When Ms Cheryl Tan, 29, started sharing her embroidery artworks on Instagram, she never thought that this simple hobby of hers would turn into a full-time job. 

The Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts fashion design graduate worked as a visual merchandiser for 9 years before realizing that her embroidery works were courting interest from the online community. Her Instagram page now has more than 10,000 followers.

“My Instagram platform was really to showcase my artworks, but then people started to approach me for workshops and custom orders, so it sort of grew into different opportunities,” said Ms Tan, who eventually decided to quit her job and focus on embroidery. 

One of the most notable orders she has taken is making customized floral embroidery as a wedding gift for more than 50 guests. 

She also added that the increasing popularity of the craft has made it possible for her to have a sustainable income that is roughly the same as her previous job. 

Turning art into bedtime stories for her kids

The proudest work Ms Tan has done so far is her Merlion series, where each piece of embroidery has a story to be told. 

“I came up with this Merlion series because I wanted to infuse some stories behind it,” she said.

Merlion in Hawaii by Cheryl Tan

“I have this Hawaiian theme, the mermaid theme, the party theme, and the local hawker culture theme, which is all trying to reimagine the Merlion.”

Merlion Mermaid by Cheryl Tan

Merlion Party by Cheryl Tan

Hawker Culture themed Merlion by Cheryl Tan

“My kids also love the Merlion so it’s like a way to tell them bedtime stories,” Ms Tan added. 

Photo Credits: Cheryl Tan

Some of the art that she uses to tell stories are even inspired by her 2 children, ages 3 and 5.

“They are into this planet, space, galaxy theme and they will watch the videos everyday continually,” she said, adding that it gave her the idea of making a piece dedicated to her children. 

“I wanted to do something that I can embroider and then tell them a story after that, which is why I wanted to do something inspired by them.”

Influence from grandmother’s Peranakan culture

Ms Tan’s passion in making crafts was first kindled by her grandmother during her childhood years. 

“Crochet, knitting as well as sewing were something that my grandma taught me.” 

Having such a deep connection with her grandmother since young, Ms Tan wanted to incorporate her grandmother’s Peranakan heritage into the art she makes.  

“My embroidery is inspired by my grandma’s Peranakan culture, so I wanted to use the Peranakan essence and make it into something more contemporary and modern,” she said.

Ms Tan specifically took the element of beading found in Peranakan clothing such as the Peranakan beaded slippers. 

“I like to use a lot of beads, but I use them in a more colorful way like the Peranakans would do, such as having pastel and more vibrant colors.” 

Future career goals

While her Instagram page has provided more opportunities for her art career, Ms Tan has a few plans in mind to take it further.

“In a few years’ time, I hope to have a shop whereby I have space to do workshops and sell craft products”.