Monthly Archives: February 2014

Artistic Processes: Ancient Art Forms in Singapore

Kiratham 2014Singapore has been a “melting pot” as long as the Indians and Chinese were trading. The country stands proudly on a campaign of cultural harmony, and aims to be a petri-dish for artistic innovation in Asia.

With that in mind, we were introduced to an ancient art form, that rarely travels from in roots in Kerala, South India. Kathakali is believed to have been developed in the 1500s -1600s in South India. It is an improvisational, dance drama who’s stories depict epics derived from the Mahabharata and Ramayana.

Bhaskar’s Arts Academy, founded and based in Singapore, is one of only a handful of companies outside India that promote Kathakali and host a troupe of artists.

Here at Tulisan, we really admire the process behind any art form and Kathakali is a perfect example of how the process is just as important as the art itself. This weekend, we went behind the scenes to discover the process behind the mask.

Much like in Balinese Dance, the connection and artist has to his character is considered divine and very personal. Because the artist is not only dancing, but also acting, improvising and usually embodying a Hindu deity, the performers’ experience is like a meditation.

Kiratham 2014Every Kathakali performer is required to know how to play every character in the traditional 101 “plays” within the Kathakali repertoire. Traditionally, performers came from several different regions for a performance, and it is not until they start their make-up routine that the characters they will play are determined. This means that the artist should have a deep understanding of the literature in both the Mahabharata and the Ramayana and are able to take on any role at any point.

Kathakali is an incredibly extravagant and exaggerated art form and the costumes parallel this trend perfectly. Every character has a large, ornate head piece or crown, which are also indicators of who the characters are. A halo like crown being hero, a tribal headpiece for a tribes person, a veil for women.

They also wear large “tutu” like skirts that exaggerate their movements, and add an almost comedic clumsiness and as well as frighteningly, intimidating giantlike presence.

Kiratham 2014Kiratham 2014Perhaps, on of the most striking parts of the costume are the masks that they apply. In addition to emphasizing the facial expressions (these people have facial muscle control like I have NEVER seen) they serve as symbols to the audience about which character is which.

Kiratham 2014Green indicates a  benevolent or heroic character.
A black or red beard indicates a bad character or the villain.
Beige/Yellow indicates a saint or a female.
Black face indicates a tribal character.

Each step is preceded by a prayer including putting on the bells.

Kiratham 2014 Kiratham 2014The entire process of getting ready takes 2-3 hours. Although here in Singapore they are not able to practice this as often, the ritual usually includes an traditional oil massage, and the make-up is made by the artists themselves using natural products like realgar, indigo, kohl and coconut oil.

Kiratham 2014The lengthy and strenuous process of getting ready for a show is preceded by years and years of training, and research.

Bhaskar’s Arts Academy presented Kiratham on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at the Goodman Arts Center Blackbox Theatre to a full house.

The improvisational style leads to an incredibly funny and entertaining depiction of ancient Hindu epics. Kathakali is always presented with live percussion, and vocals which serve as the narration of the story. Aside from being thoroughly struck by the acting and dancing, the experience is also accented by music and vocals.

Bhaskar’s Arts Academy regularly produces Kathakali and other Classical Indian performances in Singapore and abroad. Check out their website and blog for more information!
Kiratham 2014
xx Gabbie 

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Inside Tulisan’s Creative Process #2

blog-coverStep 2: Writing the Stories 

Renowned author Neil Gaiman validates a thought that the process of gathering ideas is a combinatorial process. Meaning, everything made is build on whatever came before us, collecting and gathering pieces of inspiration and experience before being compiled into a new masterpiece. 


This also applies to Melissa Sunjaya’s writing process. At times, her story may be taken from an old Indonesian classical folkstale. But the actual creations are only processed through the archival of experience and stories she has favored since childhood.  


Since all the collection editions have its stories. Melissa would start through simple observation. She often takes two opposing ideas and combines it into the character development. “I would choose a state of mind or emotions. The actual subject, person and or character and would undergo these emotions.” She keeps a notebook with her at all times, and would scribble on the details of people she encounter, the way they strut their walk, the way they uplift their chin, to even the music or eating habits which would be incorporated as the additional flare to the story.  From here on, the process of writing would constantly develop with draft of stories that can extend to four or even seven revisions. After a couple of drafts, Melissa would often spend time to discuss each development with her team for feedback and improvisation. 


The takeaway from all her stories lies in how well she can evoke people’s emotions. Whether it is direct or underlying in pockets of her plots, she ensures her exploration of words remains in the mind and heart of her readers.

It takes more than finding a good idea to make a Tulisan product. Wait for more of our creative process in the weeks to come.

-The Tulisan Chronicles Team

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Luca is Back with our Newest Delivery: Light Coco & Smokey Night

LB_FW13_09BLOGYES! Luca is BACK for the last time with an appearance in Light Coco and Smokey Night!

