We are live! I’m excited because it’s a new shop experience. We have our debut postcard series in the shop and you’ll see some Art-Prints appearing there soon.
You can buy a set of 6 cards to send to friends, especially cool if you know some Singaporeans abroad!
If you have any cool ideas for our prints, anything you want to see, then please get in touch
Ink and Brush on Vegetable Parchment, Teck Kee Coffeeshop, Tanjong Pagar, Singapore, 11.7 x 18.5″, 2013.
It was breakfast time, Anthony, his wife and their two friends sat eating kaya toast and soft boiled eggs, each with a cup of “teh”.
My attention has been elsewhere of late. On the coffeeshop project. I would recommend you to look at the original artworks in the shop. The real value of art is in ones response to it rather than what one has heard about it:
“Beauty is bought by judgement of the eye,
Not utter’d by base sale of chapmen’s tongues” Shakespeare, Love’s Labour’s Lost, 2.1.15
After realising Singapore’s ethnically diverse harmony, it appears empirically true that the co-habilitation of various religions is realistic. However, perhaps also illustrated by Singapore’s ethnically diverse culture, the largest of all differences is really just language.
The focus is driven onto the characters in this detailed painting. I wanted my audience to forget there was a context though it is there if you look for it. This is what it is, to be lost in conversation, as this uncle and these aunties were.
Teck Kee has been a regular place for me to draw and I should add that a number of early works are mounted on the walls here. It is a good idea to drop in, particularly around midday, when you can grab outstanding briyani from Nachin Briyani Dam, or some great Hong Kong style [Teck Kee] wanton mee. There are is also a Japanese style stall that gets quite busy at lunchtimes.
The Teck Kee Coffeeshop exhibition marked the birth of “The Coffeeshop Project”. With the supportive permission of Teck Kee’s proprietor this exhibition is on show in the coffeeshops secondary eating area. An area that is packed with business types from the surrounding office blocks each lunchtime. This is in a central business area and the flow of people through this area is very high.
It ought to be stressed that this is a highly unusual exhibition. Artist have no tradition of showing art in coffeeshops and coffeeshops are widely considered one of the lowliest venues. It is for these very reasons that we have chosen the coffeeshop as our host and our subject matter. These are important places for Singapore’s working majority.
Before they were installed, and also afterwards, there has been apprehension towards these artworks. We say that we will install these images partly as a study of the coffeeshop environment and partly because we believe that art can be appreciated by anyone who crosses it. It must be known that this exhibition could not be possible without support, and least of all without that support that has emanated from Teck Kee’s proprietor. To different people, art is many different things, in this case it is a decoration adorning the walls and a respectful gesture to the people who work and eat in this area. It is also an attempt to document and preserve an image of coffeeshops in Singapore, an identity that is unique to those privately owned businesses.
This project features ink and brush work that features techniques adapted from Chinese calligraphy and drawing styles. Over coming months new studies will hopefully lead to more interesting interventions of Singapore’s established food culture and this contribution to it’s art culture.
Where food culture meets art culture. A series of works based on Singapore’s coffeeshop culture that also seek to raise an interest in the arts on a local level.
The Coffeeshop Project aims to create a space where an established food culture can meet a burgeoning art culture. Based in the hawker centres of Singapore, this project is a creative initiative to capture the image and atmosphere of a number of important socio-cultural hubs whilst developing an interest in its preservation. Another intention, running parallel to that of drawing attention to the coffeeshop culture, is to increase an interest in visual arts whilst encouraging the notion of proprietorship over such artworks as those being presented in the coffeeshop environment.
The Coffeeshop Project was initiated by Anthony Askew (UK) and Gloria Wong (SG) 09/2013.
For more information go to:
I have decided to write this for ESL teachers and TEFL/CELTA graduates who are looking to work for Spirit Kids Guangzhou.
As with any school, there will be aspects of work life that are negative and many that will be positive. Spirit Kids is no different. I’ve decided to first focus on the positive points of life within the company and then I’ll outline some areas of concern. Ultimately, one should bear in mind that the school experience is always going to be what you want it to be. There were teachers with whom I worked that cared only for the months wage packet and for them the children they taught were simply to be tolerated for an hour in exchange for money. Fortunately enough, during my time at SK I worked with a group of individuals who sincerely cared for their students and their development.
1. The children.
Before arriving in China my interviewer, a foreign teacher, joked about how he had not known what to expect before arriving in China. With the authoritarian depictions of Chinese people in the West he had came to think that maybe Chinese children would be incapable of play. Unsurprisingly children in China are like children anywhere. They love to play and love to be involved fairly in the games they play.
Most students are aged between 5 and 7 but the full span of children are 2 – 14. This may change in the future since the school is in a constant process of development.
