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How Cheryl Tan of @beadbadwolf became Singapore's embroidery maestro

singapore-embroidery-artist-beadbadwolf

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Meet the embroidery artist who creates funky, vibrant art pieces with a local twist.

The 10.2k followers on Cheryl Tan's Instagram account, @beadbadwolf, probably wouldn't find her zestful studio interior startling. After all, she is known for her brightly coloured, dazzling embroidery works which she often showcases on her Instagram feed.

As I stepped into the 29-year-old embroidery artist's creative studio in Woodlands, I was instantly mesmerised by the rhapsody of colours plastered across the entire room.

A collage of embroidered art pieces was arranged neatly on the wall, above a collection of her other works and art materials.

What started out as a page to showcase her personal artworks grew unexpectedly in two years. Cheryl started to receive requests for commissioned works as her art pieces gained traction online.

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Cheryl hopes to venture into selling handmade merchandise and collaborating with local and international artists in the future.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/ALIYAH KHAN

Cheryl was also approached to conduct an embroidery workshop at local retail store Naiise six months after starting @beadbadwolf.

''I do a lot of workshops every week with Naiise, and occasionally at Mox and xhundredfold. I teach them techniques on how to embroider, weave and knit. I also share my artwork and personal style with them,'' she said.

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Students from Germany, Indonesia and Malaysia visit Singapore solely for Cheryl's workshops. 
PHOTO CREDIT: CHERYL TAN

Despite only starting her Instagram page two years ago, Cheryl is by no means a novice at handiwork. She cultivated a passion for craftwork at the tender age of six, where her artistic grandmother would show her the ropes around sewing and beading.

''I would sew little gifts like small plushies for my friends. It's something I really loved to do since I was young,'' she said.

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Cheryl enjoys using vibrant colour palettes as it lifts her mood and makes her happy.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/ALIYAH KHAN

It was only during her overseas study trips as a Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) fashion design student did Cheryl started dabbling with embroidery.

''I went to various museums during my study trips to London and Paris. It was the first time I was exposed to artworks with rich culture and history. That's when I felt I really wanted to do more,'' she explained.

Cheryl shared she was inspired by the different techniques used in the museum artworks, and subsequently tried her hand at incorporating those techniques into her own pieces.

''I used it in some of my collections as part of my texture experimentation. That was when I first got to know embroidery,'' she noted.

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Her love for crafts eventually nurtured into a hobby, where she learned various textile arts like knitting, weaving and crocheting.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/ALIYAH KHAN

After graduating from NAFA, the soft spoken artist started doing more tutorials and grew a deeper passion for embroidery. Besides fabrics, Cheryl usually embroiders on T-shirts, backpacks and even shoes.

In 2019, she took a leap of faith and quit her previous job as a visual display artist to invest more time on experimenting with new crafts and conducting workshops.  

Despite having to work for hours in her studio, she enjoyed the solitude as it gave her time-off from her busy schedule at home.

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Cheryl embroidered space-themed icons on her first artwork (pictured above), so that she can use them when she tells stories to her children.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/ALIYAH KHAN

For Cheryl, her colourful and whimsical embroidered designs help her preserve precious memories.

''My favourite artwork would be the first ones I did. It was space-themed and inspired by my kids. They were singing songs about planets and space every single day!'' said the mother-of-two.

I also couldn't help but notice that her works often featured nostalgic elements from Singapore's heritage, such as the Merlion Park and shophouses, and intricate beaded details reminiscent of Peranakan culture.

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''I use a lot of beads in my work because I want to make Peranakan beading more contemporary, modern, and infuse it with Singapore culture,'' she said.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/ALIYAH KHAN 

''There's a childhood story behind most of my art pieces. I embroidered Singapore's famous dragon playground because I went to a playground with a blue dragon during my childhood.

''I wanted to create something similar that spoke to a lot of people,'' she explained.

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Cheryl's dragon playground art piece reminds her fond memories of her childhood.
PHOTO CREDIT: SCREENSHOT FROM @BEADBADWOLF

While Cheryl tends to feel pressured by her growing number of Instagram followers, she is grateful for the support she has been receiving in Singapore and beyond. 

She also feels uplifted by the little community of local artists that constantly expresses their support, leaving encouraging comments like 'Keep up the good work!' on her posts.

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Cheryl hopes to venture into selling handmade merchandise and collaborating with local and international artists in the future.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/ALIYAH KHAN

Ultimately, Cheryl shared that the focal point of her journey isn't about the positive feedback and comments she receives.

''The best part about starting @beadbadwolf is using Instagram to show others that I have a skill I can teach them. There's an open community where I can teach people who are keen, and I think that's invaluable.'' 

BANNER AND TEASER PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/ALIYAH KHAN