Tour: Bynd Artisan

Amidst the growing buzz of our local handmade movement, older craftsmen mostly stay out of the spotlight, choosing to quietly continue their work with the skills that have veined their limbs with age. Bynd Artisan brings traditional bookbinding and leather making to life through their own artisans and a century of shared experiences and knowledge.

Updated on August 02, 2017 15:08 pm

Alexa Lim Xiangyun

Store front of Bynd Artisan in Singapore

Amidst the growing buzz of our local handmade movement, older craftsmen mostly stay out of the spotlight, choosing to quietly continue their work with the skills that have veined their limbs with age. Take Grandluxe, which started as a small bindery workshop more than 70 years ago―and is now where bookbinding and leather working artisans carrying a century of shared experiences can be found.

This is despite the technology that have streamlined processes for necessary efficiency, for they are valued for their wealth of experience and knowledge from a lifetime of practice and learning. In a way of tribute while at the same time revitalising their roles, third-generational manager Ms. Winnie Chan started Bynd Artisan.

“Through the years, the business of bookbinding has moved inexorably with the progress of technology. Yet at its heart, each and every book began as a hand-designed prototype, created by a small band of craftsman. Today, the company’s spirit of artisanal excellence lives on through their work. This holds true even as digital convenience becomes throwaway and immediacy turns into impermanence. It is with today’s thinkers, dreamers and doers that we hope to share the remarkable output of some of Singapore’s greatest practicing craftsmen.” -Bynd Artisan

Store front of Bynd Artisan in Singapore

the craft of leather binding at Bynd Artisan Workshop

Bridging the old and new

Their multi-concept retail space binds together various aspects of what Bynd Artisan stands for: handcrafted products, the sharing of knowledge and skills, and artistic collaboration and synergy. Here, their craftsmen lead the store as artisans, teachers, and service providers all at once, bridging the gap between the old and new.

“With Bynd Artisan, we are able to portray our expertise of craftsmanship and quality products drawing upon our craftsmen’s 100 years of shared experience, and also preserve the artful craft of bookbinding, letter type pressing and leather making,” Winnie shares. “We envision the brand to also reach out to the new generation through this tactile concept for which many have forsaken in the digital age.”

Customise your leather notebook into your personal style

Bynd Artisan offers a ready-made range of leather-bound notebooks and desk accessories “thoughtfully designed and made for practicality”, as well as the ability to customise from an overwhelming array of colours and textures for each aspect of the notebook: from the cover right down to button details. It’s a process that’s personal and tactile; samples are provided to view and touch.

Winnie explains the emphasis on allowing customers to play a more active role in creating the product: “We realised that there is a growing audience who look beyond the functions of using a notebook, where they look to these as expressing their individualism and also as an accessory in their daily lives,” Winnie explains.

Artistic and sleek leather notebooks

The team here is led by 72- year-old master craftsman Mr. Chong Beng Cheng, who was originally trained as an office manager. He first joined as a sales and production manager, but grew to be familiar with operating and maintaining the machinery―something that spoke to his memories of making his own toys as a child.

It was not long before his aptitude for designing and prototyping new products was discovered, bringing him deep into the creation process.

“My part in the conceptualisation process is in making the prototype―how to make the product such that it fits the design team’s requirements, and at the same time how to overcome the technicalities that we may face during mass production,” he recounts. “Winnie tells me that the prototypes made by me have helped the company cinch several major clients, and that my dextrous hands and resourcefulness are what they value most in me.”

leather master craftsman in Singapore

the traditional art of leather craft

With decades of experience, Mr. Chong is undoubtedly the best man to head the weekly workshops at the atelier. Held every Saturday afternoon, these sessions range from Chinese bookbinding to making your own leather cardholders, and are limited to 10 participants each time.

Communicating brand concepts through space

It is Winnie’s hope that learning about the art behind bookbinding grows appreciation for the understated quality of traditional notebooks, leading to the brand ethos: “Something’s Worth Sharing.” To combine the brand’s values and pay tribute to both heritage and modernity, President Design Award Singapore 2014 winner Larry Peh conceptualised this multi-concept retail store.

“There is a gallery space featuring capsule collections where Bynd Artisan collaborates with local artistes, a retail space where Bynd Artisan’s products are available for sale, as well as an atelier, a workshop space where the craftsmen are able to work and impart their skills with the workshops that are held to the public,” he describes.

Gallery space of Bynd Artisan to hold leather craft workshop

the modern interior design of Bynd Artisan retail store

“It was also important to retain the feeling of authenticity and heritage of Bynd Artisan’s legacy, so we kept the factory’s original brick walls and ceiling beams. This way, it mingles the feeling of 'old' and ‘new’ where we juxtapose old furniture and the letter press machine against the rose-gold shelving and pipes―introducing touches of luxury and modernity to traditional tools and machinery.”

traditional leather craft machine and Bynd Artisan workshop

Bynd Artisan Atelier in Singapore

Retaining the brand’s authenticity also meant working closely with the team of craftsmen, who are quite simply the heart and soul of Bynd Artisan: “A lot of the arrangement of items like the craftsmen’s tools were curated by Mr. Chong and the team. We worked with them very closely in order to determine the best methods in placement of items around the Atelier.”

The journal of BYND Artisan in Singapore

traditional printing machines

“The inherent heritage of Bynd Artisan and the combined experience of the veterans made it simple for us to create a pure and honest representation of the brand. At the same time, we were careful not to make the space a pastiche of the past, but instead to move it forward,” Larry says.

traditional leather craft techniques for classic and modern designs

Combining traditional techniques with fresh perspectives

Bynd Artisan also works closely with local artists and designers in projects and capsule collections to reinterpret what is known as classic: a recent Kickstarter project to design “The Perfect Sketchbook” with artist Erwin Lian Cherng Zhi and collaborative capsule collections with Larry Peh (&Larry) , John Clang and Joel Tan of The Gentle Bones.

These collaborations in return challenge Bynd Artisans in different ways in honing their skills, as Winnie describes in her experience for “The Perfect Sketchbook.”

“Erwin wanted high quality 100% cotton paper which we had not purchased before, and we had to source for such paper mills, get samples and let him test if the quality was up to his expectations. He was also very particular about aspects such as cover not bulging, book lying flat and getting the shades of grey right for the value chart. As with our first collaboration with Larry Peh, these designers had high expectations of us and pushed us to come up with solutions to meet their high standards.”

100% cotton paper for luxurious leather notebooks

a leather notebook crafting workshop at Bynd Artisan in Singapore

Images courtesy of The Perfect Sketchbook Project

Glowing screens and finger scrolling ultimately still lacks the scents of fine leather and fresh white paper―and the promise of new ink and lead. And Mr. Chong is one of the best individuals to lay testament to the stark differences between the both: “I have gone from seeing printing pre-press works go from alphabet by alphabet via the letterpress types to film pasting and plate making in a dark room to the current digital computer to plate technology.”

“The feel of paper’s texture and the smell of paper is something that has become second nature to me, having worked with Bynd’s parent company for 40 years and I must confess the feel is therapeutic, even after so many years. ”

The store front of flagship store at Bynd Artisan

Images courtesy of Bynd Artisan, unless otherwise specified

Bynd Artisan Flagship
2 Chin Bee Avenue
Singapore 619927

Tue-Fri: 10am-7pm
Sat, Sun & Public Holidays: 10am-5pm
Closed on Monday

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