Flick, flick, flick.
A single tape moves between dozens of other neatly laid out tapes, pulled along by a slim hand and an even slimmer needle. As she pulls a tape through, a soft flick could be heard, creating a meditative rhythm. Involuntarily, it reminded me of how we ourselves weave in and out of millions of encounters — big and small alike — forming a beautiful tapestry called life. It may be dull and brown most times, but sometimes a surprise follows the dullness, a bright pink or silver tape standing out from the others.
Even amidst the murky hues, there are varying shades, just as our day to day life have minute differences that make each day so special — when we scrutinise the details.
J.J, a craftswoman and an activist, spends her days up-cycling old cassette tapes into woven pieces of material. She had since turned her passions, inspirations and compassion into an innovative idea. Her love for fashion design led her to think of creating a piece of material, for a single material can be used to craft so many things — the backbone of every creation.
“ When you make one innovative material, you can make anything out of it subsequently.”
Inspired by those around her, she wished to keep memories alive, wished to create something as meaningful as those who came before her in the zero-waste fashion industry.
“ We, (J.J and her friends studying in Melbourne), used these cassettes as a medium for communication, recording what we wanted to say and sending it to each other. When I found those tapes, they are a part of my memory that I really want to keep.”
Lastly, but probably the most important ingredient, is compassion, for she strives to reduce waste and create a better environment for the future, hence came about the MusicCloth®, a garment made from weaving discarded cassette tapes.
“ These tapes, once they go to the landfills, they can’t be recycled. With this MusicCloth®, we can actually help to reduce related e-waste.”
Obviously, nothing comes easy. An idea is but a seed that takes root; for it to grow, it requires patience and initiative. From learning how to weave, to even collecting the required material — the cassettes — the hurdles prove to be disconcerting. The first MusicCloth® was messy. Using a traditional knot-tying technique to tie up loose ends ended up unappealing, and that is a no-no for anything that touches fashion. Although it was accepted and crowned the seventh most innovative design in Material ConneXion, a library that houses innovative material ideas, J.J did not stop there. After numerous errors, tribulations, they finally refined their idea.
The MusicCloth® now is clean around the edges, flat, and has an incredible texture that is most intriguing. I can’t help but touch the cloth over and over, for it feels lightweight and delicate, yet tough and firmly holding together. From this piece of cloth, she has made a 2-meter long piece and a dress for exhibition. Some of her other notable works include a scoresheet notebook and a scarf. These are ways in which her MusicCloth® has evolved.
Her MusicCloth® has brought her to Shanghai, Lisbon, TEDx at Sungei Segget and many more. She first started out in Singapore, her first flea market being MAAD, the market of artists and designers, as well as Red Dot Museum. Through her workshops with Airbnb Experience, she teaches others her art and skill, spreading the joy of weaving to others. She plans to bring this education, about cassette tapes and sustainable fashion, to a larger audience in Singapore. Furthermore, she hopes to be able to hook up with charity organisations and schools to make it a part of the younger generation’s education.
And if, one day, the cassettes truly run out, then J.J believes, it’s a good ending. She would have done her part to reduce e-waste on the planet.
Perhaps then, when that happens, she should try weaving emptied correction tapes.