LB_1206SL_ORG_01.jpg_effectedWe are really excited to be releasing Delivery V of our FW 2013/14 collection this Wednesday, February 19, 2014. We would love to invite you all to share brownies and hot tea with us at Darmawangsa Square from 9AM to 9PM to celebrate the launch of this delivery.

LB_1206LC_TSI_01.jpg_effectedLB_FW13_27BLOGSee you Wednesday!

xx The Tulisan Team

P.S. For those of you who can’t make it, we do delivery orders! Click here for our price list of available items and send your order to!

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Inside Tulisan’s Creative Process #1


Step 1: Preliminary Research and Sketching

As big appreciators of the arts and fashion, most of us are often consumed with the beauty a product presents to us without knowing the elementary stages on how a single bag or brand was formed.

At first glance, the bag at Tulisan may seem to be a simple and illustrated projection of our very own talented founder and illustrator, Melissa Sunjaya, but as French Writer Émile Zola explains, “The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work,” everything you see today in our store is a product of intense research before we, ourselves, can strut our way through the beauty of the Tulisan hand carried bags.


Preliminary Research

We agree the gift of the artist remains in the head and hands of creative Melissa Sunjaya, but as she confirms, every illustrated elements were delivered firstly through the constant development of a single idea. The initial steps is to capture her thoughts and infuse her emotions into the surrounding elements she finds – her inspiration can be formed by anything from Art Nouveau to old packages of cigarettes. She takes a further step by understanding varying elements in fashion, arts and culture, and observing consumer patterns to finally cross web her instincts into the context of Tulisan’s characteristics. For the “Love Letters of Roro Mendut” collection, the inspiration she took was based on elements revolving around royalty, emblems, and soft colour palettes.



Illustration remains the vital role in the designs of Tulisan’s product. From the selected forecast, Melissa and her team focus on the fashion elements and spends rigorous time in dissecting a proper way to present it visually. By focusing on a certain period highlighting women and royalty, she exhibits a classical Indonesian folks tale, Roro Mendut, emphasizing her sketches on three elements of cloves, chili, and the messenger bird. Here is where the process gets very technical. With the object selected from the research, various techniques of illustration – pointillism, cross-hatching, and vignette – are then explored to get the desired brush of patterns. As the process goes on, the evolution of the pieces comes to play through Melissa’s organic touch, sense of whimsy, and rich tones of both story and colour.


Look forward and be awed by more of Tulisan’s creative process for weeks to come.


The images above are sketches of how the collection “Love Letters of Roro Mendut” was developed. 

– Tulisan Chronicles Team

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Loving you all year long: A DIY Gift from the heart

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DSCF2822-topWith Pink and Red hearts plastered all over town, it’s hard to forget that Valentine’s day is approaching fast.

Romantics as we are, we love any excuse to love but as we started thinking about Valentine’s Day gifts for our lovers, and friends we started thinking about gifts that last longer than just a dinner, or date. We are not suggesting that the romantic dinner is unwanted. Candlelit dinner…uh YES, PLEASE! but love is more than just that dinner, and sometimes the off moments are when we need to know most.

So here is a suggestion for a long lasting, funny, cute and handmade, DIY gift that doesn’t take too long to make!

Open when… Cards.

DSCF2841Create as few or as many as you like, and put it somewhere your lover, or you can easily reach, and use them all year long.

They are super easy to make.

DSCF2818All you need are:

Small envelopes
Blank Cards/paper

We chose to put quirky little sayings, but make as personal as you want or make it simpler by doing away with the doodles.

Pair it with these sweet treats: Box of Love Homemade Banana Bread all wrapped up for the occasion.
DSCF2812-2Box of Love Homemade Banana Bread available at our Darmawangsa Square Shop for IDR 100.000/-


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Bibliofiles: East of Eden by John Steinbeck

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GAB-20130530-003Perhaps I should start by getting what’s obvious out of the way: John Steinbeck’s East of Eden is an intimidating book.  This is one of those books that we tend to acquire in roundabout ways.  Maybe it was a requirement to a syllabus, or a whim indulged at a book fair.  It’s the kind of book you casually thumb through and think, “I’ve heard good things about this and I should read it one of these days.”  But as some 600 pages rest between its covers, it’s not something you get to right away.

Having said that, this is the kind of book that once read sticks with you.  It is one of those books that you could read today and get a lot out of it and then pick up in ten years and discover you enjoy it even more.


East of Eden spans 60 years (c. 1860-1920) and is at once timeless and a time capsule.  It tells the semi-autobiographical tale of two families, the Hamiltons (based on Steinbeck’s own matrilineal heritage) and the Trasks (a fictional family).  Through their overlapping and intertwined existences we see the biblical tale of Cain and Abel unfold alongside universal themes of free will, betrayal, love, greed, and good vs. evil.

