was barking at my heels.

It was both unsettling and liberating.

I gave in to doing some things on a whim/ for the sake of doing it. Why not? I tried hard to push aside thinking about making profits. Sometimes I was successful.

One morning, I woke up thinking about starting a new art brand, which I did that same day. While the artworks listed are not new, (they have all been previously exhibited), the thought of starting a brand to market them separate from Momshoo is. If you have not seen it, check out my new baby, Marks by Shu. It was exhilarating starting the new Etsy shop and being back to a ‘newbie’ seller 🙂

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I also took more walks in the parks, stopping to stare more. And this led to my mini art pieces inspired by our local birds… Which eventually became a workshop too. It proved to myself how having fun led to new ideas too!

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Of course there were periods of self-doubt and times when I started to feel a bit ‘hungry’ (aka poor) In one such period, I gave in to my financial needs and took on a commission work on… a wedding dress! And in the process experimented with sewing on see-through mesh material (a whole different experience!)

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Did I managed to do everything I wanted to do? No I didn’t. But I did things outside of my plan and more importantly, I enjoyed my pause. Now it is back to work, till the next pause!

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The other day my parents attended a wedding and came back with an espresso cup and coaster, which led me to this post. The cup had the usual ‘mr and mrs.’ wordings and an illustration of a bride and groom… It also had a fancy handle curved into a heart which at a glance looks cute but on closer scrutiny will annoy the person who will have to wash it. We are very practical people that way! In other words, the cup will go unused (and the coaster too for that matter) and will be sent down instead to our local thrift shop. We are in the habit of giving up whatever we do not use to the thrift shop, thank goodness for that!
In fact last time we visited the thrift shop, we found many of such wedding favors waiting to be adopted. Do they eventually find homes? Especially if the favors have names of the happy couple imprinted on them.

But this incident made me think… What happened to the days of giving a piece of fruit cake to wedding guests? Ok, I am not a big fan of fruit cake, but cookies, brownies, chocolate, honey (basically anything that can be eaten) are welcomed! 😉 it is nice to get something that can be enjoyed and then not add clutter to my home.

I think we all get very excited about the idea of “free”. Think about those free event pens that run out of ink after a few sentences, or post-it pads emblazoned with the organisation’s logo but are not sticky enough once peeled out from the booklet. A lot of times we end up with a load of freebies that go unused even though they looked so attractive at the moment they were handed out. ( I am looking at you, multiple Nam Nam bottled water, sitting in our kitchen cupboard) maybe it is time to think a bit more deeply about whether we would use something the next time we accept a freebie, be it at weddings or other events.

I felt this most keenly when I had to swap out my handmade pouch in my bag to a mass-produced pouch. I had squashed a sweet in my pouch and it was all sticky so while waiting for it to be washed, I had to find an alternative. I didn’t enjoy using the mass-produced alternative, even if it was for a few days. I missed the lovely softness, look and mostly feel of the handmade one I have been using every day for years, one I got from fellow crafter, Projects by Jane.

That’s when I realised the value of handmade. That’s when I realised the appeal of handmade items over mass-produced ones and why people didn’t mind paying so much more for a Momshoo pouch when they could get a similar-sized pouch at a fraction of the cost. Even as the maker, I always wondered about that. And it is so nice to feel the difference now that I have experienced it myself.

Handmade feels different. It feels like thought has gone into it. Someone had thought about the little details, they are designed for a reason. Someone’s hands made it with care. And as my customer has recently reviewed about our cutlery pouch: “超喜歡💕就是喜歡這種有溫度的手作” (which roughly translates)- she loves it because it is hand-made that brings warmth.

It is so lovely to read how people feel about my work and especially when they manage to put it in words better than I can. But yes, that is the reason why I make my products. I hope you will feel good using a Momshoo product every day. I hope it will bring a smile to your face!

It may be overly dramatic, but it is about building an emotional relationship to everyday items we interact with daily. It feels better when these are made by hand. And even better when you have met the maker in person! You will end up treasuring it for longer and consume less in the process 🙂

It could be something simple like my pouch that sits in my bag for most of the day. It could be that hand-thrown ceramic cup you use every morning.

I was reading Jenny Lin’s post on The Tiny Torch Instagram and I love how she puts it in words:
“A few years ago, I decided that I would seek handmade alternatives to objects that I interact with on a daily basis. I’ve ended up with a rich collection of objects made by wonderful humans, and my existence is better for it. ”

I want to continue to make handmade objects like that. 🙂

A trashy problem

I have been following the on-going diplomatic spat on the problem of illegal trash smuggling. Happening so close to home, Malaysia (and Philippines too) has brought to light container loads of waste that has been smuggled into the country from other developed countries of the world under the guise of “recyclable plastics”. Some are contaminated, some are just trash that are not recyclable. And besides, the sheer load of actual recyclable plastics from all over the world is just too much for the recycling plants to cope.

