Azelia Ng Wei Zhen, is a graphic designer based in Singapore. She studied at London College of Communication BA Hons Graphic and Media Design and graduated in 2018. Azelia now works primarily in the field of graphic design but isn’t defined by it. She finds herself coming back to researching the book as an investigation and explores experimental publishing and artist’s books. In this Featured Grad post, she talks about how she has continued her practice after graduating from LCC and how she is working within the times of COVID 19.
1. Tell us about yourself. Have you always made art?
I do enjoy the art of making things and that to me is making art, which I guess started at a young age as I’ve always been curious about the things around me, especially in form, texture, and tactility.
I’m a (graphic) designer, the reason for the brackets is the acknowledgment not to be pigeonholed by a single definition but rather one that expands and changes from time to time. The work that I do is print-centric but the principles that drive them are the synergy between craftsmanship, ideation, and the experience that resonates with people.
2. How did you get started in bookbinding?
It was one of the assignments on the course to interpret a classic read, The Machine Stops by E.M Forster a short story, which became a revelation of my relationship with the book as I explored book design. In time I was engaged in everything and anything to do with the book medium, from designing to making a book.
Most of all it’s therapeutic and fun. The tangible appearance of the final object once all the pages are folded, put into its sequence and sewn together does oddly fascinate me—as if I could control time and space within the book.
3. Who are your biggest influences?
Irma Boom (Book Designer) + Tauba Auerbach (Artist and Book Artist) + Rahel Zoller (Book Artist + Bookmaker) = Respectable women in the realms of books. When it comes to their approach in the way they do things or the conceived idea, these ladies never fail to bring a pleasant surprise. Through their work, I understand that good + thought-provoking work does not happen by chance, they are the result of careful thought and meticulous attention to detail.
Essentially, the experience that people encounter in context to the subject matter is what influences the work I do. Designing for the senses requires intricate detail and the book medium embodies lots of potentials which is probably why I’m so interested in it—the paper; its weight, colour, opacity, texture; the typeface and how the final design floats on white space. Also, don’t get me to start on the reading experience or the binding.
4. Where do you make work now that you’ve graduated?
At the moment it’s my little nest, my bedroom, and makeshift studio, where I engage my hands in making, working and playing. With the current situation of COVID-19, I think many people are working from home and it has since become the new norm, possibly a post-COVID-19 condition.
My workspace is organized with everything essential reachable at arm’s length (also the space I have isn’t very big as well) and mainly three areas – the digital, craft and library sections. In the digital section, I have the main desk, a glass table, to do daily work with the computer, Wacom, stationeries, important documents and underneath it is an A3 printer, which I use to do test prints of the mockups that I’m making.
On my left is the craft area, a flat cabinet, used as a table with a cutting mat on top and it’s where I keep the necessary tools involved in tangible experiments—binding tools, adhesives, paint, paper, brush and etc… This is where I do my experiments + mockups, making and creating in the physical form. Lastly, I’ve got a personal library, with books of my interest and books collected during my travels in different countries.
In a workspace, it is important to organise it to one’s workflow, and for me, I needed additional space, like a workshop area, where I focus on physical experiments without the need to clean up or shift things around just to do day to day things.
5. Looking back on your time at LCC, what advice would you to yourself if you could travel back in time?
Firstly, do not rely just on computers to realize your project but rather utilise the many facilities in LCC to its fullest potential – BookArts, Letterpress, Screenprinting or the 3D workshops. As a designer, it is important to know the process required in the production of the work into its physical format. It better informs one’s practice by the understanding of variables in materiality and print production which can alter/ affect the final piece, to design with those variables in mind and to challenge them.
Lastly, always talk to the technicians, they are charming and one of the most interesting bunch within the school compound (tutors? not as much). Every technician has something different to offer, be it their life experiences or the comfort and advice they bring in the stressful period of submissions. They are also like spies living double lives, having things lined up outside of their day job—some are established artists.
6. Where can we see more of your work?
Since graduation, I’ve worked on commercial work in local design studios in Singapore, and outside of work I’ve participated in exhibitions and have organized a ‘Book Talk: Behind the Book’ at National Design Centre but at moment I’m preparing to open a tiny online shop, The Other Studio, turning my bedroom into a studio to create and make things.