Instagrammers’ Top Tips: 5 Apps That Make Your Photos Look Great

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A good photo can be made great with the right filter and digital tools. We ask five popular Instagrammers to tip us off on their favourite photo-enhancing apps that will make your treasured images that much more appealing.

For food and travel photos

1. Trisha Toh:
Trisha Toh (@trishates) is a freelance food stylist and self-taught photographer based in Kuala Lumpur. Her clean, minimalist aesthetics and creative styling have led to professional assignments with clients such as Double Tree by Hilton and Chatime Malaysia.

Trisha’s favourite app:
“TouchRetouch, especially the ‘Disappear’ tool, which is extra magical as it cleans out all stains that are visible on white plates”.

For selfies

2. Sazzy Falak:
Actress and TV host Sazzy Falak (@sazzyfalak) regularly graces the covers of fashion magazines. She is currently hosting ‘How Do I Look Asia’ on Diva Universal.

Sazzy’s favourite app:
“Photo Wonder has several fantastic tools, namely Slimify, Blemish Fix, and Make-Up that let you slim the body and enhance the face”.

For lifestyle photos

3. Jason Goh:
Jason Goh (@smashpop) is café-hopping photography, design, gadget and travelling enthusiast. His Instagram feed is filled with appetising food and coffee images, and uplifting lifestyle photos and portraits. He also runs a YouTube channel where he posts short videos, musicals, and talks about technology.

Jason’s favourite app:
“I use VSCO cam to further enhance my photos with filters. I then finish them with additional basic editing like contrast, temperature and brightness.”

4. Chenelle Wen
Chenelle Wen (@chenellewen) is a lifestyle blogger who writes about travel, fashion and beauty, the same areas she focuses on in her Instagram account. The avid traveller believes that good photos help keep stories alive and have the power to evoke good memories.

Chenelle’s favourite app:
“I like to use Snapseed as it lets me adjust the brightness and contrast of a part of a photo”.

For stylish, dramatic photos

5. Joyce Wong of KinkyBlueFairy:
Joyce Wong (@joycethefairy) started KinkyBlueFairy as a personal lifestyle blog in 2004. It currently operates as a boutique creative agency that is divided into three major arms that occasionally interweave with each other: Social media/blog; public relations and events; retail store.

Joyce’s favourite app:
“I like Afterlight for its light flare option, which is one of the many additional texture filter options available. You can customise the orientation, hue, and opacity”.

Pen To Paper: Learning The Art Of Calligraphy In Kuala Lumpur

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Calligraphy used to be “that boring thing only old people do or know how to do” but it is gaining popularity among the younger generation these days. Not to be confused with lettering, calligraphy is basically the writing of letters with smooth strokes using a calligraphy pen or brush pen. I have always been fascinated by calligraphy. Not only is it visually stunning, the art of decorative writing is also the reason why modern personal computers have the wonderful typography that they do today. Calligraphy also gives everything that precious personal touch.

Is it difficult to learn calligraphy? How long would it take to hand craft a message? Does it require the patience of a saint? Kuala Lumpur’s increasingly vibrant artisanal scene has seen the rise of several calligraphy workshops that are held quite regularly.

Who & what
I attended one such class, organised by Jil Sta. Ana (Inks and Letters) and Inez Tan (Inez Calligraphy). Their five-hour long #KLigraphy workshop was held at APW Bangsar, a repurposed 63-year-old commercial printing factory located about five minutes from Bangsar LRT station.

How it went
As I walked inside the space where the workshop was held, the seats had already been assigned so I only had to look for the calligraphy kit with my name on it. There were 10 participants altogether; some came alone, some came with their friends, and there was even a married couple who came all the way from Singapore.

Jil started by outlining what the workshop entailed and briefed us on their golden rule of basic copperplate: Press on the downstroke, release on the upstroke. Basically we’re told to make thick, straight downward strokes with full pressure on the nib and thin, straight upward strokes with no pressure on the nib. The entire workshop revolved around us doing basic copperplate, which is a style of neat, round handwriting that’s usually slanted and looped, the thick and thin strokes being made by pressure with a flexible metal nib.