As illustrated in the film I have just shared with you, the classes and their outcomes are flexible. Something like the film creates a product too, that is something that the children can take away as a bookmark for their time under your care.
My students learnt through gameplay, storytelling and word/object recognition tasks, this was fun and we were able to be creative in the way that this is done. There is a flaw here but I’ll get to it later.
The contract specifies that teachers stay in the office for the set number of hours. This time is usually taken up by lesson plans, some meetings, and occasionally a demonstration of a class in order to stimulate ideas around teaching methods and approaches to games. However, it is not so strict as to prohibit doing lesson plans outside of the office provided you have already signed in and you’re not missing classes or meetings. Overall, SK is quite lenient and forgiving in this regard.
3. Co-teachers and Staff
The native staff that I worked with were genuinely supportive and consistently supported the contribution of new ideas into the classroom. Not all foreign teachers bother to make friends with their colleagues, some seem to do this out of a sense of superiority although it could be that they were never all that interested in the school in the first place. However, I made some great friends at SK since it seemed the management were adept at employing sincere and genuine members of the public.
Classes tend to have one Chinese teacher and one Native teacher. Unless you are preparing the kids for an official exam and they are attending primary school, lessons were pretty fun since they were mostly language based games (and I received training for this). The toughest thing here is to keep the games diverse enough to be interesting to both teacher and student (nothing worse than a teacher who bores themselves).
One individual [Jacky] stood out for his keen mind and genuine professional approach to the teaching environment, for as long as I’ve known he has been a part of Spirit Kids’ training and research team and for all my knowledge will continue to do so long into the future. If there’s ever a person to whom to go for advice, Jacky is your man. Jacky is usually stationed at the headquarters so you’ll meet him if you work there.
Guangzhou itself is an interesting place to live in and if you are able to meet some locals who know the city then it becomes a whole new place all over again (a badly written sentence). Luckily there are a multitude of hidden dim sum places to discover as well as factory outlets. Shopping and eating are both adequately covered.
5. Lesson planning
Spirit Kids lessons are highly formulaic and pre-planned. This could be a boon for you or a drawback. I’ve decided to include it as a positive feature since the school is highly flexible provided that you fulfil the criteria set for assessing the kids progress.
6. Reliable payment
Foreigner teachers are paid duly and are given the amount that they have earned.
1. Summer and Winter camps
These are pretty tough since they are long hours and intense. Classes rapidly pile-up on one another and the attention the children require is tenfold that which you would normally give them. Classes are more intense since naturally this kindergarten does best with energetic teachers who can match the energy output of the students. They are children, they need to move around and play. You are the teacher and you need to make sure they are engaged and are learning.
What disappoints teachers is the increased workload, the increased number of “contact” hours, the increased amount of after hours work (preparing classes and arts and crafts), and the respectively lower income compared to the termly wage rate.
2. No Chinese
It seems that every teacher wishes they could speak Chinese but they don’t have the time, or the initiative, to learn. After a while teachers appear dissatisfied and want to do something else with their lives, leading up to their seeking of another job.
To put it like this: You are in China and your friends, or, at worst, colleagues, are all teachers, yet you don’t know any Chinese. This is a personal thing but I am aware that a lot of schools do it as much as I am aware that I am in China. On the street and doing grocery shopping I need a basic level of Chinese really function effectively.
This means SK can feel as though it is a stepping stone into China but is not a place to stand for too long.
3. Flaws in the Work Materials
This is not something exclusive to SK, in fact flawed “made in China” ESL materials seem to have a cult following in Chinese kindergartens who wish to attract parents to a novel school.
SK and the aforementioned Jacky are progressively developing the school’s materials yet the process is slow. This causes problems for teachers who discover inaccurate descriptions, misnomers, and poorly constructed assessment tasks. It is, the teachers responsibility to correct this where possible and to inform the research department. However these errors do form a crack in SK’s armour and can lead to the disillusionment of foreign teachers at the school.
4. Staff turnover
For whatever reason, foreign and local teachers have had a tendency to arrive and leave the school in less than a year. One needn’t necessarily look too deeply into this as teachers are in high demand all over China and many people end up taking other jobs at schools that can offer higher pay for fewer hours. Additionally to this, Guangzhou is really but a step into a much bigger country, and is very close to Hong Kong, another place popular with expats. To say the least, with the schools supportative environment, this is a good school for those wishing to enter into China.
You will need to verify about this with the company as they might be able to help you.
I received help finding an apartment right up until I actually found a place. Rumour has it that other employees entering the country for the first time did not receive as much help. Of course, entering the country for the first time is intimidating and meeting a responsible person at the airport is damn reassuring. Make an inquiry and see what they can do for you.