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History: From Clay IN-SIGHT To SEE-no-CLAY

In Nov 2008, Alvin chanced upon the visually impaired at the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped and he curiously wondered what 'visual images' a blind person would hold in his mind. A sighted person would naturally perceive concepts such as 'love,' 'god' or 'cloud' based on images they take in through their sight in reality, books or on TV. But for someone who is blind from birth, what would he 'see from within'...?

Alvin thought that if he could interest some visually impaired to learn clay moulding techniques, would it not be possible for them to share their inner visions through a physical art expression. It may even have the potential to evolve into a whole new form of art form by a pioneering batch of non-sighted artists!

After consultation with Mr Leow Chee Tsai of SAVH, Alvin held the first clay workshop on 13 April 2009 for 30 visually impaired with the help of a dozen volunteers. It was completely experimental in nature but everyone had plenty of fun. Following the workshop, about 20 visually impaired signed up for a year-long clay learning program privately funded by Alvin.

Clay IN-SIGHT has since taken a life of its own, powered by kind-hearted and committed volunteers whom we fondly called Angels. And the Visually Impaired Potters are called VIP. Angels and VIP work together in clay co-creation. It's magical and every clay session was fun as we explored and pioneered new ways to teach pottery skills to the VIPs.

In Jul 2009, we set a vision to hold the first-of-its-kind art exhibition by the blind before Christmas. In Sep 2009, our work caught the attention of Ms Penny Low, Founder of the Social Innovation Park Ltd (SIP), and she offered us a space at the PaTH makret at VivoCity. We worked hard and surprised the public, our supporters and also ourselves with our first Clay IN-SIGHT Exhibition on 5-6 Dec 2009 at VivoCity. The entire exhibition was planned, organized and executed by volunteers. And we sold 80% of our 200 co-creation art exhibits. What a magical end to 2009 for Clay IN-SIGHT!

We began 2010 with an attempt to generate income to sustain this project instead of relying on financial support by an individual. So Alvin conceived a DRINK TOWARDS A GREENER EARTH Exhibition for VIPs and Angels to co-design and co-create an exciting range of handcrafted mugs. The idea was to promote using less of disposable cups, and to encourage the public and companies to place orders for our mugs, and helping our VIPs to earn a respectable income in the process. Millenia Walk Singapore supported our idea with its atrium and we held a successful exhibition on 21-25 Apr 2010, again planned and executed entirely by volunteers. And we managed to secure over S$11,000 worth of mug orders!

On 18-20 Aug 2010, SIP invited us to showcase Clay IN-SIGHT as one of its 15 social enterprises at the Singapore Gifts and Stationery Show held at the Marina Bay Sands Expo Centre.

On 13 Sep 2010, we were honored to be among the beneficiaries to receive donation given by BGC Partners (Singapore) Ltd on its Charity Day. They came to know us from our Millenia Walk exhibition and nominated us to its global HQ in New York. As we are not a registered entity, we recommended SAVH to be the charity beneficiary instead. Clay IN-SIGHT was pleased to have played the role of a catalyst.

To be frank, working (playing) with the VIPs and seeing how fun-loving, cheerful and courageous our non-sighted friends are has truly been a humbling and inspiring experience to all Angels. It is our sincere wish to keep Clay IN-SIGHT going to allow the VIPs to continue learning, experimenting and refining their pottery skills towards mastery. That was why we thought we were ready to evolve Clay IN-SIGHT into a social business to ensure its sustainability.

On 29 Sep 2010, Alvin and a few Angels decided courageously to start Clay IN-SIGHT Pte Ltd as a new social business to sustain and grow what we had achieved till then to a greater height. We were excited and enthusiastic about co-creating a bright future with the VIPs. However, this daring vision was, somewhat surprisingly, not shared by the board and management of SAVH.

On 26 Oct 2010, SAVH President, Mr Tan Guan Heng, and his management requested Mr Willie Cheng to chair a meeting with Alvin to formally end the voluntary relationship with his volunteer team and to take over 'control' of Clay IN-SIGHT project. Apparently, SAVH was not comfortable with Alvin's entrepreneurial style and his idea of social business. SAVH had concurrently served a formal letter to Alvin stating on record that ownership of 'Clay IN-SIGHT' belongs to SAVH.

On 29 Oct 2010, Alvin and Angels met to discuss the matter. While it was a disappointing and strange development to them, they decided that it was at least positive that they had grown Clay IN-SIGHT to a level to be worthy of attention by SAVH. If the SAVH board and management care enough to want to control the project, we should be glad that the project would continue to be sustained through SAVH resources and attention.

On 10 Nov 2010, Alvin responded with a letter to SAVH President on behalf of his team of Angels. It marked the day we officially 'handed over' Clay IN-SIGHT to SAVH. We were given the assurance by Mr Tan Guan Heng, President of SAVH, that the project would continue to benefit the VIPs.

We wish the VIPs and SAVH all the very best, and we were extremely privileged and honored to have play a role at the birth, start-up phase and initial growth of this project. The friendship nurtured between the VIPs and our international team of Angels would last a lifetime.

2011...

In 2011, Alvin took off on a 9-month social sabbatical with his wife, Jin, and 13-year-old daughter, Robyn, to India and Africa - Seva 2011.

During this period, a few VIPs made private requests for pottery classes at Cay-Street.com studio. The Angels were keen to come together again to support these few VIPs but Alvin felt that we should allow SAVH time to organize themselves to revive Clay IN-SIGHT. But the revival of pottery program in SAVH did not happen.

In Nov 2011, we launched SEE-no-CLAY as a social initiative under Clay-Street.com to support VIPs Ben Wong and Cally Teo with the help of our Angels. The joy and magic of co-creation between the sigthed and the non-sighted continues...

2012...

On 25 Feb 2012, SEE-no-CLAY held its first public art fare at the Mundi Market held at Pasir Ris Park. VIPs Ben Wong and Cally Teo proudly displayed their art pieces, assisted by Angels.

 

The dream of VIPs and Angels lives on...

 

NEXT > Clay IN-SIGHT Memories

 

 
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MILESTONES:

Nov 2008 - Conception of Clay IN-SIGHT.

Apr 2009 - Started with the first experimental clay workshop with the visually impaired.

Oct 2009 - Clay IN-SIGHT was invited to showcase at the Global Social Innovators Forum at Fusionopolis Singapore, where we conceived the business concept of DRINK TOWARDS A GREENER EARTH.

Dec 2009 - First Clay IN-SIGHT Exhibition at the SIP PaTH Market at VivoCity Singapore; sold 80% of our 200 co-creation art exhibits.

Jan 2010 - Conceived DRINK TOWARDS A GREENER EARTH as a social business experiment.

Apr 2010 - DRINK TOWARDS A GREENER EARTH Exhibition at Millenia Walk Singapore; secured S$11,000 of mug orders.

Aug 2010 - Clay IN-SIGHT invited by SIP to showcase at the Singapore Gifts and Stationer Show at the Marina Bay Sands Expo Centre.

Sep 2010 - Clay IN-SIGHT catalysed SAVH as a beneficiary of the BGC Charity donation.

Oct 2010 - Attempt to evolve Clay IN-SIGHT into a social business entity for self-sustainability, but met with objection by SAVH, which demanded for ownership and control of project.

Nov 2010 - Clay IN-SIGHT handed over to SAVH, ending this purposeful volunteer-run project that lasted 18 months.

Nov 2011 - SEE-no-CLAY was born as a social initiative under Clay-Street.com in support of artistic co-creation by Angels and VIPs Ben Wong and Cally Teo.

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