A Journey with SCENE SHANG Behind the Scenes — Bringing A New Design Collection to Life
BY SCENE SHANG
People often ask, what inspires SCENE SHANG’s designs? Part of what inspires us is listening to your narratives, your stories. The other part happens when we find the right maker, one that gets what SCENE SHANG is about, one that can not only make what we need, but also help inspire what we make, through the maker’s expertise, techniques, materials and so forth.
Follow us as we take you through a journey behind the scenes, bringing our soon-to-be launched collection to life.
When we first started SCENE SHANG, we sought out our first maker partner in Shanghai, China, with a small carpentry workshop in the outskirts of Shanghai. We had chemistry with Song, and we’d designed and made the first few samples, followed by retail pieces of our award-winning SHANG System with him. Six years on, while we still have some of our maker partners in China, we’re constantly expanding our search for good maker partners.
Pam and Song in his carpentry workshop in the outskirts in Shanghai back in 2014. This was where our first designs were made.
Pam and I have often talked about how we needed to find more materials and methods that are sustainable or recyclable. We also talked about how our South East Asian region has such a rich culture and natural resources. What could we do? How could we bring these offerings to you?
Cat in a rattan factory in Indonesia. Indonesia has the best craftsmen skilled in rattan furniture making.
Our search brought us around East Java in Indonesia, and finally Surabaya. We met quite a few makers, travelling the island in search of the right maker to partner with. We found a wonderful maker who worked with natural rattan and recyclable synthetic fibres, who right away understood what SCENE SHANG stands for, and thus began the start of a partnership. Our maker had lent his expertise and shown us patiently how things were made. We listened, asked questions and were excited by how we could use the materials and techniques available to design something with a SCENE SHANG touch, a contemporary piece that paid homage to culture and history.
Our travels in search of the right maker would take us across the island of Java via local train rides across landscapes like these.
We had the opportunity to enjoy delicious local cuisine like this beautifully deep fried gourami, leading Pam to declare Indonesian food as her top favourite.
View from our hotel. We’d wake up early before the traffic buildup to travel.
Rattan core of different sizes. Rattan is a fast growing, climbing palm plant that depends on forest trees to grow. The harvesting of rattan for furniture-making helps to prevent deforestation.
A craftsman skilfully weaving a panel.
These are formwork or jigs, that help to fix the exact curve or shape so that each piece is consistent.
We would go back and forth, refining a curve, or the way something fit into another, over the phone and over visits there.
Each time we stepped into the factory space, watching the craftsmen weave or weld, our appreciation for the craft and beauty of rattan and recyclable synthetic fibres only grew deeper.
A craftsman skilfully bends rattan into the shape of a lounge chair. The way he moves together with the rattan piece is like a taichi master.
The rattan core is heated briefly then skilfully bent to shape.
The curve of our designs are worked back and forth till the furniture pieces feel comfortable to rest on.
A craftsman welding an aluminium frame for weatherproof furniture. Aluminium is lightweight and resistant to rust.
Testing and making modifications to our designs at the factory.
On our last trip, which we thankfully managed to make safely right before all travel restrictions were in place, we saw our designs come to life by our maker and his craftsmen.
Back at the hotel, on our last trip to Surabaya, the Art Deco styled historic Majapahit Hotel, sister of Raffles Hotel.
A night walk around the hotel compounds. Feels a bit like Raffles Hotel, does it?
We worked out the final details over two intense days from morning to evening, in the heat of the factory. When we were finally done and dusted, our maker looked at us with a smile and asked, “Are you happy?”. Yes, we were.
We can’t wait to show you what we’ve designed and made for you,