From knitting crochet bags to sewing earrings, Mama Tay has always been good with her hands. While her passion for handicrafts started 20 years ago, it was only recently with the help of Daughter Tay (27-year old Hazel) that her handmade earrings, some of which are inspired by local culture, became more than gifts for friends and neighbours. They now operate a small business from their home, as we learnt in our chat with Hazel.
Why did you choose to work from home?
Since I was a child, Mama Tay has been making jewellery and gifting them to family, friends, and neighbours. However, she always dreamt of sharing her crafts with a larger audience. To fulfil her dream, we started with a pop-up store at a local flea market, and gave all the proceeds to charity. The experience kick-started our home business!
Working from home gives us greater comfort and flexibility. As the constant sewing can be strenuous on the eyes, Mama Tay can choose to take a nap or a walk in the neighbourhood whenever she needs a rest from sewing.
We don’t have a designated workstation at home. We work in every spot of our 5-room flat – wherever and whenever we like!
We noticed your collections (Nyonya, Ba Zhang) are inspired by local culture/traditions – tell us more!
These local collections are our personal favourites! I am a huge fan of the Peranakan culture, so that explains the Nyonya collection.
As for the our Ba Zhang collection, this was inspired by Grandma Tay’s dumplings which are a favourite with the family. She still cooks them the traditional way, over charcoal. Come the Dumpling Festival, Grandma Tay will share her handmade dumplings with our neighbours. We feel that traditions should be celebrated, and that’s how Grandma Tay’s dumplings came to be the inspiration for our collections.
Speaking of neighbours, tell us more about your neighbourhood.
Mama Tay has been living in Redhill since she was a child, and estate has been home to her for over 40 years. I too was born in Redhill and even when we moved, it was only to a neighbouring block – that’s how much we love this neighbourhood. With all the good food at Redhill Hawker Centre, and my primary and secondary schools within walking distance, my entire childhood has been spent in this neighbourhood!
Back in our first flat, my aunt lived just next door to us in the same block. We moved into our current block together in 2007, albeit on different floors. We’ve also acquainted ourselves with the neighbours who live on my aunt’s floor. For instance, a home tailor there is our go-to whenever we need to have our clothes altered!
I have a friend from secondary school who currently lives in the unit above us and we’d get together during the festive seasons. Besides sharing homemade dumplings, we’d also have Christmas potlucks at their place and they’d visit us during Chinese New Year for a mahjong session or two.
What are some of your favourite neighbourhood hangouts? Have they inspired your work?
My favourite place in the neighbourhood has to be Redhill Market. Mama Tay and I are big fans of local cuisine, so we’d visit the hawker centre for our hokkien mee and kway chap fix.
If I were to launch a Redhill-inspired collection, a pair of red-coloured earrings shaped like a hill will definitely be on the cards. Perhaps also one that is inspired by the famous satay beehoon from Redhill Hawker?