Not only is it visually stunning, the art of decorative writing is also the reason why modern personal computers have the wonderful typography that they do today. Calligraphy also gives everything that precious personal touch.

We kicked off with a little warm up by practising with pencils, or what is known as pencil drills. We executed the most basic strokes and loops in calligraphy, which is the easiest part for beginners. After several pages of pencil exercise, Jil and Inez taught us how to prepare the nibs so we could start using the oblique holder, a calligraphy pen that’s beginners start with. Compared to the straight holder, the oblique holder puts the point of the nib more squarely on the pen. This is important, especially with shaded lettering as you want even, fluid, graceful strokes and ideal for doing copperplate because it is at a 54- to 55-degree angle. Do note, however, that this applies mostly to those who are right handed.

What I liked about it
The instructors were very attentive to every student and would come by to check on our progress, guide us on the correct way to insert the nib and clean it, hold or angle a holder and do the strokes, among other things. The atmosphere was fun and relaxing too, with cool music in the background and good lighting.

I also enjoyed using the colourful inks that were provided, and getting to execute some modern calligraphy at the end of the workshop. Unlike the basic copperplate, modern calligraphy has no particular rule so you’re free to play around with it and create your own style.

The challenges
I found holding and angling the oblique holder to be the trickiest part of the class, but thankfully, Inez or Jil would stop by occasionally to correct my technique.

I also had trouble with my M and N – they were not legible, and it was hard to distinguish between them. It stressed me out, until it finally dawned on me that I’m supposed to relax, enjoy the moment, and set perfection aside. Jil had told us earlier about a previous participant who accidently drank the walnut ink we used in the class, mistaking it for her coffee as she was too focused on perfecting her calligraphy! “Strive for progress, not perfection”, said a quote printed on the workshop handouts. I took it to heart.

Would I recommend it?
Overall, I’m glad to invest my money in such a creative endeavour. The workshop made me discover myself, particularly a personal trait that I probably should do without lest my creativity and progress be stifled: I realised that I’ve always been pretty tough with myself whenever I don’t get something right. It taught me that I should enjoy the present instead of worrying about the outcome too much that it kills any chance for creativity.

The entire class took about five hours to complete, which seemed like an awfully long time at first but at the end of it, I understood why. The organisers really took their time to get into the nitty-gritty of calligraphy and explain the beauty of the craft. Calligraphy is an ongoing process; practically no one gets the strokes right the first time but practice makes perfect but over time – that’s where the five hours come in – your strokes become less awkward.

5 Artisanal Classes In Asia To Boost Your Creativity

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Asia is rich with traditions, and learning centuries-old craftsmanship techniques not only gives you insight into the region’s greatest treasures and cultures, it can also boosts your creativity. You don’t have to wait until New Year to try new experiences. We’ve rounded up five fascinating artisanal classes in Asia that you can take now:

1. Make wagashi with a prominent Japanese patissier
If you’re a fan of the dainty, intricate Japanese sweets, you’re going to love making batches of wagashi with Chikara Mizukami, a world-renowned confection expert. The session, which lasts for two hours, offers you the chance to visit Mizukami’s shop and explore the beautiful philosophy behind the preparation of wagashi, in addition to creating your own wagashi with his guidance. Transportation, professional photography, and kimono are also provided upon request.

2. Create Korean pottery with renowned artist Yi Yoon-Shin
Korean ceramic artist Yi Yoon-Shin is the founder of Yido, a famous ceramic-ware company that produces handmade ceramics made from 100% natural materials. Her product’s signature look emphasises on simplicity without unnecessary decorative elements, a nod to minimalism and practicality. At the Yido Academy, you get to learn the art of traditional Korean pottery and bring your masterpiece home.

3. Learn medieval bookbinding with Bynd Artisan
Medieval bookbinding is not for the impatient ones. The process is highly detailed and requires concentration as you use a sewing frame to stitch different sections of paper together and accentuate the raised bands at spine with a piece of natural grained leather. You’ll come up with a duo tone notebook at the end of the day. Workshop dates are subject to change so check in from time to time.

