Shop Etsy

Made with Love in Singapore

Oct 4, 2007

by guileless handmade and vintage goods

I’ve lived in Singapore all my life, and I’ve always thought this tiny nook such a curious place of contrasts.

Our island is so tiny, it takes just 40 minutes to drive from one end to the other. Yet there’re 4.5 million (still growing!) people living comfortably here. People here come from all over. I spent my childhood happily running in and out of the houses of Chinese, Indians, Muslims, Iranians, Koreans, Americans and British; most kids grow up speaking at least three different languages fluently.

We’re workaholics, completely obsessed with cleanliness and efficiency. Yet most of us wouldn’t give up family-time for anything; we sit down together for meals nearly every day even at 10pm, and celebrate an endless stream of festivals and birthdays, stuffing our faces at barbeques or restaurants. The city is choc-a-bloc with modern skyscrapers and suited worker-bees scurrying in the streets. But just a couple of streets away is a jumble of small quaint coffeeshops (the ‘starbucks’ of old) which serve delicious food in rickety earthenware bowls to fine ladies in their chic stilettos. And business is great. People loosen their ties and wait more than an hour in the sweltering heat (it’s summer all year round here!) for their goodies.

Though our modern city looks sterile on the outside and, some say, ruled by a iron-clad fist (there’s been only one viable political party for the last twenty-odd years), there’s a quaint quality to where I live. Everyone calls all old ladies ‘aunty’ and all old men ‘uncle’. That’s right, everyone — even strangers, gangsters and robbers!

And does handmade fit into this city? Strangely enough, it does. In the decade or so there’s been an obvious growing acceptance and even embrace of the quirky, off-beat and handmade. Sure, it’s still a very much a niche market. But there’s now a growing band of designers, shopowners and activists raising awareness of handmade produce.

I find it encouraging that shops now keen on (and some even specialising in) these items just pop up overnight, whereas just a few years ago stores wouldn’t dream of selling handmade craft from local designers. There are now whole streets full of little quaint shops stocking these items that are popular with the with-it younger set. It’s been good enough that some local crafters have even branched out on their own. And recently, our first-ever permanent crafts-only market opened at the Red Dot Museum, where local crafters get to display their wares for one Sunday a month. No small feat in a place with a tiny consumer audience, and where most people are still too pragmatic to see the point in paying for the labour of love that goes into handmade craft!

I think this is a response to all that sterile, factory-made, cookie-cutter products we’ve grown up with. With our growing affluence, we now have the time (and money, honestly) to want to be different from everyone else. We’re more willing to take time to engage in a more personal transaction, to interact with a maker who is a *gasp* real person, to understand what her craft means to her. We are more hardworking shoppers now: a sterile department-store experience is not enough.

And of course, the Singaporean presence on Etsy is growing. There’s such a nice variety of us on here, and our community gets bigger by the day! We’ve recently come together to form a Team, with our own blog. We hope to meet up and organize events to increase the awareness of Etsy locally. Yes, this is normal and taken-for-granted in most other countries, and I guess we’re a little slow with our act. But now that we’ve started sending our little feelers creeping out into our community, I’m excited at the potential, and where it’ll lead us! It’ll be an uphill task getting people to see why buying handmade is so much better than buying factory-made, but I’m excited!

I’m so excited! Why?
Because I know that each handmade thing has a little piece of the artist’s heart crafted into it. And in each item I own, I see someone else’s love.

Further Resources:

Our first crafts-only bazaar:
MAAD bazaar

A smattering of shops that support local crafters:

The Singaporean Etsy Team blog:

I am NOT sharing
I am NOT sharing
Summer is still here
Summer is still here
I Heart Jacky
I Heart Jacky
SAPlanet Amigurumi Doll - Dotty Devil (custom colors avail.)
SAPlanet Amigurumi Doll - Dotty Devil (custom colors avail.)
Treasures From Thetis
Treasures From Thetis
Petite Birds Nest Pendant (Amazonite)
Petite Birds Nest Pendant (Amazonite)


  • StrikingGlass

    StrikingGlass said 8 years ago

    I've visited Singapore and the MADD sales. Singapore is one of the most vibrant places I've visited. So modern, so old. The best and most diverse food on earth is available everywhere. The artists at MADD were surprisingly innovative and friendly. There are other Singaporean artists here on Etsy. Check them all out and buy a ticket now to visit the world on one tiny island. Amazing place!

  • 1ofmykind

    1ofmykind said 8 years ago

    Thanks for enlightening the rest of the world on your prescious corner and lovely work :)

  • MayaBella

    MayaBella said 8 years ago

    I really appreciate this article. Thanks for sharing with us what Etsy life is like for you. It is amazing how Etsy has made it so easy to taste a bit of so many cultures! Love that.

  • iragrant

    iragrant said 8 years ago

    Hi Deborah, nice to read about your story, make me a bit homesick though, I came from your neighbour (sumatra:) only almost the last ten years not living in the country anymore, but every two years when I went there, always transit and stay in S'pore and have plenty yummy food on street stalls:)

  • melbangel

    melbangel said 8 years ago

    Hello Deborah, thank you for the great write-up about our beautiful island. I'm proud to be a Singaporean and to be a part of the SingaporeEtsy team :) Hurray to Handmade in Singapore!!!

  • guileless

    guileless said 8 years ago

    aw thanks guys! i love that etsy is becoming so international...i like seeing bits of people's cultures pop through in the things they make!

  • DorisWorks

    DorisWorks said 8 years ago

    Yay Deborah!!!

  • saplanet

    saplanet said 8 years ago

    Great article Deborah! We are all so proud of you!

  • NatureAutumn

    NatureAutumn said 8 years ago

    yay Yay Yay~~~Go Deborah Go deborah Thank you for the words For making Singapore known To all of Etsy~~ Thank you for everything...

  • starrydesigns

    starrydesigns said 8 years ago

    Great work, Deborah! :D

  • beyondwonderlandd

    beyondwonderlandd said 8 years ago

    hey, its nice to hear froma fello singaporean!..nice work! i just started my online business and i wonder how many singaporeans are sellin

  • estherly

    estherly said 8 years ago

    Hello hello from your neighbour in Malaysia! :D

  • cherbie

    cherbie said 7 years ago

    oops, found your article about a year or so later. yay!!! go singapore! :-)

  • happycraftstore

    happycraftstore said 6 years ago

    HI Been two months here and just found this page. Hope is still active :) I sell handsewn felt food, PLEASE visit my store and feel free to give your comments. THANK YOU :) Cheerios!

  • sakizome

    sakizome said 6 years ago

    Hello, just found your ever so charming article. Hooray for Singapore!

  • mediaevum

    mediaevum said 5 years ago

    I'm from Singapore too, and just starting out on Etsy selling calligraphy! I wonder how much we can sell to Singaporeans, how have they responded?

  • OpusMuse

    OpusMuse said 4 years ago

    I'm a fellow Singaporean seller on Etsy, and I can certainly see Singaporeans embracing the handmade movement more these days and learning to appreciate the uniqueness of handmade products. Singapore is turning 46 in 3 days time, Happy Birthday Singapore!!

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