Sculpting an alternative future

Bartholomew Ting (BBA 2001)

bart For Bartholomew Ting, the experience gained at NUS Business School shaped his career pathway, but not quite in the way you would expect! It wasn’t the Bizad lessons that led him to discover his life’s calling as much as the creation of floats during his first annual Rag & Flag in 1998.

For what Bartholomew discovered during this initial introduction into making creations out of recycled items was a deep-seated love of working with cardboard. It wasn’t a coincidence that his first job following graduation was with a packaging company as a management trainee. “I was introduced to the different roles in the company on a rotation basis, but naturally graduated towards the design department, where I settled after six months, managing a small team of designers,” he recalls. It was during his time in this position that he learnt about the properties of cardboard and how to maximise its strength in construction.

Finding his niche

Wanting to be more hands-on in the design of cardboard sculptures and fully utilise his creative skills, Bartholomew moved on, taking up a post with an exhibition company. It was here that he learnt to work with design software, creating virtual 3D designs that could be converting to the 2D prints of cardboard cut-outs used to create his final 3D cardboard sculptures.

He honed his skills at various exhibition companies, meeting the consistent challenges of tight deadlines before finally burning out from creative overload in 2008. It was time to take a break and recharge, so Bartholomew made the bold move during the economic crisis to embark on a working holiday with his girlfriend to London. There he took up freelance assignments and used the funds to tour Europe to gain new experiences, perspectives and creative inspiration.

bart1Realising his value
Back in London, he landed a job with a London-based exhibition company working on projects in Dubai. While the working culture of the company was relaxed with plenty of time given to the creative process, the Dubai clients required fast turnarounds, something Bartholomew was used to from his work experience in Singapore. As such, his boss recognised the value Bartholomew could deliver to the company in helping the team to secure new projects due to his speed of delivery of creative concepts.

The experience increased his confidence in his creative abilities and following his return to Singapore in 2010, Bartholomew decided to work on a freelance basis providing exhibition design. By 2011, he had turned his focus purely to cardboard sculpturing. He started with a sculpture at NUS. From there his confidence grew and he attempted larger sculptures, all made from recycled cardboard. Today he works as creative director for Tri-Wall Creatives, the creator of AAA triplewall cardboard, the perfect raw material for Bartholomew’s creations.

Expanding his range of services
Bartholomew’s love of his art has led him to conducting workshops to teach cardboard design, both in schools and in private workshops and liaising with art & design departments in polytechnics to involve students in art festivals. For example, a recent project he worked on involves collaboration with a few polytechnics in building a three-metre-tall Merlion at *SCAPE. “The concept behind the project is for the community to build together,” Bartholomew explains.

Perhaps his biggest showcase to date has been his work with National Library Board (NLB), where his iconic sculptures are displayed on rotation at various libraries around the island. He has also worked with SCDF, creating a cardboard fire engine for display, which NS Men were tasked to put together. This project illustrates well Bartholomew’s commitment to give his clients more than they asked for.

“I found that the concept of sculpting a simple fire truck didn’t stretch me creatively,” Bartholomew recalls, “so I proposed a fire truck that turned into a transformer, which of course the kids love. This allows SCDF to send a more powerful message to children through more active engagement.”

bart2The many avenues for growth
The future is bright for this sculptor. Tri-Wall Group is seeking to launch an IPO in Hong Kong in 2015 and Bartholomew sees this as a good platform to launch internationally and to promote their unique cardboard material beyond the B2B market, directly to consumers.

“I see a huge potential in cardboard in an era where people are becoming more aware of recycling and the Global Maker Movement spreads its message of creating things from what you already have.” Bartholomew showcases his armchair and coffee table designs as examples of how paper can be turned into something useful for everyday living. “People are always surprised at how sturdy they are, but this is all part of the design process, in how the cardboard is combined and folded to maximise its tensile strength,” he explains.

He also foresees a large market in cardboard sculpture replacing temporary carpentry projects such as exhibition stalls. “For now it’s the technology part that holds the process back, but this can be overcome, either by learning the skill or outsourcing it.” Bartholomew explains that most 3D designers today are animators, but they should be taking advantage of the rising demand for physical modelling.

“The Cardboard Building Block is also an option to grow the business further, where we supply the pieces and have people create their own sculptures out of their imagination,” Bartholomew concludes

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