Friday, December 14, 2007

A Visit to Tay Guan Heng and a Christmas Giveaway

Upon the referral of a friend here in Singapore, Caleb and I took a trek over to the opposite side of the island today to visit the Tay Guan Heng Workshop. In this quintessential hole-in-the-wall art studio, Mr. Tay (a 3rd generation artisan) sits at his workbench all day long creating art. His medium, a pliable dough created from ground wild cinnamon bark; his utensils, an empty wine bottle (to pound out the dough), a little knife, a pair of scissors, and a few other simple items (like straw and small sticks). The result-- unique and intricate figurines. Mr. Tay is especially fascinated with creating one-of-a-kind Nativity Sets (which were out of my price range) and traditional Chinese figures (like The Slave pictured below).

Mr. Tay

Mr. Tay's Workbench

The Slave

I chatted with Mr. Tay for a bit. He demonstrated how he fashions the figures and how he sets them out to dry for several days before he coats them with a clear varnish. Unfortunately, it's a slow process and rather unprofitable. This ancient art form is dying out and Mr. Tay's shop is one of the last.

So I did my part to support Mr. Tay and that's where the Christmas Giveaway comes in. I bought three Christmas Ornaments (the only items I could afford) with the Chinese characters, Peace, Hope and Joy, inscribed on them. On the back is the authentic Tay Guan Heng Stamp. I thought I'd join the Christmas Giveaway Frenzy (here, here, here and here) and give these little Singaporean souvenirs to one lucky winner. Here are the rules, you must leave a comment on this blog by midnight (Pacific Standard Time) December 20th. In your comment, give me a compelling reason why YOU should be the winner. Depending on the creativeness of the entries, I may or may not resort to pulling a name out of a hat, but it will be fun to hear your reasons nonetheless.


Caleb's Gram said...

Pick me! Pick me!

As you well know (ah-hem), every Christmas I give ornaments to my three children symbolizing the theme that I feel most summarizes their previous year.

I would love to have these special ornaments to cherish. Since there are -coincidentally- three ornaments, I would always think of my three children.

Peace, Hope, Joy.

I can see the symbolism. :)

Christianne said...

Okay, I'll give this one a shot. You should pick me because two years ago my sister-in-law (Kirk's sister) and her husband adopted a two-year-old little girl from China. Her name is Abby. She had been rescued from abandonment by an orphanage that helps arrange adoptions with American parents. Heather and Dave had tried for many years to have a baby and couldn't. So they pursued adoption. This was an eighteen-month process. When they finally went to China to pick up their little girl, the time was filled with many tears and much joy.

Abby has now been with us for two years. Her transition to America was difficult, as she had been undernourished and unloved for the formative years of her life. She had also spent most of her life laying on a crib in the orphanage for hours and hours on end, so the back of her head was flatter and the hair back there took a long time to grow back in.

Now she is a sparkly, laughing, joyful little girl. She lights up a room. She loves to dress up like the Disney princesses, and she loves anything pink. She has grown lithe and has an elegance about her. She loves her daddy like no tomorrow.

Heather cherishes anything special from China. She wears a necklace around her neck with the Chinese word for "mother" on it. Anytime we can find a special Chinese gift to give her for Christmas or her birthday, it is always what we choose over anything else. If you pick me for this giveaway, I will wrap the gift in love for Heather and Dave and Abby and their one-year-old son Christian. (Yes, wouldn't you know it but they got pregnant almost immediately after adopting Abbey and bringing her here to the States!)

Caleb's Gram said...

(I concede to Abby, God bless her)

Smidge said...

Well, I was going to tell you how you should pick us since we have your picture on our bulletin board and a clock sent to Singapore time (thanks to Yvette) on our family room missions board. Plus, I thought it would be a great addition to our hand carved nativity set I brought back from my trip to the Philippines. But, I agree with your mom. Abbey should have them! :)

Joy to you!

Elizabeth said...

weeeelll you should just give them to me because i am your favorite sister in the whole wide world. and i mean, that spans between california and singapore. and from singapore to california if you keep going around. and then if you go vertically, that is singapore all the way across the arctic to california... and then california all the way across antarctica... i mean, i could keep going here. buuuut... let's see another reason is because i don't have my own home and ornaments to decorate with and what better ones to begin with to collect than authentic, handcrafted, sister-picked, asian ornaments? another reason you should give them to me is because i'm considering taking up that exact same rare art form and i would be able to study them and learn from them... and you could really be a help to me in that way with my learning process....

nah it's ok, abbey(?) can have them. i just felt like giving you a few silly reasons:)

Christianne said...

Awww, you guys are sweet. Of course, Rebecca gets ultimate pick.

kirsten said...

Wow, it is giveaway madness!!

Seriously, I can't compete with any of that! A mom, a sister, and adorable little girl adopted from China. I don't stand a chance!

I just think it's great you went to visit Mr. Tay and supported his craft. I live in an area of the country that places a great deal of importance on supporting local artisans, so anyone who does that gets big props in my book.

Merry Christmas!

gee gee said...

how about one for mom, one for "Bear" and one for Abby...that way you can keep most of them happy...another idea...any one who would like one, could give you the money and then you can get more....

Kenj said...

Those are stunning. And I have no compelling post to win you over, but I would love to know the price of the nativities. Could you email me? My mom collects them and it could be a wow of a gift next year... I wouldn't even force you to bring it back this year :)

BTW, when are you coming???

Gina Marie said...

I'm glad you made it there! Isn't it interesting? Today when we couldn't find the rolling pin for our cookies, Ethan said, "Let's use a bottle of wine like they do at the jostick place!" We used a bottle of Kahlua, which felt a little weird with my kids right there. That water bucket man is on my wish list. I have to space out my purchases there because they aren't cheap!

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