#HelloTFP: Sim Xin Feng

by fingerplayers

#HelloTFP is a series of anecdotes where we introduce and share more about the members of the TFP family; from core team members to office interns. In this latest feature, we speak to our Maker, Sim Xin Feng, who has been part of our inaugural The Maker’s Lab, a nine-month programme to nurture and grow builders and designers of puppets and objects. Xin Feng shares with us more about her journey transitioning from acting into making, the art that has inspired her, and her love-hate relationship with the practice.

“The first time I tried making something was at 16. It was my interest in design that propelled me to attempt ‘making’ a costume for my O-Level Drama coursework, since there was no budget to rent one. The handiwork was rough and did not fit in the right places but I was proud of it. In our final year, the drama teacher asked us to write about our career paths and I wrote “Set or Prop Designer”. I never really thought much about it as I went on to pursue a career in graphic design.

I made a gradual shift towards making, some time in university. I remember watching a screening of National Theatre Live’s War Horse at Esplanade in 2015 and stepping out of the theatre thinking, “Wow. How did they make the horses? What did they use to make it?” I went home and binge-watched all the behind-the-scenes videos. Back then, I was also training with I Theatre’s Creative Edge Training Ensemble and I found myself becoming more interested in the how’s and why’s of the fabrication process than I did with performing. I was always examining the props and sets, trying to find out how a mask was made, how the scrim was built, how to hide the stitches on the prop… One day, I chanced upon the reality series Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge, and that was what sparked my interest in animatronics.

Xin Feng in Creative Edge’s showcase performance of Cat, Lost and Found, in 2016. Photo credit: Creative Edge Theatre Training Ensemble Facebook page.

After graduating from university, I interned at Cake Theatrical Productions and had the most enriching time there. Cake was known as the place to start if anyone wanted to learn about props and set-making. Prior to my internship, I took on some external projects involving prop and set fabrication. I was all ready to sell my soul to the corporate world when I came across the article announcing The Finger Players’ restructuring and found that there were plans for a making programme, so I decided I would apply for it. I wanted to find a way to marry what I had learnt in school with what I wanted to do, and explore the idea of incorporating animatronics into puppetry for the stage. The Maker’s Lab has helped me become more independent as a maker and more sensitive towards the use of materials. I will definitely be more mindful of the types of materials I choose and how it will affect other aspects of the project.

Xin Feng working with Piggy, a rod puppet, during The Maker’s Assembly #2: Design

Some pointers I will bring along with me: (1) the importance of picking the right material to meet your needs, (2) how two materials interact with one another, (3) how the sounds produced by materials affect another or other stakeholders of the production, (4) how the weight of each material (no matter how small), contributes to the weight of the end-product, etc. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from the people at The Finger Players.

I have a love-hate relationship with making, especially during the process of prototyping. It comes with a lot of trial and error. Sometimes you get it right on the first try, but sometimes the tenth. The countless number of failures is, at first, discouraging but rewards you with little lessons that you will remember for a long, long time.”