You go to artisanal shops to buy their specialist wares, but more of them are teaching you how to make stuff.
These days, more retailers, often cool design-centric ones, are offering DIY workshops related to or themed around their products.
Since the middle of last year, lifestyle and design chain Naiise offers regular weekend workshops across three of its six stores islandwide, at The Cathay, Orchardgateway and Clarke Quay Central.
Naiise is known for carrying quirky indie designer items, including homeware, clothing and lifestyle gadgets.
Its classes are typically conducted by local creatives and cover topics such as ice cream-making, calligraphy and casting of marbled concrete planters.
Its newest store in the basement of The Cathay, which is 8,500 sq ft in size, includes a dedicated area for workshops.
Over at Keepers, a showcase of Singapore designers and craftsmen located at the National Design Centre, there are classes such as silversmithing and woodworking.
The 1,400 sq ft space comprises a retail section, design studio and workshop space.
K+ CURATORIAL SPACE
Another workshop organiser is multi-concept shop K+ Curatorial Space on the third floor of Scotts Square, which houses a retail, gallery and a community space in its 4,000 sq ft unit.
The workshops at K+ are often led by artists and designers whose creations are showcased in the shop.
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GALLERY & CO
Gallery & Co, the museum store of the National Gallery Singapore, also offers craft workshops such as candle-making to appeal to art and design enthusiasts.
It organises workshops once every few months, often collaborating with artists and local labels that produce capsule collections for the store.
The Straits Times estimates that there are at least eight companies here that organise workshops within their retail spaces.
These workshops can accommodate between four and 20 people and prices range from about $50 to $150 a person.
It may seem counter-intuitive for these companies to teach their customers how to make things instead of just selling them. But these businesses say workshops teach people to value their products more and hence increase their appreciation of the skills of the designers behind them.
Keepers founder and artisanal jeweller Carolyn Kan, 44, thought of offering workshops after learning how to silversmith and finding it challenging initially.
She says: “When I was making things myself, I realised that it takes so much effort just to make a simple silver ring.”
Attending a workshop, says Ms Kan, would hence help consumers better “understand and appreciate craftsmanship”.
The most recent workshop at Keepers took place last month, where customers could stamp their initials on customisable jewellery.
In a busy retail environment, companies that offer these workshops also seek to differentiate themselves from their competitors, while at the same time create a community of design and craft lovers around their shop.
Ms Ng Li Tying, 24, the partnerships and buying manager of Naiise, which organised its first workshop in 2014, says: “Consumers are increasingly more interested in what goes behind the products they see in stores and are keen to pick up a new skill themselves.”
Offering workshops can also be part of a business strategy to maximise the use of space in a shop.
At Scene Shang’s new flagship store in Beach Road, workshops were initially introduced to maximise the use of space.
The company, which specialises in Asian-inspired furniture and homeware items, had previously existed primarily as an online and pop-up retailer. It moved to its 1,000 sq ft Beach Road store in April.
“It was a huge space expansion from our previous shop and we needed to fill it with interesting things,” says co-founder Pamela Ting, 32.
“We decided to introduce workshops because we wanted to create some kind of energy and vibe in the space that was not just about products.”
The Scene Shang store includes a workshop space where sessions are organised about once a month.
These workshops tend to be related to Asian culture, such as on modern Chinese brush painting.
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Some shops are even planning workshops that have little to do with their core business.
Plain Vanilla is a bakery in Yong Siak Street known more for its cupcakes than its DIY classes.
But founder Vanessa Kenchington, 32, introduced a series of workshops from June to August as part of its inaugural summer event, Picnic Days.
The classes were held in its new adjoining space, The Workroom.
These included bookbinding and paper garland-making sessions along with family-friendly events such as film screenings, setting up a lemonade stand and a children’s street trail.
She says: “Consumers are increasingly seeking out experiences. But I didn’t want us to just be a workshop venue. It’s about having a nice way to engage the community.”
While she is open to organising more workshops in the future, no dates are planned for now.
It seems that there is enough hunger for new experiences in Singaporeans for workshops to fly.
One of the participants at Plain Vanilla’s kokedama workshop last month is student Giulia Pulvirenti, 19, a permanent resident here.
Kokedama is an ornamental plant which grows out of a moss-covered ball of soil. The workshop teaches participants how to make and care for their own kokedama.
Ms Pulvirenti says: “A workshop is a fun and interactive thing that people can do together instead of the usual thing of going to the movies or having a picnic.”
This article was first published in The Straits Times.