In the Spotlight: Redefining Trash with Magic Hands

Reports reveal that in 2012, the world generated 2.6trillion pounds of garbage — the weight of about 7,000 Empire State Building! Not surprisingly, the more developed a country is, the more waste produced. Besides organic waste which is the top contributing component, paper and plastics are not too far behind. In fact, it is a global nightmare all of us are waking up to everyday, yet how many of us are conscious about recycling?

Meet Didier Ng, an Eco-artist and Product Designer! A recycling advocate and creative crafter, she’s knows just how to turn unglam rubbish into beautiful masterpieces. Trotting the paths less travelled, this energetic and bubbly lady tells us why she gets her hands dirty and how she deals with challenges that theaten to shove her away from her passion.

Hello Didier, our readers are interested to find out what you really do, so tell us please!

I enjoy creating and exploring new things. Being in an urban city like Singapore, trash is my greatest resource and I have the opportunity to extend the life of materials, giving them a new twist. Creating new products out of them and being able to share this with others makes it fun too!

Working with the cottage industries is a challenge and many people around me are surprised that I’ve chosen this path. This has also given me the opportunity to teach, share and learn from others during workshops and classes that I conduct with organizations, community groups and schools.

A huge turnout of 80 pax at a community workshop!

A huge turnout of 80 pax at a community workshop!

How/what paved your way in this line of art that you’re pursuing?

Grandpa’s and daddy’s garage of tools and materials are great toys that nurtured my creativity and craftsmanship. I grew up being very hands-on with such “manly toys”. On the educational aspect, in 2000,  I attained skills from the Temasek Polytechnic Product and Industrial Design (Singapore) Diploma course to realise my ideas. Areas included carpentry, plastic and metal works, design softwares, conceptualization helped to equip me with additional know-how’s on putting things together.

In 2002, I studied Nitec in Automotive Technology (Light Vehicles) to fulfill my passion for wheels. At the same time, I picked up tailoring, pottery and many other crafts! My specialty – upcycling! Being eco is a lifestyle :)

Converting laminates into beautiful pieces for the recent Passion Arts 2014 Media Conference. Coloured Serenity in picture.

Converting laminates into beautiful pieces for the recent Passion Arts 2014 Media Conference. Coloured Serenity in picture.

How has the support from family and friends been – at first vs now?

I am lucky as I am not needed to contribute to my family, therefore I can do things at my own pace and truly follow my passion. As traditional Chinese, my family was a little worried as I started off without a stable income, but now that I am constantly busy conducting workshops and being involved in several projects, they are happy and proud of me. My friends are also subconsciously influenced, and they are becoming more “green”; for example, they use tissue wisely (at least in front of me) and they often help me collect trash for my works :)

Working with plastic bottles are just one of the classes conducted with schools.

Working with plastic bottles are just one of the classes conducted with schools.

What are your most memorable moments during this journey?

I remember this aunty from one of the earlier workshops, where I taught them to create upcycled decor pieces. She was very excited to bring them home to show her daughter. At the next workshop, her daughter joined us for some craft fun too and both of them were having a good time creating wonderful pieces!

It’s heartwarming to know that I can also inspire and influence people I meet along the way. It gives me additional motivation to keep going. Seeing everyone becoming more eco-conscious and rethinking their actions and how it contributes to wastage in the near future.

Happy faces from the senior folks at a community workshop - showing off their flower power!

Happy faces from the senior folks at a community workshop – showing off their flower power!

What are the challenges encountered along the way?

Not conforming to the norm makes you weird; I need time to convince people of what I do and advocating the green message is not something everyone understands readily. In Singapore, it’s a growing attitude as compared to our counterparts in the European countries or Japan, so this way of life takes time. Space is a big issue; storage is a problem especially for creations done for projects. It’s difficult to keep every art piece, though I would love to, as each one tells a different story and has a unique meaning to it. Teaching people of different age groups and different backgrounds, I learn to adapt to different people that I encounter. Even styles and techniques used need to vary, so it’s about learning to “customize” myself too! Just like in any job, to be able to find the balance in design, art, income, meeting my client’s expectations and that of my own is an equilibrium sought after.

Working together with The Living Project and the Christian Outreach to the Handicapped. Doves of hope created with containers from Hong Kong.

Working together with The Living Project and the Christian Outreach to the Handicapped. Doves of hope created with containers from Hong Kong.

What do you love most about what you do?

Transforming trash into art is like magic, working anytime anywhere at my own flexibility; freedom promotes creativity. This is something which seems to lack especially for adults who are too used to their own way of doing things. For children, creativity should be explored to nurture their individual minds. My work has also taken me overseas, working with people in Auckland, Chiangmai, France (Lyon), Japan and Hong Kong to name a few. This was totally unexpected at the beginning but a lovely bonus to have!

A minute of fame in the recent Hong Kong papers!

A minute of fame in the recent Hong Kong papers!

Where do you see yourself in the near future?

Rubbish! Hahaha! Creating larger trashy works, getting more people to create trashy works. Spreading the love to our community! To be able to represent Singapore and travel around the world with my gift would be something I hope to do in the near future.

chiangmai cna didier

Share some tips with fellow like-minded folks who’d love to pursue their passion.

Personally, I feel it’s important to walk the talk. To reduce is my number one practice. Don’t need don’t buy. Don’t need don’t take. Less wastage. I make everything like redesigning or converting my old clothes, fix my bags, turn old tshirts into bags then into rags. Maximise lifespan of products is a fun and interesting challenge. Buying 2nd hand stuff can also bring surprises. Remembering to switch off the lights are just some simple daily actions too.

Work hard and follow your heart, you should progress and do better each time, but if there is no improvement, perhaps what you are pursuing is not meant to be. At the same time, stay conscious, not overly obsessed. The early steps may be hard to take but taking those first steps may change your life in ways you cannot imagine.

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Some readers may find Didier familiar… that’s because we mentioned about her in an event via an earlier post – The First Luminance Festival!

Indeed, the Earth’s condition is deteriorating and every effort counts. Definitely heartening to know Didier is an eco advocate to drive the green message in Singapore. Am sure more and more of us are learning to reduce waste and choose eco-friendly options – we need to save our only planet, folks! Just as she has shared the beautiful masterpieces, it can be a great bonding activity for friends and families too! For those with kids, why not consider some simple craft projects to inculcate recycling and upcycling in them from young?

If you’re looking at organizing eco workshops or have an eco project you need help with, get in touch with Didier and she’d be most pleased to discuss! For those who are interested, you may reach her here.

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Did you enjoy reading about Didier’s experience on taking an unusual career path? We hope you did and got some inspirations too, if you’re pondering about your next steps! Every month under In the Spotlight, we feature inspiring folks who share nuggets of their lives. A very simple meaning behind this – here at The Hooting Post, we know there are some times in life where we need an additional light of hope or surge of energy. Be it quarter life crisis or whatever, life is not a bed of roses (but also a box of chocolates hehe!), So, if you know someone whom we should appear here, let us know!

Photo credits: Didier Ng