My favourite part of Singapore: Kampong Glam

IMG_3005Before Singapore was colonised by the British, Kampong Glam was home to the Malay aristrocracy. The neighborhood still has strong ties to Singapore’s Muslim community in general, with influences from North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, Indonesia and Malaysia. Kampong Glam feels like a village, with chirping birds and iron street lights.

Shopping for shoes in Bussorah Street.
Shopping for shoes in Bussorah Street.
Bussorah street, a small pedestrian mall, is lined by oriental shops, Turkish and Moroccan Restaurants as well as little French-Arabic cafes. Sit here and relax. You will no longer feel that you are in a huge, densely populated city. Eat some crispy lemon crepes, sip on a Turkish coffee and smoke a hookah. You are in heaven now.IMG_3008

Venture a little further and you will reach the vibrant Arab Street where the main merchandise is textiles. Here, you find amazing huge Afghan carpets, thai silk in every colour imaginable, intricate hand-embroidered fabric appliques and roll after roll of excuisite lace trim. When your feet are killing you and the sun starts to set, go back to Bussorah and have your evening meal. It is now, when darkness falls, that the magic of Kampong Glam really kicks in. Sit down at a streetside cafe and enjoy the fragrant air, the palm trees moving slowly in the wind and listen to the evening prayers being called from the beautiful, large Sultan Mosque. Then you will understand why this is my favourite part of Singapore.

Click on the video at the very bottom of this post, under the “night in Bussorah street” photo below, to watch a little video I made about Kampong Glam.

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Little India, Singapore

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We flew in over Singapore in the late afternoon, watching all the ships in the harbor, the sun pink-orange over the horizon. Arriving in Singapore feels more and more like coming home; I now find my way around the city, I know the neighborhoods, the roads, the waterholes; I no longer go to Raffles Hotel and pay a fortune for a Singapore sling.

Getting a henna tattoo next to my real one....
Getting a henna tattoo next to my real one….
We stayed on the outskirts of Little India which is so exotic and fragrant that it always feels like a new adventure walking around there at night, amongst all the people and the shops packed to the brim with gadgets, clothes and bright jewellery. Sensory overload, in a good way. In Little India, you are immersed in all imaginative colours from crimson to summer sky blue, and every thinkable smell between jasmine and vindaloo.

The amazing vintage shop.
The amazing vintage shop.
We discovered a new vintage shop in Cuff Road, with an air thick of incense and yesteryear. Here, we found the most amazing carved infinity sculptures, vintage guns and embroided camel leather slippes (of course I bought a pair). We marvelled at the intricate oriental buttery high carat gold jewellery at Mustafa’s and ate hot fresh ochra curries in banana leaves. A perfect warm, tropical velvet night.

Click on the video below to watch my “guide to Little India”!

Japanese alloys

My Japanese Obsession

I have a bit of an obsession with the ancient Japanese alloys shakudo (4 % gold in copper) and shibuichi (10-25 % silver in copper) and here I have combined these metals with fold-forming. This pod necklace started as a flat shakudo/sterling silver sheet which was fold-formed into a pod shape, patinated to achieve the deep dark purple characteristic of shakudo, and tumbled for 3 days. The pod is filled with freshwater pearls and hand-made shakudo, silver, shibuichi and mixed-metal beads. I have made the beads from metal clay. I make my own shibuichi and shakudo clay from commercially available silver, copper and gold metal clays and created simple round beads as well as mixed metal beads with mokume gane (Japanese for woodgrain) patterns

Fold-forming is my favourite metalsmithing technique, because it is does not require any expensive tools or materials, and because it allows metal to move the way it naturally wants to move, creating wonderful, three-dimensional structures. The technique was invented by English-born goldsmith Charles Lewton-Brain in the 1980s. With the exception of metalworking techniques that resulted from the Industrial Revolution, fold-forming is the first newly invented major metal techniques for thousands of years.

You start with a flat sheet of metal, which you fold, anneal and forge with along an edge, or edges, with a forging or bordering hammer. The forging and annealing is repeated many times and the metal will naturally start to curve more and more with each cycle. The end result is highly variable and depends on the initial shape of the metal sheet, the number of annealing/forging cycles, and whether you choose to forge on the open or the closed side. When you unfold the sheet, it will have taken on a dramatic, three-dimensional form similar to objects found in nature, such as leaves, sea creatures or seed pods. I am a neuroscientist and I often discover that my fold forms also resemble structures found in the human body. The fold-form will also have a natural patina resulting from the repeated heating and cooling. I often choose to keep this patina but occasionally I pickle and the fold-form and apply a specific patina or enamel the piece. I work primarily with copper, but also with brass, sterling silver, fine silver, or with my favourite ancient Japanese alloys, shakudo and shibuichi.

I am particularly obsessed with creating seed pod-like shapes, which I fill with vibrant, iridescent freshwater pearls, sparkly gemstones or beads that I have made from metal clay. Metal clay is my other passion; I use all sorts of clays such as fine/sterling silver, copper, bronze and steel, and also make my own shakudo and shibuichi clays which I use to make intricate Mokume-Gane designs.