Sheryl Teng is our DesignSingapore Scholar 2021. She will be pursuing the Master of Arts in Textiles, Royal College of Art in London, United Kingdom. A bright and promising talent, she has been an active contributor to Singapore’s design scene with her varied works and showcases in recent years. In the years to come, through her work, she hopes to encourage young designers to embrace failures, for that is when true learning takes place.
1. How would you describe yourself in 50 words?
I’d say: Sheryl is an industrial designer who dwells in the wonders of materiality and tactile experimentation. Her works approach the intersection of industrial design, materials and garment construction with an inquisitive mind. Her works also negotiate and explore relationships between materials, people and objects, creating surprises through the ordinary, quotidian phenomena.
2. Why did you decide to pursue a career in design?
Even when I was an industrial design student back at NUS, I’ve always been interested in fashion and garment construction; presumably influenced by my mum and aunts being ex-seamstresses. At the same time, I’ve always enjoyed projects that involved more materials and are exploratory in nature.
It was my thesis project when I worked with textiles as an attempt to converge my interests in fashion, garment construction, material exploration and product design that solidified my decision to pursue a design career. I found myself enjoying the process thoroughly even through the most frustrating times. That planted a seed in me to pursue design with textiles as one of the key interests. It’s also interesting how textiles are so well integrated in our lives, not only in clothing, but also objects like chou chou, kopi nets and upholstery!
3. Why did you apply for the DesignSingapore Scholarship?
I truly appreciate the DesignSingapore Council’s efforts in shaping the design culture, community and identity in Singapore. And since I’m super Singaporean at heart, I ultimately hope to give back to the local design scene. Applying for the scholarship gives me the opportunity to get to know the local design community/scene better and stay updated even when I’m away!
4. What would you say most motivates you to do what you do? Who inspires you?
Being brought up in a family where my mum was a seamstress and my dad an ex-hawker, my family was quite into craft and making. When things broke, my parents would repair them if they knew how to, or even create new things out of them. I don’t think they realise it, but they taught me resourcefulness and how to rethink the usage of materials around us. This frustrating process of unlearning is also what motivates me. I enjoy uncovering new knowledge, though I have to admit the process is tough and tedious. I’m also driven by beauty that’s inspired by process, material or nature.Works and philosophy wise, I have many idols, depending on the discipline! (Haha) In general, I find works with well-thought-out processes really beautiful. Issey Miyake revolutionised the fashion industry with his pleats, and the way Iris Van Herpen synthesises her couture pieces is really mind-blowing. I am also greatly inspired by MIT Media Lab’s mad-scientist-tinkering methodology.
5. Please share with us an interesting and lesser-known fact about yourself.
I almost chose nursing as a career! I’ve always known myself to be quite an empathetic person, so that was my second choice when I submitted my Bachelors’ application. Architecture was my first choice, but I didn’t get accepted because my grades didn’t make the cut. Industrial design was actually my third choice, but eventually I chose that over nursing. Looking back, I think that’s one of the best decisions I’ve made. I’ve tremendous respect for all nurses, especially during this trying period, but I don’t think I would have excelled at being one.
6. What are your goals/plans after you graduate? How might you want to give back to the design sector/community?
I hope to gain experience and knowledge in my fields of interest, then start my own practice eventually. Personally, and almost scientifically, I also seek to share my processes transparently, including my setbacks and mistakes for all my projects to encourage young designers to overcome the stigma of failures and mistakes. I believe such fostering of openness in sharing processes among the community enables successes, mistakes and failures as accessible materials for learning that will work in tandem with the arts, humanities and sciences.