Designers' workspace: Carolyn Kan

Designers' workspace: Carolyn Kan

Local designer Carolyn Kan, 42, of jewellery label Carrie K., in her 900-sq-ft shophouse turned office and showroom at Bukit Timah Road.

She shares the space with five employees and two schnauzers.

How did you end up in this space?

We set up the Carrie K Atelier in October 2011. I used to work off my kitchen table. It was a big expansion moving here. I wanted a space that would feel homey and welcoming.

I've always loved this area and the shophouses too.

It's more of a residential area and it's kind of nice to be hidden. We have customers that say we're the hardest gem to find in Singapore!

I love that we have a courtyard and it's really relaxed. It's a bit of a playful escape for people when they visit us.

Has the office changed a lot since you have been here?

It's become bigger, in a sense. We also plan the pop-up Keepers: Singapore Designer Collective in Orchard Road, out of the other rooms.

I had just come back from a trip to Paris when we first set up this space in 2011. In Europe, you can walk down an alley and stumble upon a craftsman's atelier, but in Singapore, many are hidden away in factories.

We wanted to create a relaxed environment where people could meet these craftsmen and see their work.

Where do you do most of your work?

We discuss events and programmes in this space but I like to design and think of ideas while I'm walking my two dogs in the nearby park. They're the best excuse to go out and let my mind drift.

Ideas happen when two things that don't normally connect, come together. It requires that you allow yourself not to think.

I get ideas when I'm flying as well, when you don't have a million distractions. In the office, I'm all over the space, from a desk to the table to the various nooks.

Are you a desk person?

When I have to do proper planning, I have to be at a desk. But I come up with my best ideas when I'm on a bench or a couch, daydreaming.

Describe your creative process.

Ideas stay at the back of my mind until they're ready to come out. Collections are stories that are put together. The Reborn collection came about because I was thinking about everyday objects, important but overlooked items such as nails and thread.

We called it Reborn because it was about transforming them into something coveted.

What is your favourite thing in the room?

The most meaningful thing to me is this suitcase that belonged to my grandfather. He came from Shanghai to Singapore.

I've always loved old things. They were made with such great care and are so well crafted that they stand the test of time.

We try to do that too with our pieces, but designed in a contemporary way.

What is the strangest thing in the room?

The strangest thing we ever made here was actually a diamond, nut and bolt nipple stud - a custom order.

People tend to come to us for unique things. Our bespoke service is our fastest growing area. We launched it last year and we get requests every week.

Do you live close by?

I actually live in the East, about a 15-minute drive away. I think it's better to have a separate workspace. It's fun, but there's no privacy when you work out of your home with a team.

It's the best of both worlds here. It feels homey, but if I need to escape, I can go.

Do you conduct meetings here?

The biggest meeting we've had is the one where I brought together about 30 designers to tell them about Keepers. We moved the chairs and it was like a council meeting. We had food and sangria so people were well fed.

Do you work on the computer?

I have half a brain for Excel spreadsheets and half a brain for design. I use Powerpoint to fix images for inspiration, like a scrapbook. But I'm more a pencil and paper person.

This article was first published on Oct 17, 2014.
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