Most traditional South East Asian Kuehs have intriguing cultural and historical narratives that establish meaning to their appearance, making method and ingredients. This cognitive perspective connects food and people at a phenomenological level, works up memories, experiences, heritage, and identity. The project aims to create an original Kueh, and stretch the plasticity of belief to shape the story behind.
Design typically starts with an ideation or research process, and the application of material is often only valued towards the finishing of a project. Going against the grain, what if the material is given the option to “decide” what it wants to be?
Flour was chosen as the material for its availability, cost, and versatility for a student design project. The deliverables consisted of a final Kueh (=cake/pastry) made with flour as a main material with the process of steaming, paired with a made-believe narrative related to local (Singapore) culture.
I was interested in this project as a platform because I have always been a hands on designer. I believe that every material has its propensities, and it is the designer’s duty to negotiate, to push the limits of what a material is capable of.
The everyday flour is common, but with such a wide variety of flour available in the market, it is merely an acquaintance to me. Starting raw and fresh, I took on an trial and error mindset in an attempt to familiarise myself with the medium.
Design often starts from a sketch on a piece of paper, and prototyping comes in much later. Hence, many ideas get thrown out before it even takes any form.
Reversing the convention, with “making” as the starting point - every idea is given a chance to take shape and test its potential, unlike sketching, where communication is still somewhat limited to imagination by both parties. From there, ideas can therefore be build upon each other.
Through making, we familiarise ourselves with the material, developing our “intuition”, as a seasoned chef would cook without a recipe, and this muscle memory enables us to think better with each experimentation.
Beyond a creative and artistic endeavour, there is a world of Science behind these phenomena of the tryouts.
Seeing these “ingredients” as “materials”, I develop greater sensitivity to the roles of individual materials in this orchestra. There were a multitude of factors to be taken into consideration - 1) Every material has a role to play, 2) the interactivity between the materials, and therefore proportion is key, 3) the invisible factor of timing for the various processes.
Hence, as with every design activity, it is crucial to study existing products and break down the science behind them.