Handmade In a Mechanised World: REwinding Cassettes into Art

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.

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