PHASE change


Nathan Yong admits that he has a thing for shoes. The first thing he looks at when he meets people is what they wear on their feet. «Are you wearing flats made of rubber?» he asks a female journalist. «Yes!» she exclaims. «Interesting. But I bet they squeak when you walk in the rain,» he says. «They do,» the girl replies. «They are comfortable, though.»

If one of the hallmarks of a good designer is his acute sensitivity towards the characteristics of a material, then Nathan clears that hurdle easily. After all, he has had 18 years of experience in the design circuit, first as a buyer and later as a designer. Though almost half of his work revolves around wood, he has worked with metal, glass and plastic but it wasn’t until last year, through his collaboration with Royal Selangor, that he first touched pewter.»Creativity is all about adapting to the materials you’re working with and making the best out of it,» he says. «I was fascinated with pewter’s nature. It is both rigid and fluid.»

We’re at Grafunkt, Singapore where Royal Selangor unveils its latest Vapour collection designed by Nathan. The collection of tableware comprises a bowl, a tumbler, a tea caddy and vases. On the surface of each of the pieces from Vapour are textured, vertical lines. The lid, meanwhile, features a vortex¬like design, bringing to mind the image of a spherical solid dropping into a still liquid surface.

«Royal Selangor endeavours to push the boundaries of pewter design by collaborating with well-known designers like Nathan,» says Executive Director of Royal Selangor Yong Yoon Li.» He reveals that Vapour stems from the brand’s initial collaboration with the designer in 2012 for the trophy of the Singapore F1 Grand Prix. He is impressed by Nathan’s vast portfolio and by his design approach.

Besides running Grafunkt, a multi-brand furniture store with his partners, he has designed for various international companies, most notably Ligne Roset, Living Divani, Design Within Reach and Domicil.

On his official website, it is stated that his work is inspired by memories of everyday life. He strives to include clarity and warmth into his designs. «Design is an organic process and a form of expression that comes from the subconscious mind. It cannot be too literal or too graphical,» says Nathan. «What I create is the culmination of my experience as a native of this city-state and I believe that it is translated in the Vapour collection. While designing the Vapour collection, I was intrigued by the transitional power of pewter from solid to liquid and to solid again. The collection’s name suggests a parallel between pewter’s transformative property and that of water.»

What is refreshing about this collection is the cross-pollination between pewter and other materials like walnut, Volakas marble and resin. Yoon Li explains, «We’ve been mixing pewter with various materials and will continue to explore other possibilities. The idea is to show that pewter is versatile and that it can create a good synergy with other substance. These harmonious combinations can give rise to a different language.» Overall, the Vapour collection exemplifies the seamless marriage between softness and strength, coldness and warmth and yin and yang while channelling an urban, timeless appeal. «We’ve always believed that designs should last more than just a few seasons. It must have a long life cycle. This can be achieved by giving an object something more — a representation. It will then become an item that tells a story,» he shares. «This, is the value of design.»

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