(Donna and us in our first store. Image taken by Rebecca Toh)
To many people, Supermama is a design store, a souvenir label or perhaps, a firm supporter of Singapore design and Japanese crafts.
To Mei Ling and myself, it is a journey we took as a family. When we had our second child, I asked her if it was possible for us to steal a year off our retirement to spend a year long sabbatical with the family – and at the same time, to live out our dreams to start a design shop. This would mean quitting both our full time jobs and the only way to fund this, is to sell our 4 room HDB apartment. It is not easy for any wife to say “yes” to such request especially when Toby was just 3 months old but she did, without hesitation. This is also the reason why I named the shop Supermama. I wanted my kids, Donna, Toby and Natalie to grow up knowing this decision that their mum made, and to remind myself that she is and will forever be my best supporter. She is our supermama.
It was in December 2010 when we started Supermama.
Without any business experience between us, we expected the shop to fold within a year and for us to return to our full time jobs. We were so cash strapped that we did not even bother about marketing or branding. In fact the “official” brand logo was adopted only a year into the business. I remembered this night when Donna couldn’t sleep. She woke me up at 12 midnight and asked if I could draw with her. She did a series of drawings and one caught my eye. “It is hippo and elephant!” she exclaimed proudly. The drawing does not look like a hippo or an elephant (in a literal/visual sense) but it feels like one. A 3 years old child capturing the “feelings” of a hippo and an elephant with a few strokes is quite amazing. I wonder where did all these innate abilities to sense, to feel and to express disappear to when we grow up. So we decided to adopt the logo to remind us to always look at our world from the eyes of a child.
My love for Japanese crafts dated all the way back to 2005 when I first visited a paper maker in Kyoto. Being an industrial designer working with digital tools most of the time, the experience looking at how raw materials were transformed into useable products was surreal, and was forever etched in my mind. So, to have the opportunity to work with KIHARA from Arita, Japan, to create a porcelain collection was a dream come true for me. We managed to overcome language and geographical barriers to achieve a meaningful partnership.
Over the next few years, our work with other Japanese crafts facilities grew and in 2020, we will celebrate our 10th Anniversary.
The journey is not without its challenges and one that allow us to discover the value of relationships. We are very thankful to all our friends, especially the design community in Singapore and crafts community in Japan, who supported us all these years.
We look forward to meet you in Supermama.
– Edwin and Mei Ling