Design, industry, craftsmanship: comparing ideas

As part of Singapore Design Week, the EMERGE @ FIND section of FIND - Design Fair Asia will give space to over fifty creative voices from South-East Asia

EMERGE @ FIND - Cindy Evangeline
EMERGE @ FIND - Cindy Evangeline

EMERGE @ FIND is a showcase for Southeast Asian design talent showcase, launched last year as part of FIND – Design Fair Asia, flagship event of Singapore Design Week. The event will return this year from 21 to 23 September: on display will be works specially created by over 50 designers from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam, focused on the theme of Craft + Industry: Man + Machine.

Suzy Annetta – Photo © Gavin Green
Budiman Ong

In the words of curator Suzy Annetta, editor-in-chief of Design Anthology: “EMERGE will show a collection of Southeast Asian designers and artists whose work is shaped by a variety of approaches – from a rootedness in ancient craft, to interpretations of the traditional through new materials and techniques, to methods of working that are entirely reliant on contemporary technological innovation. From fully developed to experimental, each piece is deeply considered, shining a light on the crosscurrents between traditional crafts, new technologies and interdisciplinary methods.”

Alvin Tjitrowirjo
Alvin Tjitrowirjo

Apart from the area of origin (which is wide anyway), what are the traits that you think these designers have in common?
The focus of EMERGE this year, curatorially speaking, is making and production. The methods these represented designers are employing to produce their work is quite broad, so I’d say that their commonality is their creativity, passion and their determination to bring their ideas to life.

Panisa Khunprasert

In what directions is the research of these designers going?
Again, I’d say this is quite broad. Just within this showcase we’re seeing designers working with relatively new and innovative techniques such as 3D printing technology, as well as collaborating with people living in remote villages that are utilizing heritage craft skills and techniques. I would hazard a guess that diversity would continue to be an accurate way to discuss the multifarious interests and pursuits of designers within this part of the world.

Charnon Nakornsang

What is the target audience for this group of designers? A primarily Eastern audience (I am thinking of factors such as culture or taste) or potentially a global one?
Without a doubt, it’s global. Taste and aesthetics aside, what I’ve found is that there is a language of design that is somewhat universal.  We’re doing a great injustice to designers in Asia by assuming they aren’t aware of the issues that we all face, such as the climate crisis, depletion of natural resources and the increase of waste and landfill. It may also be easy to forget that many of them have studied in countries such as Australia, the UK or the USA. I think in many ways Asia is ahead of the curve in terms of multi-generational living arrangements, small (or even micro) apartments and mixed-use spaces. Some of the solutions we’re seeing be presented within EMERGE relate to these issues and therefore have a relevance to a global audience.

Saran Yen Panya

What do you think are the most interesting trends that are emerging, design-wise, in Southeast Asia?
Personally, I’ve never been one to focus on trends. The word trend implies a short-term and temporary mindset and in many ways for me symbolizes the throw away culture that’s still so prevalent in our society. What I’m interested in, as a design editor and curator, is exploring the practices, explorations and experimentations of designers and sharing those stories. What I will add to that is that I see an exciting trajectory of the design scene in Southeast Asia. It’s a region that’s been overlooked and under celebrated for too long from a creative standpoint. There are some interesting and really important developments in terms of materiality and making techniques that I think could be laying the foundations for the emergence of something new.