Monday, March 16, 2015

DragonFire Singapore: The free app featuring traditional wood firing in one of Singapore's dragon kilns

Look at the photo below. What do you see?

Yes, you saw ceramics. They could serve as our tea cups, our bowls and more. Ceramics are all around us.

Ceramics are everywhere
When I did a search on the definition of ceramics, one site stated "ceramics are classified as inorganic and nonmetallic materials that are essential to our daily lifestyle".

Ceramics are "generally made by taking mixture of clay, earthen elements, powders and water and shaping them into desired forms. Once the ceramic has been shaped, it is fired in a high temperature oven known as kiln." (Source:

One of the last surviving dragon kilns in Singapore.
Image credit: Carolyn Lim

If ceramics are so ubiquitous in our lives, are you aware of the processes involved in making a piece of ceramic? Are you aware of how a piece of ceramic is being fired in a kiln? Do you know that in Singapore, there is now a very limited number of surviving dragon kilns that can be used for traditional wood firing of ceramics?

Does the above-mentioned questions piqued your curiosity?

There is now an app that could fill all of us in with many of the answers!

DragonFire Singapore that has been downloaded onto an iPad (iOS8).

Free download of an app, DragonFire Singapore
If you are an iPad (iOS 8) user or have access to one, you can enjoy a FREE download of the interactive multimedia app, DragonFire Singapore, at iTunes app store. This app is the first to feature a traditional wood firing in one of the last surviving dragon kilns in Singapore. It is not an e-book. It is an app that provides an interactive multimedia experience. Users of this app can experience the process of a wood firing of ceramics through videos and stunning images.

DragonFire Singapore. The process of pottery making.

Triggering personal memories
I do not have an iPad and I was very lucky to be offered an opportunity to use this app on someone else's iPad so as to learn more about traditional wood firing in Singapore and about the local dragon kilns. Using the DragonFire Singapore app made me reminisce two positive experiences visiting two of the last surviving dragon kilns in Singapore on two separate occasions.

My first visit to one of Singapore's last surviving dragon kilns was in 2011, during a firing event at Thow Kwang Industry Pte Ltd. Then in the year 2012, I have had the pleasure to visit another dragon kiln located at 97L Lorong Tawas to participate in one of the Awaken the Dragon workshops to make a piece of ceramic art.

Wood firing at Thow Kwang Industry Pte Ltd, 2011.

At 97L Lorong Tawas. One of the facilitator's ceramic works.

These are what I like about the DragonFire Singapore app:
- The photographs that were beautifully taken.
- Enjoy 360 degrees view of four completed ceramics works.
- Time-lapsed videos to demonstrate the process of making a piece of ceramic work. (e.g. throwing a pot)
- Photographs to trace the journey of a piece of ceramics
- It is free for iPad (iOS8) users thanks to the generosity of the team who has developed this app. This app is made possible with partial funding from the National Heritage Board.
- The content was accessible. Members of the general public will find the content relatively easy to read.

If you have access to an iPad (iOS8), please get your free download of this app, DragonFire Singapore, now at iTunes app store:

Thanks to the generosity of the team that develops this app and puts it up for free download!

Please spread the love around by sharing this app with your friends and family members who are likely to be interested and has access to an iPad.

Credits and acknowledgments for this app:
This application is supported by the National Heritage Board.

Writers: Marcus Bussey (University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia), Chia Hua Hoong, Carolyn Lim, Tan Tuan Yong.

Photographer: Carolyn Lim

Graphics and Videos: Mitchell Koh, Neo Anngee, Qyisti Qusyairi, Wong Zhen Hai, Wong Zhen Jiang.

Editors: Marcus Bussey, John Keeble, Elizabeth Rowe, Jim Warthman.

App created by: DW (
Jeanette Lau Li Ling, Xavier Lee Chong Kwok, Gary Lim, Supapon Pucknavin.

Copyright 2015, Carolyn Lim.

You may also like to view the following links:
Fired by Passion: Dragon Kiln Firing - A Journal (A 40-minute video of a traditional dragon kiln wood firing in Singapore which took place in 2003 at Thow Kwang dragon kiln.)
Unpacking the Thow Kwang Dragon Kiln (video)

A visit to the Thow Kwang Dragon Kiln Firing event in 2011
Participating in Awaken the Dragon Project
Awaken the Dragon Festival 2013: The exhibition

Sunday, March 15, 2015

OH! Open House, Joo Chat (2015)

No Man's Land. Beside 136 Tembeling Road.

A charming neighbourhood, a curious mind, an interest to view artworks in the private spaces that are usually otherwise out-of-bounds, a physical body that is ready to walk for two hours under any weather condition and a heart that is open to start their journey from the No Man's Land - all these qualities are what will attract anyone to join any one of this year's OH! Open House art walkabouts!

