Homework takes on a different meaning for self-styled embroidery artist Inez Tan.
INTERVIEW LOW LAI CHOW
Former fashion merchandiser and buyer Inez Tan left the fast-paced world of retail fashion nine years ago to start her own small business and support her husband’s video production business. She hasn’t looked back since.
Today, the 41-year-old embroidery artist works from home on her own terms and pace.
“I have a small workspace that I created at home,” she says of her humble office that was born as she worked on her passion projects on the side. Two years ago, she decided to concentrate on her own projects from home, as well as be a full-time mother to her then five-year-old daughter, Miya and then two-year-old, Tyler.
“Embroidery and jewellery don’t require a lot of space. I only need a table, natural light, and work primarily with thread, needles, beads, and sequins.”
Love and Light
Long before she made jewellery-crafting her profession, the process of making wearable art was a meditative practice and a creative outlet for Inez. It started with one outfit that lacked a little ‘oomph’ at the time — and so she was moved to make a necklace out of scraps and some vintage lace and buttons (“I’ve always loved making things with my hands”) to go with it. From there, Inez simply went on to make more necklaces and brooches.
When her quaint accessories started to grab the attention of those who also wanted to get their hands on one, Inez decided to see how her increasingly varied and intricate creations would fare on flea markets, and later, on craft-focused marketplace Etsy.
“I love creating handmade jewellery and embroidery art
for people; working my own aesthetic into what they are looking
for. It gives me a sense of satisfaction and happiness,” she said.
Embroidery was a more recent discovery for Inez while the increasingly bored creative was pregnant with Tyler. “I enjoyed the medium as it was relaxing and cured my creative itch. Starting out in embroidery with the basics, I accumulated more knowledge and techniques as I went along.
“A former customer contacted me for a custom order, and I decided to combine my newfound embroidery skills into necklaces, brooches, and later expanded into hoops and portraits.”
Her children are her main sources of inspiration for her creations. In fact, Inez has even collaborated on several occasions with her imaginative seven-year-old daughter, Miya, who loves to draw and tell stories through her drawings. Inez captures these drawings through needle and thread with embroidered art.
“Her drawings are about her daily life and stories that she makes up and later draws,” said Inez. “One day, she drew a picture of a snail, cowgirl, and bunny, and she told me the story behind it. My friend was with me and encouraged me to embroider her drawings and do a series of it. I was super inspired by this and started to embroider her stories through thread,” said the talented creative.
Naturally, there is a lot of bonding and laughter during these fun sessions together. “It’s an activity where I can listen to her stories and her creative development. We create fond memories together.”
Just like her, Miya has an artistic streak. Tyler, on the other hand, is “very into maths”, so much so that the second word that he learnt to say was ‘eight’, his favourite number!
Buoyed by the Family
Calling her husband her “pillar of strength” who supports the family both financially and emotionally, Inez is grateful that she can focus on her art. “He (Inez’s husband) is also a creative person, so he understands how I work from an artistic point of view. He encourages me to go after my passion. Pursuing this is important as it gives me a sense of satisfaction and an identity that is my own.”
Her parents also help with looking after her children if she
is busy, and picks them up from school. “It is this family support
that has allowed me to indulge in embroidery.”
Looking back on her own childhood, Inez recalls growing up as “a bit of a tomboy”: “I was a curious kid who liked to explore,” she said. “I hung around with my male cousins a lot. We loved catching worms and insects, roller-blading, pretend play…”
Now, she kicks off most days with a ritual: wake up, get the kids ready for school, followed by her usual coffee (“A must!”), goodbye kisses, half an hour of yoga, a shower and work on her orders: “This schedule or ritual gets thrown off when the kids are sick.”
Watching her children grow up has helped Inez to see the world differently when she considers it from their point of view, as well as grasp the power of failure: “Don’t be afraid to fail and make mistakes from obstacles as you learn. These obstacles make you stronger and more experienced.”
“I have learnt to go with the flow and live in the moment.”