Tiffany Loy
Tiffany Loy graduated in 2010 and is currently an independent designer

Where do your interests lie?
Art, design, textiles, machines.
What do you currently do?
I am exploring textile-weaving as a form of art and a tool for design.
So how did this interest come about?
I had never touched textiles, never used the sewing machine or done anything related to soft goods, until I worked in the NUS Design Incubation Centre (DIC). There was a collaboration with Perigot, a french brand of home accessories and lifestyle goods.
This was using Tyvek right?
Yes. I had to learn how to work with textiles - to cut and sew, and create structure with it. It behaved differently from the materials I had worked with up till that point. The tools were different, the rules were different. It threw me off balance, which was nice. That’s when my interest in textiles grew. While at DIC, I started many spontaneous personal projects, all related to exploring textiles as a medium.
Was the heat embossing project one of those?
That was what I did under the fellowship in DID. For seven months, I was given some freedom to work on a project.
I really like the machine that you made.
It was a deliverable, for myself at least. It serves to document and communicate the project. Something that people could look at andimmediately understand. That’s very important.
What made you want to set up your own studio or want to do your own thing?
It felt very natural actually. I guess it wasn’t a conscious decision, it just happened and I went along with it. So after my contract ended at DIC, I left and was working on my own for a while, trying to develop that project a little further. I eventually decided to learn more about textile-weaving. I felt that I needed to understand how it is made, first-hand, in order to get a good grasp at it, to work further with it.
Starting from scratch?
Yes, when you order textiles, the material arrives at your studio, meters of yarn already woven into fabric at the factory. I just needed to experience the process of making it, to understand how woven fabric came to be. And it’s so amazing because different types of yarn, different weave structures, essentially give you different materials. So, they are completely different, synthetic textiles and natural ones. It’s fascinating because we see them as basic things but they are so complex.
What do you think is a must-have for someone to be an independent designer?
Patience. And you need to be really hard-working. It takes a certain personality type. Someone who needs autonomy at work, is comfortable making decisions independently, and is willing to take responsibility for it. You need to be okay with not knowing what’s going to happen next. So you need some confidence.
Interesting. What are the problems you face, going on this new route?
There’s a learning curve everyone goes through. Creatively, I must be independent because there’s nobody telling me what to do. How do I strategise, how do I direct my own projects… That’s actually the part that requires the most maturity and I think that takes time.
How can one be creatively independent?
I think it’s something that requires a lot of investment of time and energy in your work. Sometimes you are doing a lot of exploration and you’re not quite sure how it contributes to a specific project but you know you need to spend your time doing those things because that flexes your muscles and you gain some kind of flexibility and quickness. So I think doing a lot of small exercises on my own really helps.
What would you say is characteristic of your approach to design?
My approach tends to be material and colour-driven. Once I saw a pair of jeans in a glorious shade of cyan and I was like, “That is a great colour. I want put it somewhere in my house.” And I find an excuse to make something in that colour. Or when I see a machine that’s working in a really clever way, like the weaving loom, and I want to know how I can use it, and what else it can do.
Would you describe your design as exploratory?
Yes. By exploratory, I mean, on a personal level I may not know what I have in mind at the end but I just have to keep working and believe that I will get there if I invest the time and effort. Doing something that I’m not sure of. So it could be something that someone else already knows very well, but for me it’s really new and I want to explore this and because I am coming from another angle…
It can be totally different.
Yes, for example, an industrial designer like me going into textiles is very different from someone who has always been trained in textiles. So for me that process is exploratory although it’s not very experimental in the beginning. It starts with the exploring the basics.
What motivates you? You come across as a very curious person.
Haha I think visual triggers like colour motivate me. Or even very interesting outfits or space pictures from NASA. They are triggers and I think they make me want to do something.
You went to Kyoto recently?
Yes, I was there to learn textile-weaving at a school. They are artistic in their approach and I like it. Learning design in Singapore and learning design through a craft in another country is very different. So there is this interest of learning how they see art and design over there.
Is this weave loom the best thing in your room right now?
I think so and I hope that it would be for a long time.
By the way, what made you choose DID?
I didn’t think too hard about it. I just went to the open house, and there was a talk so I went in, found it quite cool and signed up for it.
Since graduating from DID, what has been the best moment for you?
My time in Japan. Actually all the overseas short-stay experiences were really good. I think as you grow as a person you also grow as a designer because it is something very much related to life, your outlook on things and attitude.
What was your biggest takeaway from DIC?
The training. I learnt loads while I was there—spray painting, prototyping, learning how to sew, etc. I had to be very independent. Like, design a project, propose it, think of a good way to shoot it and compile a documentation for it. Basically I had to do everything myself, with a couple of colleagues, which was very good training because those are skills I need (to have) when I’m on my own.
What about DID?
Opportunities. I think the design course gave me training in many skills that allow me to pursue what I want. I say opportunities, also because it gave me a chance to go on an overseas exchange programme, to a good design school in Switzerland, and after that the chance to participate in a very fruitful workshop in another design school in Europe. DID itself is also very well-equipped. I think we don’t realise that—we did not have to worry much about having space to explore and develop—until we leave school.
What has been the most engaging project you’ve worked on since graduating from DID?
I would say a continuation of the textile embossing project.
The one that was exhibited in Milan as part of The Alchemists exhibition?
Yes, because that was a good chance for me to relook and see what else I could do. Working on it again this time, the result was surprising for myself, so I’m quite pleased.
What is the question you ask yourself most when you design?
“What am I trying to do?”
What’s the next step for you?
To develop my skills in weaving and dyeing. Unfortunately, there aren’t many textile artists in Singapore. But I think it will be interesting to develop in this field and see how the local design community reacts to it. I hope to give it exposure and people will come to appreciate something like this. It’s amazing!