When designer Jacqueline Ong stumbled upon tin cans in her room, what she found inside was more than just little toys from her childhood—she rediscovered a sense of joy and wonder and more memories than those tin cans could hold. Inspired, Jacqueline put pen (and a lot of other things) to tote bag and created Drawn to Nostalgia, an exhibition remembering objects from her (and many of our) youth. Find out more about Jacqueline’s exhibition and what inspires her in our interview with her.
Stephanie Pee (SP): Hi Jacqueline! Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
Jacqueline Ong (JO): True to my job as a graphic designer in a creative agency, I love all things design, illustration and photography. On a more personal note, I’m an idealist, a perfectionist, a dreamer. I like happy things, beautiful things. We don’t always wake up to a sunny day, but I believe we can choose to do things that make us happy. For me it’s as simple as a lazy breakfast, a walk in the park with my white schnauzer, having spinach and wild rocket salad with garlic pasta for lunch, an inspiring movie before bedtime and, yes, bubble tea always works.
SP: What was the inspiration behind Drawn to Nostalgia?
JO: The routine and busyness of life compelled me to rethink what happiness means. The answer came when I uncovered tin cans in my room and found little toys within. These neglected treasures brought me instant joy. I realised then and there that simple things can make us happy, if we take time to appreciate time. I then set out to revisit and record my memories with my drawing tools. And thus, Drawn to Nostalgia was born.
SP: What difficulties did you face putting the exhibition together?
JO: Three things. Firstly, finding some of the objects I wanted to draw that were no longer available in Singapore. Secondly, having to maintain a full-time job while pushing ahead with the project. I would have loved to dedicate my time fully to the project but I had to worry about my job for the bills and funding the project. Lastly, to persevere in my design idea and remain motivated.
SP: What is your creative process like?
JO: Simple. I observe people or things and then I think about how to translate it into my work. I like to think how design can be functional, meaningful without sacrificing on the aesthetics. For instance, I chose to use the tote bag because it is affordable, handy, and served as the perfect blank canvas for creativity. I wanted to avoid framing art in a museum. The idea of people “carrying memories” and how people would be involved in my creative process excited me. I liked how I could create art that was functional, visually moving and interactive. The interactivity gave it a new life, beyond the exhibition space.
SP: What about the past do you find inspiring?
JO: The past is about simplicity and timeless beauty. Contrast that against today’s hectic life and you can see why that is so attractive in itself.
SP: What are some of your favourite memories of growing up in Singapore?
JO: My favourite memories would be centred around the mama shop, the “Candy Empire” and “Toys’r’us” packed into one tiny space. it was there that I discovered my daily supply of treats. Some of my favourites would be the bubble gum that came with the tattoo sticker, the paste balloons that looked and smelt like superglue, push-pop ice-cream with primary colors circles surrounding the wrapper and the big round wafer biscuits that came in a shock of pink, green and yellow. A large part of my childhood was also spent running around the tiled playgrounds or challenging my brothers to a game of Western Bar.
SP: Why do you think Singaporeans are so drawn to images/icons of the past? What do these things mean to you on a personal level?
JO: These images from the past recall shared memories from our individual childhoods, things that some of us have even forgotten. When people remember and exchange such memories, a certain sense of spontaneous joy is born. For me, drawing these objects gives me a chance to “own” some of these objects that can no longer be found in our midst.
SP: Why do you think it is important for us to remember our past?
JO: Reminiscing inspires me to recreate moments from my childhood that are sheer innocence, uncorrupted by other influences. The past also plays a part in shaping the future for me as a designer. It is a reminder of what was done well and to carry on the legacy.
I chose to use the tote bag because it is affordable, handy, and served as the perfect blank canvas for creativity. I wanted to avoid framing art in a museum. The idea of people “carrying memories” and how people would be involved in my creative process excited me. I liked how I could create art that was functional, visually moving and interactive. The interactivity gave it a new life, beyond the exhibition space.
SP: What do you hope your exhibition will achieve?
JO: For the visitors, I hope they will hold on the memories the exhibition has recalled and allow the warm fuzzy feeling to continue radiating within even as they go about their daily lives.
I personally see this exhibition as me taking a step closer to my dream of being a full-time commissioned illustrator. I will continue adding objects to my current collection from “drawn to nostalgia” but will also start conceptualising my next project, which is to draw portraits of friends in fashionable wear.
Did Jacqueline’s work remind you about your childhood? What other things do you remember about your childhood? Share your memories with us and join in the conversation here. Check us out on FaceBook or follow us on Twitter! We’d love to hear from you.
Singapore Memory Project