This Design of the Year Award goes to an entrancing and delightful range of Singapore souvenirs, transforming that genre from the usual clichés associated with such products, and finding instead contemporary expressions of Singapore, manifested with exceptional craft and beauty.
The Jury was impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit of the venture, which sought out a small, highly skilled, traditional Japanese ceramics and glazing company, itself on the verge of extinction, and applied their master craft skills to these new expressions of Singapore.
Each set of ceramics abstracts a well known aspect of Singapore, from Housing and Development Board public housing and the cranes on its skyline, to Singapore’s national orchid and its tropical climate. Each design expression is manifested with exceptional craft… and a touch of wit to make us smile!
LIM FONG WEI
LIFESTYLE EDITOR AND DESIGN JOURNALIST
Democratic Society X KIHARA (by SUPERMAMA) is a collaboration that works on so many levels. The resulting Singapore Icons effectively highlights the beauty of heritage craftsmanship as it retains and celebrates the distinctive Singapore spirit.
Seeing iconic Singapore images, cranes (re-mixed with construction cranes), orchids and hdB flats represented in porcelain and reinterpreted with a traditional craft that is 400 years old is nothing short of moving and poetic. Many Singapore designers have recently paid homage to Singapore iconography in the form of post-its, stationeries, tote bags etc, and in my opinion, the effort, while enjoyable and interesting, ultimately appears too mundane and banal. They cannot last because they are mostly exercises in pop design.
Owning a set of the Singapore Icons HDB flats porcelain tableware however is a rather emotional experience. Visually, the simple lines and geometric shapes that combine to paint our HDB environment is subtle, classy and yet instantly recognisable. There is something moving and poetic about seeing the public living spaces that we have subconsciously come to consider as banal and uninspiring represented in such a refined way. The choice of material honours our daily lives, and in a larger way our collective memories. It made me proud to live in an hdB flat, to be part of the 居者有其屋 (every resident should have a home to call his own) dream.
The collaboration also works as a design education. It not only teaches Singapore buyers to appreciate the refinement of craft but also understand that quality design must go hand-in-hand with high level craftsmanship and handiwork. Overall the Singapore Icons by Democratic Society X KIHARA is a sophisticated and multi-layered collaboration that deserves to receive the Design of the Year award.