Connie Sengalrayan

Singapore

I am the last Dutch Lampshade Maker in Singapore.

Sometimes “community” can seem like a big word, but building it starts with the smallest of actions.

“If you talk about community within the neighbourhood. We may not have a strong one. Because yet we cant blame anyone, because that is what life is like in the city. Time is all committed to work. Even when we enter the lift, we stand next to each other be we are just staring at our phones. Sometimes, all it takes is to just look up and smile – the day already starts better. But it takes two to build relationships. We have to let others know that they can count on us if they ever need help. Knowing that others think of you and look out for you will really give you that sense of belonging. It’s the first step to building a community.”

– Wendy

“I’ve been living here here for about 2 years. For a long time, I had no idea who my neighbours were. It was just like going to a hotel – just checking in and checking out every day. But after you meet face to face, things feel different. It’s as if we already know each other so much more. It finally started to feel like I had neighbours and that I was’t alone after all.”
– Jasmin

“Most people nowadays like privacy. We live in high-rise buildings just a door away from each other but we prefer to just be left alone. I think we forget that at the end of the day, the thing that builds the neighbourhood is the people.”
– Aizuddin

In this increasingly fast-paced society it is easy to forget that we are surrounded by people, who like us, appreciate simple friendly gestures, being treated with kindness that will better our daily lives. Building relationships goes a long way, and for the residents of Boulevard Residence, it is a necessary step for the creation of a sense of belonging among themselves. With a small effort from each of the residents, they came together to begin a community, to make their homes a better place to live in, and ultimately, to care for the people who are in the closest physical proximity to them in their everyday lives.

Most people now don’t know what lampshades really are. And even fewer people understand how they’re made. But I do. Because I’m the last Dutch lampshade maker in Singapore. I’ve been making lampshades for more than 30 years. Since young, I’ve always loved handcrafts. I had seven siblings and always received hand-me-downs. So when I was a teenager, I started taking sewing classes to learn how to make my own things. Hans Sengalrayan was my husband for 38 years before he passed on recently. His parents owned a lampshade shop in Kuala Lumpur and we took over the business eventually. He used to design and make each of the lampshade frames by hand, and I’d put on the fabric one stitch at a time. There are no shortcuts in our craft. But we made a good team. We even made the lampshades that decorated Queen Elizabeth’s hotel suite when she visited Singapore in 2006! Things are a little different now. I don’t have my husband to consult anymore, so I have to do the designing and planning all by myself. There’s also not much demand for lampshades like there used to be back in the 70s. But I live simply. Even when Hans was around, we knew making lampshades wasn’t going to make us rich. We did it because that’s what we loved to do. In 10 years’ time, I don’t know if I’ll still be here - or if the craft still exists. But I do know that right now, I continue to do what I do because it’s my passion.

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