Creative, generous, positive, strong. Do any of these words describe an inspiring woman in your life? For us, TeddyThotz’ deaf artist Mimi Ng comes to mind.
To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, we speak to Mimi, founder of Deaf ArtsCraftsy (DAC), a Deaf-led enterprise that advocates for deaf artisans and helps them generate income by selling their crafts. Founded in 2017, DAC has been working closely with Fairmarch vendor TeddyThotz to increase their outreach.
Aligning with this year’s International Women’s Day Campaign, #BreakTheBias, we explore some of the stereotypes that the Deaf community faces in this interview.
Can you share a little bit about yourself and maybe a fun fact that few people know about you?
I was born deaf because my mother had measles while expecting me. I grew up with Art; Art is my greatest passion.
Fun fact: I have loved reading comic books since I was young. It really helped when I worked as a *Bookworm cartoonist for a few years. Sometimes, I feel like drawing cartoons or drawing my experiences.
(*Bookworm Short Stories were very popular young children books back in the day.)
When and why did you start Deaf ArtsCraftsy?
In August 2017, bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, I decided to pursue a career as a deaf Social Entrepreneur in arts and crafts. Hence, Deaf ArtsCraftsy (DAC) was born. I came up with the name to emphasise that Deaf persons have unique, hidden talents in Arts and Crafts. With my encouragement and faith, members challenge themselves to bring out their artistic talents for Singapore, if not for the world, to appreciate. Self-esteem plays a meaningful role in DAC because crafting items to be sold at artisan bazaars, instead of relying on others for help, makes members feel worthy of their talents and indeed betters their lives; it becomes a form of empowerment.
What was the greatest challenge you faced when you first started DAC and how did you overcome it?
It is good that I had basic training in business by entrepreneurs with disabilities and I also was always in collaboration with TeddyThotz. I am truly grateful to TeddyThotz for their kind support because administration and accounting tasks can kill creativity.
#Breakthebias is the campaign for this year’s International Women’s Day. What are some misconceptions people have about you?
People use the words “mute” and “dumb” thinking that we cannot speak, but we do make sounds which may or may not be clearly understood by others. I prefer to be referred to as “Deaf” instead of hearing impaired, which is the term doctors use. We always get “I am sorry” from people when we tell them that we are Deaf, but there’s really nothing to apologise for. Instead, we will appreciate it when people use their handphone to write something rather than walk away.
How did you come to meet the other crafters at DAC? Can you share any interesting stories, if any?
I was introduced to other deaf artists through Very Special Arts and my deaf friends. They were so talented, so I decided to help them sell their crafts at DAC physical bazaars.
One day, I happened to display our deaf, elderly artist’s postcard of a Singapore scenery painting at the DAC booth. A man bought it without knowing that it was painted by a deaf, elderly artist! He was impressed when I introduced this deaf artist to him and asked to have a photo taken with the artist. It was a proud moment for the artist! So touching!
The UN theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”, how do you incorporate sustainability in your craft and events?
DAC collaborated with TeddyThotz to hold craft workshops as part of a green event by EcoKnight SG. We taught the public how to make owl pendants and flower brooches out of old newspapers, and friendship bracelets out of used plastic bags. To our surprise, the workshops were well-received! People were surprised that we could communicate just by using gestures.
They didn’t fail to thank us and it warmed our hearts! It was a good learning experience for us.
Do you have a strong woman that you look up to in your life? Tell us more about her!
Many years ago, Very Special Arts had a mentor-student project. I had the chance to learn about clay sculpting from my mentor Miss *Han Sai Por who is a very well-known sculptor.
(*Han Sai Por is one of Asia’s leading modern sculptors and a recipient of Singapore’s prestigious Cultural Medallion. You might have come across her sculptures in local public places such as One Raffles Quay, Changi Airport Terminal 3 and Istana)
I really admire her great passion for sculpting despite her age. I hope I will be like her – never giving up on my passion.
How do you think we can contribute to making society less biased and more inclusive?
I hope you buy our products not out of pity. We will be happy if you appreciate our efforts in creating, but please do not not try to ask for impossible prices!
You can also invite us to display our creations at special events or conduct workshops at offices or schools (we do not have our own studio).
My dream is to have an art studio with a gallery to conduct arts and crafts workshops for both Deaf and Hearing persons, creating a space for Deaf and Hard of Hearing persons to practice and showcase our art.
Shop other products made by amazing women here!
Follow Mimi on social media!
Instagram – www.instagram.com/deaf_artscraftsy
Learn more about the deaf and hard of hearing here: www.sadeaf.org.sg
Happy International Women’s Day!
Written by Sheena Hong