“Coming from that place where I couldn’t see the direct impact of my work on the world, I feel more fulfilled now knowing that every poem I write has the opportunity to be a light in someone’s life.” – Grace
In commemoration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Imagine The World is back with our second edition of the art market – Cosmos Creatives Art Market, embodying the spirit of life and a hope to flourish. Cosmos Creatives Spotlight discover unique brands and the inspiring creative minds in their journey towards their pursuit of their passion. Let’s delve deeper and uncover Grace’s story on how she navigated through uncertainty and trusted the process of Graceful Quills.
Established in 2021, Graceful Quills provides services specialising in customised typewritten poetry. It is our persistent belief to infuse a personal touch and beauty in the words we write. Each poem is crafted intentionally and sensitively to honour the story of the unique individual.
How did you get into the craft?
Since I was young, I loved to express myself through words as it was the most direct form of communication. I kept many volumes of personal diaries and blogs. Then, as I reached adolescence, I began to read and write poetry — it was refreshing to put ideas in a more cryptic, mysterious form. Poetry then guided me through most of the frustrations of girlhood. It was a very coming-of-age craft for me. All through my life my Dad kept a typewriter in the corner of the room which was underutilised. A few years ago, I was made redundant from my full time job due to Covid, so I just took it out and started typing poems on it.
How has the brand grown from when you first started?
Every day is different! On Mondays, I will usually work and mail out custom orders that comes in through the website—people would request poems for their best friends, birthdays, wedding anniversaries, or for their dog or housewarming. In the mornings I answer emails. In the afternoon I would work on the sales and marketing side of the business—answering queries, social media, website maintenance, designing collaterals, etc. Then in the evenings I would wind down with 20 minutes of reading time and try to write whatever I’m working on—they may be poems and short stories. Sometimes I have events peppered throughout the week. On a certain weekend of the month I will usually conduct poetry workshops.
What is your source of inspiration?
My biggest source of inspiration are humans and their stories. I people watch a lot and I don’t mean just in real life. I like to analyse characters in movies, in books, the Bible, Korean dramas, etc. My favourite book genres are classics and memoirs because of this. I am definitely more of a character-based reader than a plot-based reader. I think what makes us human is so terrifying and beautiful at the same time, and that’s already such a fertile ground for ideas.
What is your favourite aspect of your craft?
I love to write and to connect with humans authentically. The combination of both is perfection. Live typewritten poetry is a performative art in many ways. You can’t just coop up in your writing hole and write in solitude. It is a spontaneous craft that requires you to be present, to be a compassionate listener, and to take up the sense of responsibility in your words, and to let go of the idea of perfection because all you have is 5-10 minutes. It’s stimulating for me and I really love it.
How has starting your craft impacted your life?
I think it brings a great sense of clarity to my personal life. As humans, we often wish to make a difference in the world, and wonder what our purpose is. I am extremely lucky to have found a sense of fulfilment so early on in my career. I remember a time where I was a full time graphic designer and felt stifled in the industry because of the lack of creative freedom. I was often brimming with ideas but had no resources and power to execute my creative vision. I was also sitting at a desk most of the time, taking orders from the higher-ups, and felt that I wasn’t creating works of value.
Coming from that place where I couldn’t see the direct impact of my work on the world, I feel more fulfilled now knowing that every poem I write has the opportunity to be a light in someone’s life. After starting my own creative practice as an artist, I think it gives me more room to grow, and be myself.
What has been the best experience/opportunity your art has given you?
I had the best experience I had was selling poems and poetry-zines at the Singapore Art Book Fair 2023. I had wanted to have a booth there since I was 17. Seeing all the talented artists/designers in a shared space and finally being part of that really touched me. It also sparked many meaningful conversations around our works.
Has there been any challenges that have made you almost give up on your craft?
I think writing necessitates real bravery because it requires you to confront the hard questions, and to be honest with yourself, and,—if you decide to put your work out there—to be honest with the world. And many times the thought itself is enough to make me want to quit. It is this tension—a desire to be seen for who you are, and a fear of vulnerability—that is quite tricky. Other than that, it is the well-meaning concerns of my parents who say CPF is important, as well as the benefits of a stable job and income. Many people don’t see the sacrifices, but I had to be comfortable with the idea of uncertainty, especially in terms of finances.
How are you involved in the local art community in Singapore?
In 2021 and 2022, I collaborated with many local artists, photographers, and curators to exhibit my work. In 2023, my focus has shifted more towards live events and brand activations and had less time to participate in exhibitions. Instead, we recently acquired 6 new typewriters and are able to partner with Community Centres (CCs) and Singapore Book Council (SBC) to host poetry workshops and typing experiences for the public. Families and kids really love the nostalgic experience of the typewriter, and I love that this is a very organic way to reach out to the community and get them comfortable expressing themselves in the written word.
Do you have any advice to share with others who might be interested in learning a new craft, starting a side business, or just getting more involved in the local arts scene in Singapore?
I think it is absolutely important to keep an open mind and let your curiosity guide you! I found my creative practice simply because I was curious about literature and classics and kept reading. Before that I dabbled in content creation, photography, and graphic design. None of them worked out, but it’s fine! Another tip is to get comfortable with uncertainty, maybe even prolonged uncertainty, especially during the start of the process. There were months and years as an entrepreneur where my income was low and I was relying a lot on my savings. I would also say there should be wisdom and discretion at work here, on when to pursue and when to defer your dreams (not quit). It is that kind of faith and conviction you need to tide through the uncertain seasons!