The art scene in Singapore has indeed become more vibrant, with the increased support for the arts from the government and private entities. With events like Singapore Biennale 2019 (which has already started a week ago), there is something for everyone to experience Singapore’s art and cultural heritage.
There’s never a dull moment in Singapore, especially in heritage sites like Kampong Glam. I’ve been there a couple of times for heritage walks previously but I am still discovering this cultural precinct every time I’m here. With the introduction of Gelam Gallery, this cultural heritage site has become even more charming. Every time I am here at Kampong Glam, I felt exactly like a tourist touring my own country. And one of the best ways to rediscover the splendour of Kampong Glam is to go on a heritage trail.
Rediscover Kampong Glam with Craft Walk
Recently, I went for a specialised tour with Craft Walk, a company that organises experiential trails and artisanal craft workshop. They designed hands-on cultural immersion experiences which constitutes a walk around the neighbourhood as well as a craft workshop. You not only get to learn more about the heart of Kampong Glam but you also get to bring home your own Kampong Gelam keepsake!
Stone Smith Workshop by Craft Walk
I signed up for the Craft Walk: Stone smith workshop (3 hours long) which allows participants to create their own concrete pot with embedded mineral rocks or gems. I did not quite know what I was in for as they did not reveal much information on the website. So, if you are curious to find out more about this tour, you have come to the right place to find out more!
We first gathered at the art studio along Sultan Gate Road, which is right outside the entrance of the Malay Heritage Centre. The first part of the experience was a guided tour around Kampong Glam, then followed by an hour of the craft workshop. During the walk, they will bring you to spots where you can purchase your own mineral rocks or gemstones if you would like to decorate your craftwork with more decorative stones.
Pitstop 1: The Gem Museum, Singapore
The first pitstop is the Gem Museum along Kandahar Street. Who knew that there is a gem museum located right in the heart of Kampong Glam? It is Singapore’s first private gem museum which showcases a wide range of gems. You will get to learn more about gemmology at this museum and find out how gems are being mined.
From large quartz crystals to ammonite fossil, you will find all these precious stone collections sourced from all over the world displayed in this small museum.
You can also buy some gemstones or mineral rocks for your own keepsake. You may also buy some of their gemstones to decorate your concrete pot as well.
There’s an interactive corner where you can examine the stones under the microscope. They have this particular stone which has a fossilized ant in it.
I could not help but wonder which is the most expensive stones in the museum. One of the staff ushered me to this glass display cabinet and pointed these tiny reddish stones – Red Beryl. It’s one of the world’s extremely rare precious stone which can only be found in Utah, USA. One carat of the Red Beryl costs about $15,000!
Different stones are believed to emit different auras and energies. But there is no scientific proof for the healing properties or well-being benefits of these precious stones. It’s all up to our beliefs.
If you are a museum enthusiast or just someone who is into the ‘hidden gems’ within Singapore, you should also check out the Vintage Camera museum which is in the same precinct.
Second Pitstop: Malay Heritage Centre
As a Singaporean, I haven’t actually been inside the Malay Heritage Centre. It is my first time there and I knew I had to be back here again to view the exhibits thoroughly and find out more about the lives of our early Malay descendants and their contributions to Singapore.
You may have learnt about the various trading ships that stopover at Singapore’s trading port in the 1800s in the textbooks but have no idea how they look like. Over here at the Malay Heritage Centre, they displayed models of the trading ships and traditional boats used by traders in the past. Now, that’s pretty cool.
Pitstop 3: Ring-making Shop
This quaint old-looking ring making shop is a true hidden gem that is tuck along the shophouses along North Bridge Road, right behind the Sultan Mosque.
Currently, it does not have a signboard displayed outside its shop but it is still operating. It is owned by a Malay couple who has been running this ring-making shop for almost 40 over years! They make customised rings and necklaces using precious gemstones.
Making gemstone rings definitely require good craftsmanship skills and years of experience. The owner was able to craft out a ring in less than 15 minutes!
Stone Smith Workshop
After walking around the neighbourhood and listening to the interesting stories shared by our guide, we have come to the final part of the experience – the workshop! I was rather excited about this as I enjoy doing craftwork. Okay, who doesn’t?
Our instructor gave us a rough idea by showing these samples of concrete pots which we will be making for that particular workshop. I love the marbling and gradient effects on those concrete pots. The studded gem mineral rocks made these pots look very classy and unique.
First up, we created our moulds using these thick plastic sheets then we taped down the stone at the sides of the mould. We were given one stone each.
Then, we filled up the mould with a ceramic mixture.
We added water to the ceramic powder mixture to form a paste.
Then we added coloured pigments to it and stirred the mixture again.
Lastly, we poured the mixture into our moulds then leave it to harden for about 30 minutes.
Once it is done, we peeled off the plastic mould and that’s it!
Check out my final product! I think it will serve as a beautiful plant pot holder.
This workshop is definitely kid-friendly and it is a fun and educational activity for the whole family to take part in.
The kids made these Lego brickman blocks using the given ready-made moulds.
Overall, it was a wonderful experience as I get to experience a different side of Kampong Glam and interact with the skilled artisans who take great pride in what they are doing.
Other than this Stone Smith workshop, Craft Walk also organised letterpress printing, batik and soap-making workshops which are all part of our unique Singapore culture, which is interwoven by many other cultures of the world.
Check out more of Craft Walk’s upcoming workshops right below!
Special thanks to Craft Walk and Singapore Tourism Board for making this experience possible.