There are many reasons why people choose to join the family business over personal ambitions. It could be a sense of duty, obligation or genuine interest from repeated exposure that steers one towards dreams of dynasty building. Sara Ang, director of Synergraphic—the glass and design studio founded by her mother—was motivated by love.
“When I was 9 or 10 years old, I remember going to the supermarket with my mother, and her credit card was declined at the checkout. We had to go through the stuff and pick out the things we needed most, all while people were waiting in line behind us,” Ang recalls. “Having watched mum suffer for her cause, I came to admire her spirit of hope and optimism. It’s so unreal how strong and generous she has always been. Subconsciously, I took it upon myself to fulfil her dream.”
Ang’s mother, Florence Ng, founded Synergraphic Design in 1986, creating handmade glass pieces on a small scale. She joined the company in 2012, when Synergraphic was already taking on complex projects, such as feature walls and glass art installations, for clients like UOB and the Taj City Centre Gurugram hotel in India.
But she couldn’t have chosen a more challenging time to join the ranks. According to Ang, competition was intense both locally and overseas. Additionally, there was resistance among staff when change was being implemented. With her mum’s support, she survived her years-long trial by fire.
But Ang is made of sterner stuff than her diminutive build and soft, mellifluous voice would otherwise have you think. In 2018, she resolved to transform the company into one that would endure after her mother, its creative force, retires. Her strategy? Build the right team and focus on diversification.
She let go of those who weren’t willing to commit to the new processes and direction, launched a more affordable arm called SynerG, scrapped it when it failed, learned from the mistake, revamped Synergraphic Design’s offerings and established ArtéGlas. The new business unit opens the world of glass art to homeowners and collectors through its bespoke art, sculpture and objet d’art services. She also set up an additional business offering aluminium and glazing works for building facades, and is now working with a local industrial designer for an upcoming brand of glass furniture that will be announced by end this year.
“Our company culture finally started changing last year,” she beams. Maybe her mother’s sunny disposition had rubbed off on Ang, or perhaps she developed a natural confidence after enduring the hardships of business uncertainty and failure. Whichever the case (or both), Ang is excited about this year and hopeful for the future.
The United Nations has declared 2022 as the International Year of Glass (IYOG), and Ang, a member of the Singapore Glass Association, is spearheading the association’s IYOG activities. “Traditional companies, like European brands steeped in history and heritage, are very good at what they do, but they often specialise in selected techniques. We may not have that history, but because of my mother’s resourcefulness and creativity, we have combined materials and processes to generate new things, and that makes us unique,” she shares. “I am currently working with the association to plan exhibitions, workshops and collaborations for the end of the year.
Fluid: The Adaptability of Synergraphic
From an art glass studio founded in 1986, hand-making decorative objects for living spaces, Synergraphic soon expanded to meet a growing demand for the incorporation of artistic glass into interior design and for placemaking. All the while innovating and adopting new technologies and imagining new ways of synergising art into glass, one thing has remained constant for the family-run glass design studio: creating works of beauty, ranging from art installations, sculptures, features, and objet d’art.
|1993||Organised Singapore’s first national glass art exhibition Glass: Passage of Evolution at The Design Centre|
Launched Jewelry Line, distributed at Tangs
|1996||Purchased and moved to current premises in Changi|
Built Crystal Pyramid in Brunei
|1999||Launched LamiArt and other product ranges including Sandblasted Textures, Kilnformed Series, GEMS Collection|
|2002||Set up Hot Glass Studio in Chengdu, China|
|2004||Began hosting artist residencies in Singapore|
|2020||Launched ArteGlas, an e-commerce platform retailing art walls, lifestyle accessories and objets d’art|
Started Aluminum and glazing business unit for building facades
|2021||Launched The Glass Academy, offering workshops and classes in glassmaking|