At 26, artist and author Abbey Sy has already made a name for herself in the local creative industry. You may know her for her handmade stationery and accessories, and for her bestselling book, The ABCs of Hand Lettering, which has inspired many budding artists to hone their craft.
To keep herself inspired to create art, one of the things Abbey likes to do is travel. "I am constantly exploring cities," she says. "Traveling, for me, has always been an avenue for discovering and pursuing creative endeavors. The best ideas come to me when I am in transit. I guess it comes with the freedom of being able to see the world and interpret it on your own terms."
Abbey made her first solo trip to Singapore in 2014. She has since been back over seven times not only for the inspiration she derives from the country, but also to visit friends, work with brands, and teach lettering classes. We chatted with her to ask about her experiences in the country and how they inform her perspective as a creative.
How does the vibe in Singapore ignite your philosophy of "always be creating?"
"Singapore inspires me because it is ever-changing, and every time I travel to Singapore, I always discover something new—whether it's a new hawker place, a third-wave coffee shop, or a shophouse in Haji Lane. I've made a few travel spreads about my trips there.
"In terms of how I grew as an artist, I was exposed to new tools that I was only able to get in Singapore. I was able to evolve my art style and really get into lettering. My first trip to Singapore in 2014 was my first entry into doing lettering, and it’s funny because a few years later, I finally was able to teach lettering in the same country."
As an artist, what are some things unique to Singapore that inspire you and your creative process?
"While it is a highly urbanized city, Singapore has a character that makes it unique.
"For a small country, Singapore has many museums that I draw inspiration from—they present an amazing variety of art. At the National Gallery Singapore, I saw Yayoi Kusama's exhibit and another one about the Impressionist movement.
"But it's not only the museums that are attractive to me as an artist. I also appreciate their selection of bookstores, and there are several that carry independent titles. Basheer Graphic Books is my favorite!
"And of course, I love their food. I never skip the hawker centers—I'm always in line for a glass of Kopi C!
"But what truly enamors me is the city's architecture—how it changes from candy-colored hues to high rise, innovative structures. While I haven't really created a piece truly inspired by these buildings, it's something I’m interested to explore more when I revisit Singapore soon. It's a city that truly captivates you.
"In a way my art explores transitions—I do both hand lettering and travel illustration, which are extreme opposites. My creative process is a combination of simple and complex parts, similar to how Singapore’s architectural landscape is.
"Singapore has encouraged me to experiment and really get into the habit of seeing new things and applying them to my own work. From discovering new places to picking different art supplies that are new to me, I am able to make art that slowly evolves and changes over time."
What sets Singapore apart from the other countries you've visited?
"There is always a reason to travel to Singapore. For one, there are always just so many exhibitions and events to attend. Also, during my early years of lettering, I often visited Singapore to shop for materials. "
What are some of your favorite spots in Singapore?
"I absolutely love library@orchard. I spend afternoons there just getting lost in its endless books, taking down notes, and brainstorming ideas.
"The National Gallery Singapore is easily my favorite museum in Singapore because of its beautiful exhibitions and events.
"As an artist, being in an environment like Singapore grounds me. I’m always a fan of efficiency and I find that mostly in Singapore—through its transportation system, good food, free libraries and parks."
Why do you think other types of creatives (artists, writers, musicians, photographers, etc.) might find Singapore interesting?
"As cliché as it sounds, there really is something for everyone in Singapore—which is why I love it so much. As a creative, I think it's key to really be open to explore wherever your feet take you and let it inspire you to keep creating."
Need a dose of inspiration? Book your next trip to Singapore, where art and creativity thrive and passion is made possible. For places to see and things to do, check out Visit Singapore.