I learnt of Singaporean ceramic leaf artist, Davy Young, through my father, who was once classmates with him. My dad shared about him with me, and I was enamoured by his nature-inspired ceramic artwork but also the story behind him starting Leaves with Memories.
In his 50s, Davy discovered his passion for making ceramic leaves after seeing it in a magazine. He got in touch with the artist, Judy Brown, and through her guidance, he learned how to make it himself. After taking classes at a community centre, he eventually invested in his own tools and an electric kiln. He makes his artworks at home, mostly pendants, chopstick rests, and plates. These works are functional as well as ornamental.
He creates these ceramic pieces using real leaves taken from his or his friends’ gardens, or they are wild foraged. He does not use leaves that have fallen on the ground because it is likely to have started to dry up and turn brittle. Some leaves he has used include frangipani, fig, bodhi, bauhinia, water lily and wood nettle, with grape leaves being his favourite. He has also used leaves of reeds to make pendants.
A familiar haunt for Singaporeans, Pulau Ubin is a green idyllic space a hop and a skip from the mainland. I was there a few weeks ago with my artist/curator friend, Jacquelyn Soo, to view its vegetable, herb and spice garden and other nature spaces as inspiration for our upcoming joint exhibition project for Sum > Parts: When Artists Meet the Public.
There’s a carefree vibe on the island, and the sensible pace of life there made time seem slower, giving us time to appreciate each moment we had. There are more bicycles than cars and people, and the dogs here are so friendly and seem so happy, they look like they are smiling.
There’s greenery everywhere, and even on the roof of boats.
The island recently began test bedding a microgrid of solar panels and generators using biofuel, meaning lower and cleaner emissions. Solar panels can be seen on a few buildings.
We leased a couple of bicycles from the bicycle kiosk and got on our way. For $5, you get a bicycle for the day.
Our first stop was the Artists’ Village rental kampung (or village) house. We put down some of our non essentials to take the weight off our backs.
It’s a cool space with its own veggie garden and a jackfruit tree. This is my first time inside a kampung house, and it was good to see and experience how people used to live in Singapore. It’s very basic, and all we need, really. Although it could do with some mosquito nets on the windows, as mosquitoes were feasting on us inside the house.
Fortunately, there was mosquito repellent on the dining table – Wormwood Essence! This worked pretty well, I didn’t get bitten on the areas that I had applied it to. I’d missed some spots like my lower shoulder and upper leg, and got bitten there. Incidentally, The Artist’s Village have Wormwood growing in their garden. I have a lot growing in my Singapore garden too, but we don’t do much with it. Through our research, we found that we can steep its leaves in apple cider vinegar using a 1:1 ratio, and upon straining, it can be used as a bug repellent. I’m now keen to give this a try.
Cute birds’ nest near the front entrance.
We were soon back on our bicycles, hunting for wild plants, and doing some nature spotting and sticky-beaking. We found this. It’s a type of ground cover, and it looks like a mini Orchid, or a much whiter version of the Australian Violet. We also saw some Mimosa and Lalang, which we are hoping to feature as part of our art project.
We came across a relaxing cafe, and an incredible Lotus and Lily pond. We spent some time by the pond, admiring its flowers, and mainly feeling Lotus flower (and root) envy. I have a lotus plant in Australia which has not bloomed yet. Dan and I are hoping it will finally flower in Spring this year, now that it is around two years old.
Our last stop of exploration was the Vegetables, Herbs & Spices Garden, which is part of the Sensory Trail, a 1.5km track developed for the visually impaired, as a means for them to experience Pulau Ubin using smell, sound, taste and touch.
The entrance of the garden featured some Winged-Bean plants, which had attracted lots of red ants. The rest of the garden featured a mix of vegetables and herbs commonly used in Asian cuisine, and also medicinal plants, which many might not know about.
It was nice to see their veggie patch, where they are growing Ceylon Spinach, Soybean (edamame), Sweet Potatoes, Sawtooth Coriander, as well as some herbs.
I love their Aloe Vera patch. I am pretty envious of the whole space, really.
My Singapore garden is full of Elephant’s Foot, which I had regarded as a weed. but no longer now. I found out that it can can be used to treat indigestion, swollen legs, and a loss of appetite.
A little fella on the fence.
Outside the Vegetables, Herbs & Spices Garden was a fruit orchard. Trees included Musa Bananas, Starfruit and and Jackfruit.
There was more to see, but by this point I felt that it was getting late and had to begin heading back to the mainland, although Jacquelyn was happy to just be. I was also getting pretty tired, admittedly, it’s been awhile since I did a bit of exercise. I will have to come back again soon, to see the mangroves and more.
As we were cycling, Jacquelyn spotted a hornbill. We had to stop and watch. It’s too beautiful not to. Can you spot it in the tree?
Before we left, we enjoyed some chilled coconuts at the coffee shop. After riding past so many coconut trees along the way, I had to have one. We also paid a visit to the talking parrot in the convenience store. The snacks that they sold and the way it displayed its wares was a blast from the past for me. It reminded me of when I was in secondary school.
If you haven’t visited in a while, please do! Take a break from city life, and bring your friends and/or family over for a day trip, or even camping (or glamping). Don’t forget your hat(s), sunscreen, and most of all, mosquito repellent! For those who haven’t yet been, it costs $2.50 per person each way, and the boat departs from the Changi Point Ferry Terminal. Each boat needs 12 to travel, so expect a slight wait each way.
See if you can spot this bicycle while you are there!
My favourite television shows mostly centre around food and nature, and I also enjoy watching comedic programmes, and documentaries on how people live. I find myself becoming more and more of a gardening nerd, one who gets easily excited on the topic of seeds, farming tools and techniques.
It was Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage that got me on this journey of wanting to live off the land. More than six years on, I’m still a massive fan, and I’ve found other programmes to get my fix on sustainable living.
In the last year, my boyfriend got me onto watching Gardening Australia, which is screened on ABC every Saturday in Australia. When I’m back in Singapore, I watch it online here, and download their magazines from Zinio. He also told me about Costa’s Garden Odyssey, which was screening on the Australia Network in Singapore, but I didn’t manage to catch it on telly. Some episodes are available online on YouTube.
Recently I discovered At Home with Venetia in Kyoto when Dad was watching NHK World late one night. What sets this TV programme apart from others is the pace and style of story telling, and how as a foreigner, she has adopted the Japanese culture.
Venetia Stanley-Smith was born in the UK and moved to Japan in 1971, living in Tokyo and Okayama before moving to Kyoto. She speaks fluent Japanese, and lives with her Japanese husband in a home set in a beautiful garden, with her vegetable garden a short walk away. The TV programme follows her life as she engages in her daily activities of meeting friends, tending to her garden, and facets of her handmade lifestyle. Each episode also includes a recipe, mostly cooking, sometimes homemade cleaning products. Slowly paced, watching her show is almost like a visual meditation, it leaves me feeling calm and collected afterwards, and slightly more enlightened.
There aren’t many episodes available online, so I have to contend with watching the series on television every fortnight on NHK World (Channel 148) when I am in Singapore. Her TV programmes can’t be bought online, unfortunately. For those living in Singapore who care to watch, her show is aired every other Tuesday at 9.30am, 1.30pm, 5.30pm, 9.30pm, and on Wednesday morning at 1.30am and 5.30am. Her new movie is now screening in Japan, and hopefully one day soon it will be available with English subtitles!