Family-Run Studio Synergraphic Design Creates Glass Art Proudly Made And Designed In Singapore
“Glass is captivating. It is alive in the way that you can control its transparency, reflectivity and form,” says glassmaker Florence Ng. “It is strong yet fragile, making it a challenging material to work with; it captures impressions of fluidity, malleability and softness.”
Ng founded Synergraphic Design with a former business partner in 1986 and it has risen from humble beginnings as a retailer of glass panels for doors and windows to working on wall features for various hotels and residences in Singapore, and expanding its reach beyond our shores. “I wear two hats: one as an artist and designer, the other as a business owner of a glass studio,” she says. “I like to take traditional methods, like stained-glass techniques, and add something else so it becomes more contemporary in style.”
Her daughter Sara Ang, who joined the family-run firm seven years ago, continues to be inspired by her mother’s indomitable spirit. “The passion for glass that my mum and her craftsmen have cannot be rivalled; they have dedicated decades of their lives to learning about the material. My goal is to find ways to make glass art and design more sustainable,” says Ang. “No project was deemed ‘too small’ for us; each time we took on a challenging project, we honed our capabilities even more.”
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Besides crafting decorative glass for commercial and residential projects, the firm is known for its artistic work such as glass sculptures for various commercial projects and public spaces.
In August, the brand crafted mirrors designed specially for Tatler Homes Curates, the new e-commerce platform by Tatler Homes Singapore. It also recently teamed up with local manufacturers Office Planner and OPSH to create furniture with glass elements, while launching multifunctional products such as the Bianca Board, a magnetic, stain-resistant tempered glass whiteboard that can also be used as a projector wall, lovingly named after Ang’s one-year-old daughter, who is also Ng’s first grandchild.
Here, the dynamic mother-daughter duo tells us more about milestone projects and plans ahead for the firm:
“Glass is captivating. It is alive in the way that you can control its transparency, reflectivity and form” – Florence Ng
What are some of the techniques that you work with?
Florence Ng Glass techniques can be broken down into three types: cold, warm and hot. Cold techniques do not require heat; these include bevelling, sandblasting, chiselling, printing and grooving. Warm techniques involve a kiln, which heats up the material to a softening temperature, so that the glass will slump downwards over a purpose-carved mould. Hot techniques involve molten, hand-blown glass that can be sculpted into three-dimensional pieces such as bowls, vases and sculptures.You can choose to work with these various processes when designing products and furniture. I’ve been work-ing with these techniques for so long, but new technology keeps improving; we have to keep upgrading our machinery in terms of speed, colour resolution, and so on.
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Traditional carving is a manual, time-consuming process. We use graphics to simulate sand-carving to make it more affordable, faster and better; we combined these techniques to create depth in our glass artworks for the Gardens by the Bay. Verre églomisé is also in trend—it’s the French term for the art of glass gilding. We put 18-karat gold leaf detailing on the back of glass panels; and we’re very good at it! We created decorative glass panels for The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore and also for a home in Nassim Hill.
Tell us about some of your most memorable projects.
Ng I was commissioned to create wall art for the lobby of the Maybank Tower in Singapore, and they chose the design, Resplendent Wealth, created with Singapore artist Goh Beng Kwan. The builder for the project had a 19-member committee who could not figure out exactly what they wanted for the monument; they contacted me when they decided to make it in glass.
I made a prototype for the architecture firm C Y Lee and recommended that they build the monument in an interlocking form, inspired by Lego bricks, that allows for easy maintenance of damaged bricks and for lights to be installed within. Based on a tangram puzzle, the monument has seven colours in gem-like hues. Titled the Partners Monument, this was completed in 2007, it’s still standing there beautifully as it was designed to withstand earthquakes and typhoons.
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What are your future plans for the brand?
Sara Ang Our desire has always been to make glass and art accessible to all. We are developing collections targeted at homeowners under a separate retail brand with local industrial designer Olivia Lee; the collection will be launched next year. We recently launched the Earth Tales series of decorative glass with antibacterial properties, in 63 designs inspired by natural stone printed onto glass. It’s not meant to replace natural stone but it’s a good, lightweight alternative; you can have these panels backlit and be able to select the exact marble-like “grain” that you want.
My hope is that I will continue to find like-minded individuals to join us, whether as part of our internal or external collaborative teams, that we will be able to continue to support the craft element in our work, that more would come to appreciate glass art and that we will be able to produce work that continues to wow audiences in Singapore and abroad.
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