Formed in 1986 by artist and entrepreneur Florence Ng, Synergraphic has symbolised Singapore’s nascent rise into the art and design sphere thanks to their expressions of sublime and sophisticated glass sculptures and glass artworks. Operating from its workshop factory in Changi South, Ng’s Synergraphic glass art maison has not only become synonymous with innovative glass production techniques, giving rise to commissions for works involving etched glass, fused and cast glass sculptures and wall features, water features and custom designed furniture but also its rise as one of the premier glass art companies in South East Asia. LUXUO spoke to Sara Ang, spokeswoman for Synergraphic to get a better understanding of the artisans who have done work for many luxury developments including St. Regis Singapore.
Graphic Displays of Art: Introducing Synergraphic, Glass Artisan
LUXUO: What are some of the complexities of working with glass versus other mediums (clay, etc)?
Sara Ang: Glass is unpredictable. Even as a skilled craftsman, you may spend hours carefully preparing the materials and components for your design but after heating it up in the kiln, or casting it into a mould, it may not turn out what you expected it to be. (But of course some accidents turn out to be stunningly beautiful too!) If the temperature is not controlled carefully at every part of the heating and cooling process, the glass may break as well. Because glass is fragile, there is a stigma attached to it, causing most people to avoid having it in their homes as well. But it is this fragility that also makes glass works all the more precious and desirable.
There are so many ways that you can work with glass. Broad categories of glass working are cold, warm and hot, and each of them have various tools, materials and equipment which are expensive. The raw material of glass is also expensive compared to materials like clay, and these are typically made in the US or Europe, which have to be imported into Singapore. Over time though, we have accumulated experience in all categories, and are thus able to advise clients of the myriad possibilities and limitations, to create new and beautiful work.
Glass is very heavy and fragile, making it difficult to handle, requiring skill and more labour / special equipment in order to work with it. Because of all the limitations in glass, we thus often combine our work with other materials such as wood, metal, acrylic, ceramics and stone, in order to create original work in the form of sculptures, lighting features and more.
When projects are commissioned for certain brands and hotels, what goes into conceptualisation and creation of the piece? How involved is the client and how much is the artist’s vision?
Whenever a project is commissioned, what we will first do is seek to have an overall understanding of the theme of the space, the brand/individual’s values, and design intent. If the client does not have a particular idea yet of what he desires for a wall feature for example, we will do preliminary research and mood boards to draw out imagery that has personal meaning to the client and help narrow down a design direction. We will then propose different ways to achieve different results with the use of different techniques, materials and art styles, at different budgets. Visuals, samples, prototypes and mockups can be part of the process. From there, a design direction is refined and the piece is made at our studio.
How involved the client is varies. Sometimes the client / interior designer / architect has a theme or concept in mind, and a specific color, texture, technique, finish or style is preferred. We will still seek an overall understanding of the vision for the feature, as well as any site limitations, before proposing various design options in our own interpretation, which, together with the architect and designer, often result in pushing the boundaries of the material and bringing the concept to life.
Obviously you work with many interior designers and architects but when you make sculptures for pre-existing interiors and buildings, how do you tackle the challenge of your sculptures being outstanding yet a part of existing decor?
These actually don’t happen so often; we tend to work on sculptures while the project is being built. (E.g. sculptures for condominiums, corporations, institutions)
When we are commissioned to create glassworks for existing interiors/buildings though, these usually take the form of a wall feature, water feature, but less of sculptures.
If it is a wall or water feature for example, we will again start with understanding the client’s vision and site limitations (space, lighting, wall etc). As there are many techniques and materials available to us, both traditional and modern, we are able to select and combine these the way that an artist paints with different brushes and a palette of colors, to overcome any challenges posed by the clients’ vision and the site. We often look at ways to bring out the fluidity in glass, which blends in many spaces, and also combine traditional and modern techniques to create unique and controlled effects to suit the space.
Is the process of creation very much different when one starts from scratch versus creating a sculpture into existing landscape?
As briefly mentioned in question 2, the process is pretty much the same; it is important to consider both the clients’ vision and site conditions/limitations. However, if one can create the feature while the project is still in the design stage, there will be a bigger opportunity to co-create a feature that truly enhances the space, brings out the quality of the light and glass, breaks boundaries and makes a statement.
As an artform, are these works transferable like your traditional sculpture/statue/installation art mediums?
When we say art glass, the scope of artworks is much wider than other materials.
This is because it is a material that is a very functional one, applied in many areas including interiors, glassware etc.
Hence when a glass art feature is in the form of a window, partition, floor-to-ceiling wall mounted feature, shower enclosure, kitchen backsplash, sliding door, lighting… these are very site specific, and not transferable to another location. This makes the art form quite unique in its site specificity and sense of place. If however the glass art feature is in the form of a smaller wall mural, lighting, smaller-sized sculpture, it can definitely be moved around like other traditional art mediums.
Synergraphic at Singapore Rendezvous 2017
Synergraphic will be conducting exclusive free glass art workshops at Singapore Rendezvous 2017 on the 7th and 8th of October at 4pm. Where Visitors can assemble their own small pieces to be fired on the spot at a small fee (to cover materials and electricity) and collected 2 hours later.
There will also be FLORENCE X Jewels Rock Sugar Stirrers. A limited edition 100 piece ‘Uniquely Different’ Collectible, 100% handcrafted in Singapore, available for sale – a statement piece to any party.
Inspired by Florence’s iconic artwork, ‘Uniquely Different’, the FLORENCE X Jewels range of Rock Sugar Stirrers are exquisite handcrafted art glass pieces that combine artistries of glass and traditional rock sugar making.
Whether it is tea, coffee, sparkling water or cocktails that you are sweetening, each gem, with its individual shape and facets, is truly unique just like you. Naturally crystallized, these rock sugar are healthier, lightly sweetening without overpowering your beverages. Reusable as drink stirrers or cocktail picks even after the sugar is dissolved, each gem is truly precious and one of a kind.