 

It really is food for thought. Plastics, which has become so pervasive in our daily lives that we hardly stop to think anymore.

As I type this, I think of that little mountain of plastic that is built up in my home from all the containers gotten from buying fruits, mushrooms and groceries in general from our local supermarket, NTUC. And while we make it a point to wash and recycle them, where do they eventually end up? Do they really get recycled and processed to plastic pellets to be made into ‘new’ plastic products? That is the lesser evil and we feel a bit better knowing we put them into the recycling bin. But in truth how much actually goes through that process? While how much becomes contaminated that will be incinerated with general waste (and end up in our landfill)?

 

At the end of the day, is recycling really the solution? And is there a way to rethink how we could reduce plastic waste beyond recycling? Too many questions and there are already solutions out there but due a simple word we are not quite doing it yet. That word is Convenience. Just focusing on eating… It is convenient to use styrofoam plates and disposable cutlery in a hawker centre because washing is a chore. It is inconvenient to bring your own container to tabao food, because you have to wash it out after. Who has the time we say. It is more convenient to buy a pack of disposable plastic plates and cutlery when you throw a party at home, you don’t even have to worry about washing up after!

Ironically, we don’t have to look to far back in time to find solutions to some of these problems. Remember a time when the only place to get vegetables were in wet markets and vegetables were bundled into old newspapers? Or milk was not sold in cartons but glass jars that could be returned once empty to be reused?

 

I have been having such conversations more often among friends now and while all this sounds very bleak, I am glad that most of us are more aware of such environmental issues. Because it all starts with awareness right?

You won’t believe how controversial it can be to start charging for shopping bags in Singapore. Until you do it.

I work part-time at independent bookstore Woods in the Books and since Earth Day this year, we have started charging for our fresh paper bags. I must admit the price is on the steep side at $1… but we also provide an alternative, we have started collecting used paper bags from our customers to be reused for customers who no need something fancy, just one to carry their books home.

Since then, we have had some very encouraging comments. Just the other day I had a customer comment that this environmental-consciousness is not so common in Singapore and by doing this, we provide a little reminder to our customers. She thanked us for doing something like that. It is nice to have conversations like these.

But whenever I do cashier-ing, I feel a little nervous each time I have to explain the $1 charge, unsure of the customer’s response. Because for every one customer who is supportive of what we are doing, another is disgruntled. In mild cases they will complain that the $1 is too much for a paper bag (“it is not even plastic.”) Sometimes angry even, “I have already spent so much, surely you can throw in a free paper bag.” My colleague told me one customer even said “this charge is ironic since you are selling books!” (Books are made of more paper than paper bags.) Well, you can see things that way I guess.

(And you can argue to really go green we should be going paperless, maybe switch to ebooks. On that note, I have just borrowed a few ebooks from the library but the reading experience is completely different. I may be biased, but I still like my physical books, and I see value in the use of those paper to print a physical book.)

I will end with a question: What do you do with all those bags you get during shopping? If the answer is “the bags are left unused and piled up in my home”, then I have a solution for you: come, come donate them to our bookstores to give them a second life. 🙂

 

PS: these are my own personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the bookstore.

Momshoo on a Pause.

It took some time to decide how to announce this, or whether to announce it at all.
The short version: we are taking a production break for a few months.
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But if you want the long-winded story…
We have been contemplating about this break for a while now, mostly because Momshoo has been around for 10 years (!!!). So it seemed like a good time for a proper break. It has been frightening (still is actually!) thinking of what this would mean to my already unstable income and whether taking this break would mean I would lose followers and customers.

Some questions you might be wondering (or at least thoughts that ran through my mind…)
– What does a production break mean? Does it mean we won’t be making Momshoo products? Yes, I think so.
– Forever? I don’t know.
– When would this production break end? I don’t know about that either!
– Would you stop making? Nope, not possible, crafting is what I enjoy doing so it is something I will continue, though maybe in a different form.
– How about workshops, will that stop? No, we enjoy sharing our craft through these sessions. In fact we will possibly plan even more, and I hope you will continue to join us for those! 🙂

What a crazy ride these 10 years have been,
thank you for supporting our little handmade brand!
We are going to celebrate it by taking a pause.
Hope you will continue to see you on our return~

Pause.

Pause to be bored
Pause to notice
Pause to reflect
Pause to be grateful
Pause to contemplate
Pause to experiment
Pause to craft

Pause in between

Pause to travel further
Pause to be present
Pause to disconnect
Pause to reconnect

 

Pause to breathe.