Conversations // Elaine Tan

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'Drifter' necklace

‘Drifter’ necklace from the ‘Drift Away’ collection

A marbled ball encased in a transparent prism; the aged organic lines of a piece of driftwood encased in a structured bioresin shell: pieces bound by a framework of geometricity but embedded with soul, depth and narrative. Layers of meaning, time (literally, for some materials) and ideas compressed into wearable art—this is what Amado Gudek produces. The brand is created by Elaine Tan who makes jewellery from eco-friendly bioresins that are sometimes mixed together with other materials. As opposed to traditional resins that are mainly petroleum-based, Elaine’s contain bio-based renewable materials sourced from “co-products or waste streams of other industrial processes” that include wood pulp and bio-fuels production.

Tan studied fashion marketing at Raffles design Institute and also obtained a masters in fashion branding at Instituto Marangoni (London). A summer course in jewellery making at Central Saint Martins – University of the Arts London sparked her interest in making resin jewellery. Currently, Elaine focuses on Amado Gudek full-time, working on production from her office/workshop in the East of Singapore. Here, is a typical place of making that is deliciously un-curated—mismatched cupboards and shelves bordering the walls, nondescript tables filled with papers, things, a rack of jewellery, unembellished floors and walls, lit by white fluorescent light above and a border of natural light from the window where the modestly sized production room is housed, packed with machines and separated by the office by a glass curtain. It is a most proper factory space, in the miniscule. There is no care for prettiness; the prettiness is in the products, that are made by Elaine and her part-time assistants.

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Next to Elaine’s table is an unfamiliar, yet not-so-out of place object—a pack-and-play cot bed for her now seven-month-old son Keagan. Every Monday, Elaine whisks her little boy into the office for the full day, tackling feeding, napping and other motherly day-to-day duties alongside her work of designing, planning, making. Is this scene not so accurate and familiar in depicting the real challenges that working mothers/parents face and just go at it and adapt? The mundane and the conceptual, dreams and reality all linked together in a potpourri of schedules, technicality and materiality. We have a photoshoot at the lift lobby lined by nondescript aluminium grilles, whose metallic sheen and patterns throw stretched shadows onto the sandy concrete underfoot and frames a tessellated view of the surrounding industrial estates.

In this interview, Elaine shares with us about her creative and motherly journey and aspirations.

'Hope' necklace from the 'Second Chances' collection

‘Hope’ necklace from the ‘Second Chances’ collection, a collaboration with jewellery label Of Trying Times, which incorporates broken clay pieces

'Hyde Atom' rings in mint and wood

‘Hyde Atom’ rings in mint and wood

What inspired the name of your brand Amado Gudek? “Imaginative jewellery cast in clear conscience” is your manifesto as stated on the website. What’s the story? 

When I came back from London after my studies, I wanted to start a new label that would remind myself of my time and experience in London. (I previously had a now-defunct jewellery label before starting Amado Gudek). So I took the last names of two of my best friends from school—Amanda Amado and Sibel Gudek—and that’s how the brand’s name came about. It is a very personal and nostalgic thing for me.

As for the tag line, it was something I coined when I transited to an eco-friendly medium, changing my material from resin to bioresin, hence “cast in clear conscience”. A little pun on that phrase too as casting is what I do with clear bioresin. On another dimension, you can infer that I enjoy playing with words; there is a slight tongue-in-cheek tone that tends to pervade my collections. “Imaginative” because every collection is born from my imagination and I want my customers to interpret my collections with their own imagination.

Before Amado Gudek, you were working in branding and studying 3D design part-time before you decided to quit your day job and focus solely on Amado Gudek. How has the journey been thus far? 

While I was schooling, I was making jewellery. When I started work, I continued making jewellery. It was almost an addiction. In fact it is probably the only hobby that I had and kept at for so long since I was 18 years old. Hence, I finally decided to give it a shot before major commitments set in (such as starting a family and having to pay for a flat), and I gave myself two years to try it out. It has been extremely exciting—I spent the first year establishing my base at a coworking space, and the second year sorting out my production line. All has worked out well so far, and I’m pretty confident that it will get better.

What was your first collection about?  

My very first collection is called “The Pitcher Plant”. The pieces were organically shaped, inspired by the curves of the pitcher plant. It had tiny web-like parts creeping out from the jewellery, projecting a sly and cunning image. They looked like little creepy creatures—definitely not for the faint hearted. I still miss that collection very much!

The 'Geometricity' collection

The ‘Geometricity’ collection

'Voyage Necklace' from the 'Drift Away' collection

‘Voyage Necklace’ from the ‘Drift Away’ collection

'Nomad' necklace from the 'Drift Away' collection

‘Nomad’ necklace from the ‘Drift Away’ collection

Can you share with us the inspirations behind some of your other collections, such as ‘Geometricity’ and ‘Drift Away’? What are some of the challenges in creating these pieces? 

‘Geometricity’ was inspired by the bustling, colourful and glamorous city life, while on the converse, ‘Drift Away’ was inspired by a freer life away from the stressful city life.

For ‘Geometricity’, I experimented a lot with marbling. It was challenging to ‘lock’ the swirls in place as resin tends to move around a lot. So I had to work out the right timing to make the swirl, just when the resin is hard enough to stay in place but soft enough to still move around.

For ‘Drift Away’, as it was my first time working with a new medium (wood), the experimentation cycle was longer. The challenge was to embed odd-shaped pieces wood into resin without it moving around too much, and sanding the parts down till a nice grain of wood appeared. As every part of the wood was different, I had to sand until I got the part that I think looks good. It is the most challenging collection I have done thus far.

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You are also mother to Keagan. Can you share with us what a typical day for you is like?  

I am very lucky that my mum takes care of my baby during the weekdays so that I can go back to work like before. I take the morning shift, my mum takes the afternoon/evening shift, and my husband takes the night shift, so I start work in the afternoon and return home later in the evening.

What are your biggest personal challenges in balancing motherhood, career, being a wife and having time to yourself? 

I think the initial infant stage was the hardest as I didn’t expect it to be so difficult. It is a life changing experience indeed. Adjusting to this new life and resetting expectations was the hardest part.

Has becoming a mother affected your creativity (process, thinking, etc.) in any way? 

I don’t think so. But it has definitely made me work faster and prioritise my tasks better (as time is so limited now).

What are your passions and how do you aspire to share them with your child? 

Design, music and theatre! I can’t wait for my baby to grow up so I can take him out to the museums, watch concerts and plays together.

(Continue this sentence) Play to me is:  

 Available after the hardwork is done.

Amado Gudek is available Dulcetfig, Gallery & Co., Society A, The Reckless Shop, and Threadbare and Squirrel, as well as online at Amado Gudek and at the brand’s monthly First Fridays open studio. 

+ photo credit (portrait): playground

++ photo credit (products): Amado Gudek

amadogudek.com

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