Steinbeck began writing the book for his two young sons in hopes that it would one day teach them both about themselves and where they came from, as well as enlighten them to the tortured ways the world works.  The juxtaposition of free will vs. fate courses through the text holding firmly to the plotline of each major character.  The main villain, Cathy Ames, would by today’s standards be labeled a sociopath.  Steinbeck introduces her with the sentence, “I believe there are monsters born in the world to human parents.”  While this book is by all accounts a masterpiece, it is not without a few flaws, and I believe Cathy’s character embodies one of them.  While the men grapple with the notion of free will both within the confines of their own psyches and out loud in some of the best conversations I’ve ever read, Cathy, who is central to the plot, never does.  She embodies evil, arguably making the point that evil isn’t able to fathom that goodness even exists; it’s just another weakness embraced by fools.  I wonder, how often do our perceptions blind us?

This brings up another interesting point.  Cathy believes that goodness is a weakness and this ultimately leads to her downfall.  There are several times in the book where perceived character strengths turn out to be weaknesses.  Take, for example, Cathy’s twin boys Cal and Aron, whom she abandons as infants when she shoots her husband and runs away to become a madam.  Cal (who if you haven’t read the book yet is a modern interpretation of the bible’s Cain) is generally hard to like and for his father harder to love, while Aron (you guessed it, the stand-in for Abel) is angelic both in stature and nature.  In the end the purity of Aron’s character leads to his undoing, while Cal acknowledges his own tendencies towards evil and comes away with a deep understanding of the meaning of life, while simultaneously reaping the benefits of free will.  Their own perceived strengths and weaknesses subvert themselves.  This is a relatable topic as life often has a way of making you face your demons, and occasionally they turn out to be friends rather than foes. Has this ever happened to you?

There were several times when I first picked up this book that I wanted to put it down for good. I had to remind myself that when the book was written, Freud was all the rage and women’s liberation hadn’t happened yet.  Idiosyncrasies aside, I couldn’t stay away for long.  Steinbeck was an incredibly deft writer.  Very few writers are able to make a character driven book a page-turner as well.  Never one to tie everything up neatly with a bow, he perpetually engages the reader by shifting story lines and inserting his own voice into the text.  The main characters (Hamilton patriarch Samuel, and my personal favorite, Cal) were so compelling that I had to see their stories through.


If you have read this book, what did you come away with? I found East of Eden to be a beautiful, sometimes tragic, often raunchy, and searingly honest comment on what should have and what ultimately does have the most meaning in life.


 xx Melany Zwartjes


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Sunday Lunch: Sweetheart Strawberry Popsicles

DSCF2071 copy.jpg_effected-001With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we wanted to whip up a festive and yummy treat that is great for a big party or just a couple enjoying a night together.

DSCF2060 copy.jpg_effected

Strawberries forever scream ROMANCE in my books (ok, they remind me of summer and strawberry picking too, but that’s another story). Cheesecake is one of my favorite desserts. Put the two together, ROMANCE and DESSERT and I’m all ears!

DSCF2040 copy.jpg_effectedGUYS LISTEN CAREFULLLY: If you forgot to make dinner reservations, and you are forced to stay in and cook your lady a meal, we have dessert covered! This recipe is so delicious, easy to make and it will definitely knock her socks off.

It does take a little while, simply because if you don’t have a popsicle mold and you decide to use a funky, vintage fork as the stick like we did, you will need to wait about 3 hours for the pops to solidify just enough to get the fork in to ensure that they stay upright.

DSCF2046 copy.jpg_effectedIngredients:
2 cups Fresh strawberries, washed & de-stemmed (depending on how many popsicles you are making also leave a few strawberries sliced lengthways to add a pretty little feature)
1/2 cup cream cheese
5 tbsp caster sugar
approx. 1 1/2 cups whipped cream (I made mine by whipping about 8oz whipping cream, a splash of vanilla and 1 tsp sugar in the blender)
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest

Puree strawberries, cream cheese, lemon juice & zest and the sugar in a blender until smooth.

Gently mix the puree and the whipped cream.

Place slices strawberries at the bottom of your mold (I used a massive ice tray from Crate and Barrel)

Divide the mixture into molds.

Freeze 3 hours, then add fork or stick.

Freeze another 3 hours.

Run the outside of your molds with some warm water to let the popsicles loose.

Serve COLD!

DSCF2081 copy.jpg_effected-002

Bisous xx


Photography by Urip

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Sunday Lunch: Gazpacho

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After a holiday weekend with family and friends, it’s sometimes nice to get a break from all the holiday food and have cool, light, nutritious yet DELICIOUS little meal.

DSCF2101.jpg_effected-002We decided to try a little twist on Gazpacho, a cold tomato soup!


It’s incredibly simple dish. Some slicing and a blender is all you need!

6 ripe tomatoes
2 large red bell peppers, seeded
1 large green bell pepper, seeded
1 cucumbers, peeled and seeded
1 small clove garlic
1 small red onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1 limes
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp Tabasco sauce or more to taste
1/2 tsp chili flake

Put everything in the blender, and blend until smooth.


Let it sit in the fridge for a minimum of two (2) hours or even better, overnight.

Serve cold!

DSCF2120.jpg_effected-001And that’s it!!

Hope you enjoy a lazy Sunday with your loved ones and maybe a good book.

Photography by Urip




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