By Penny K
To some the pursuit of art is but lofty ambition but doing it for charity too, now that’s a different story.
Deft hands, passionate heart
Aovana Timmerman (née Hong), 34, is a Singaporean who lives and works in Melbourne. Like all individuals with multiple passions, Aovana wears several hats. She is a full-time dentist but also creator of the label Arc En Ciel on Etsy which boasts a gorgeous collection of scarves handcrafted by her.
In fact, so good at making scarves is she that her pieces are put on display at art exhibitions in Victoria. To share with others her love for the art, she teaches felting at the scarf festival.
But it’s no wonder why Aovana is so good at what she does. She had an early head-start.
She says, “I grew up learning embroidery, hand sewing, crocheting and knitting from my mum and auntie. My mum used make dresses and tops for me when I was little.” As if a sign of what was to come: her first exhibit in primary school was a hand knitted scarf.
The years have passed but Aovana hasn’t lost any of the love she had as a child for making things with her own two hands. Today, apart from scarves, she sews her own pyjama pants, felt clothing, makes her own handbags, jewellery and hair fascinators!
Go the distance
Aovana first moved to Melbourne in 1995 to go to university. Since then, she has settled there and calls it home. On her love for Melbourne she explains, “[It] is definitely a lot quieter as a city (compared to Singapore) and has an amazing arts, sports and music scene. It has many great cafes and restaurants as well. Space is abundant here as it is not so populated and you feel like there’s more space to breathe and think.”
Home is where the art is.
Aovana misses Singapore for the food (but of course), the fashion and the proximity to other Southeast Asian cities. And certainly she feels bound to Singapore for the fact that family and friends live here.
Considered accessory more than apparel, scarves tend to be forgotten. This is especially in Singapore where it is usually so hot, scarves hardly appeal to us.
But Aovana opened my eyes to the beauty of scarves. She explains, “A scarf definitely makes a fashion statement and defines you as a person.” Up till that point, I thought to myself, “well so do shoes” but she continued, “Also, it keeps you warm.”
Ok, I lose.
Aovana’s first ever winter scarf was from John Little. She needed it for a trip to China. The range was limited and she walked out disappointed.
Arc En Ciel is Aovana’s way of redressing the general lack of interest in scarves no doubt due to the lack of variety. She said, “I wanted to create a label selling scarves that were artistic and one-offs so that people could buy a scarf that nobody would have and also be able to afford scarves made with quality natural materials.” Another reason? “I think Singaporeans are generally fashionable and they wouldn’t want to wear an uncool scarf when traveling overseas.”
But there are just some pieces Aovana will not sell for any price. Some of these include the first scarf she felted and one that she accidentally threw into a washing machine and it turned into an amazing accidental work of art! She won the “Felted Fashions in the Field” award last year with the Victorial Feltmakers Inc by designing and making a nunofelt top made with wool and cotton. Needless to say, the top is also for her keeps. Other sentimental pieces are those she makes as gifts for family and friends.
Aovana donates ten per cent of her profits to The Lighthouse Foundation which is based in Victoria. The foundation helps homeless young people by providing live-in care and outreach programmes. Aovana chose to donate to this foundation as she was inspired by its founder, Susan Barton, who cared for children in her own home for 16 years.
Who knew scarves could warm the body and the heart?
Are you a dunce where it comes to the different types of fabric and wool? Let Aovana enlighten.
Aovana’s favourite material is polwarth wool. The polwarth sheep is Australia’s first breed of sheep and dates back to 1880. She describes it as “soft and fluffy”. She also regularly uses superfine merino wool, considered some of the finest and softest wool of any sheep in the world.
Fabrics in cotton, silk and lace are sourced by Aovana from local shops or recycled fashion. She only uses yarns that are made of wool, silk or cotton.
She explains, “I believe strongly in using natural materials instead of synthetic materials and interestingly, they feel better against the skin. I have also dyed my own fabrics with tea, coffee, onion skins, beetroot, eucalyptus leaves, pomegranate.”
To see more of Aovana’s works, check out Arc En Ciel, a little shop of love and colours that supports The Lighthouse Foundation here!