A Golden Class Ticket
I began my journey of this year's OH! Open House with a Golden Class Ticket. This ticket brought me to an exclusive visit to a private house that others with the usual ticket will not get to see. It includes a Golden Class Lounge experience, a Golden Treasure Box, a Golden Guide, other companions and a OH! 2015 journal. I am thankful to be the lucky ones who have ordered one of the Golden Class Tickets before they were fully sold out. In the meantime, I understand that there will still be the regular tickets to OH! Joo Chiat available for sale at door.

The holding area?

This week marks the first week of the OH! Open House tours. After the exclusive visit to a private house and enjoying what was referred to as the "Director's Cut", the tour began like all the regular OH! Joo Chiat tours at No Man's Land, beside 136 Tembeling Road. I recommend that the serious-minded participants get a copy of the OH! 2015 journal to read the curator's note by Alan Oei, the artistic director of OH! Joo Chiat. He weaved some of his personal stories of growing up in Joo Chiat into his curator's note.

One of the OH! Journals hidden in a box that triggered a sense of nostalgia.

To keep the element of surprise for everyone else who has not gone for the tour, I shall not attempt to document my experience of OH! Joo Chiat in this post. Instead, I will share a few highlights of this tour from my personal perspective.

My favourite stopping point: 106 Joo Chiat Place
The most nostalgic stopping point for me from the OH! Joo Chiat art walkabout tour was 106 Joo Chiat Place. I have not been visiting the area for more than a year, and now the new development at 106 Joo Chiat Place stands at the site that used to be Studio 106, the art studio of the late local sculptor, Ng Eng Teng. Admittedly, the previous house has more character and appeal to me.

Studio 106, in year 2008.

106 Joo Chiat Place, in year 2013. 14 Mar 2015.

It was a pleasure to see Ng Eng Teng's Sultan of Pahang and another of his works (I do not know the title of this work) plus a replica of the double-heart shaped water feature that used to stand at the site of Ng Eng Teng's art studio.

Ng Eng Teng's Sultan of Pahang stood prominently against the other works.

Admittedly, Ng Eng Teng's works were so overpowering that I overlooked the beauty of Kum Chee Kin and Kum Chee Kiong's works Fragments (2015) and Old Logs (2015). Reflecting after the tour, their works which were made from fragments retrieved from the former Ng Eng Teng's art studio at 106 Joo Chiat Place helped to connect visitors to a glimpse of the past of that very site. It was at 106 Joo Chiat Place that the late Ng Eng Teng had created many of his masterpieces and works of art.

The sculpture with a tear drop and a replica of the water feature.

Fragments, 2015. CK Kum.

The bigger it is, the more it sticks.
The work that struck most in my mind was S.S. Nimby (2015) put together by Randy Chan, Fiona tan and Zenas Deng. The artists added various objects into a lifeboat which one of the volunteers, Boon, had offered to OH! Joo Chiat for use for the art installation. This boat represented his lifetime of longing. In the meantime, in the work, S.S. Nimby, the artists evoked Noah's Ark. A very personal piece of art work in many ways. I suppose the bigger the work is, the more it sticks in our memories?

My brief conclusion
This tour triggered memories. It got me thinking about what development is. It got me acquainted with the community spirit of the Joo Chiat neighbourhood. I was surprised, not, to walk past pubs and even stepped into two hotel rooms! I am thankful to the dedicated golden guide, the hosts who have generously opened up their private realms to host OH! Joo Chiat and the team who has made the event possible.

A pretty interesting art walkabout to spend a weekend away exploring with strangers and other companions. In life, there are no strangers, perhaps like one quote says, "only friends we have not met".

Was Sold Out! Thankfully, more tickets have been released!
At the time of writing, although the tickets to this year's OH! Open House had been sold out previously. I learnt that the organizer will be releasing 80 MORE TICKETS. This translates to five more slots for every door. The tickets will be sold at the door for anyone who is willing to queue for the tickets. Even if you cannot get your ticket, you can explore the neighbourhood and enjoy the charms of the Joo Chiat area.

136 Tembeling Road. Near Koon Seng Road.

OH! Open House, Joo Chiat
Starting Point: No Man's Land, beside 136 Tembeling Road.
Bus services nearby: 33, 16.
(Consider taking these bus services from the bus-stop nearest to Dakota MRT station. Exit by Exit A, on the side leading to Jalan Satu)

Language: OH! Joo Chiat will be conducted in English. 
Tours in other languages can be conducted (subject to availability) upon prior special request, with a minimum of 15 pax.

Tour dates:
14 Mar 2015, Sat
15 Mar 2015, Sun
21 Mar 2015, Sat
22 Mar 2015, Sun
28 Mar 2015, Sat
29 Mar 2015, Sun

Tour timings: 4 p.m. - 10 p.m. (Last tour leaves at 7.45 p.m.)
Ticket pricing: $25 (excludes booking fee).