4. Learn the art of Indonesian batik making and natural dyes with Agus Ismoyo
Who would’ve thought that batik making could be such a spiritual journey? Organised by Threads Of Life, the 5-day workshop will be taught by batik experts Agus Ismoyo and Nia Fliam. You’ll learn Java’s ancient Three Worlds creative process called Tribawana, a three-fold process that requires you to look for the source of creative inspiration within yourself, to develop an intuitive connection with the natural world, and to discover a personal spiritual connection with the creative source.

In addition to that, you’ll also learn how to dye and prepare dye with fresh indigo from the dye garden, use sustainably sourced Ceriops dyes that form the basis of the brown tone in Central Javanese batik, explore Indonesia’s indigenous red dye from the root bark of Morinda citrifolia and prepare for the 2-month oiling process, and learn the use of Symplocos plant-based alum mordant.

5. Learn the art of tea pairing with Vivian Mak
In certain cultures, knowing the art of tea pairing is imperative if you want to make a good impression and be seen as cultured. Vivian Mak, a tea master based in Hong Kong, offers four types of tea pairing workshops: tea pairing with chocolates, tea pairing with pastries, tea pairing with delicatessens, and tea pairing with different cuisines from around the world. Pairing the right tea with your food could also lead to greater vitality, which you’ll learn more about at Mak’s workshops.

10 Christmas indulgences from Liberty of London

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Founded in 1875 by Arthur Lasenby Liberty, Liberty is a luxury department store located in London’s West End. The fashionable store carries its own line of products as well as a wide range of luxury goods, from cosmetics to furniture, by designer brands such as Alexander McQueen, Chloe, Lanvin, and Kate Spade.

During its early days, the store was mostly selling objets d’art, fabric and ornaments brought in from the East. With exotic clientele that includes renowned Pre-Raphaelite artists, it wasn’t unusual when the founder had 42 Indian villagers at his store and staged a living village of Indian artisans to generate sales and publicity.

Liberty later built relationships with English designers, particularly the ones practicing the artistic styles like Art Nouveau or Arts & Crafts. Through these relationships where Liberty encouraged the designers in their artistic pursuits, he helped them develop the style to perfection.

Fast forward to our time, the store’s signature Art Nouveau-style finish is featured on its many bags, purses, scarfs and other small accessories produced in-house. We found 10 exclusively hand pick items and designed by Liberty London products for you to indulge in this Christmas:

1. Carnaby Saddle Bags
The compact cross body bag is inspired by the Ianthe design with a chic Art Nouveau-style finish.

2. Monica Vinader Gold-Plated Signature Bangle
The Monica Vinader Signature bangle blends directional design with effortless style. The handcrafted design is a bold new statement from the British jewellery brand mixing strong, clean lines with flowing curves, making it both modern and feminine. A modernist inspired piece which can be stacked and styled.

3. Vintage Radio – Roberts Revival Radio
Fresh sounds meet vintage styling; the Liberty Flowers design have given the iconic Roberts ‘Revival’ radio a heritage makeover in the quinessential floral prints. The retro design takes full advantage of the latest technology with full DAB functionality, excellent sound quality and 120 hours of battery life: truly portable and a must for life on the go.

4. Santal 33 by LE LABO
New York-based French perfumiers Le Labo create sensual unisex scents that evoke wild open plains, rugged landscapes and open fires. Under the delicate top notes of iris and violet in Santal 33 lies a heart of spice, sandalwood and smouldering musk – buy a hand-blended bottle from our counter and adorn with a personalised message.

5. Wristlets | The Alphabet Collection
The Alphabet Collection by Liberty features decorative initials (from A-Z) and various prints emblazoned on tote bags and wristlets.

6. Nike x Liberty Air Max
A classic silhouette with a modern twis, a distinct update in your fitness gear Nike x Liberty Air Max 1 Ultra trainers – featuring tan leather and a springtime-ready floral Liberty print, these trainers are bound to stand out amongst the crowd.

7. Iphis Notebooks and 2017 Diaries
Made of leather, the Iphis notebook features the elegant Iphis print, while the luxurious 2017 diary features the Ianthe design embossed on its covers with lined ivory pages inside.

8. Liberty Scarf Styling Cards
Nicely packaged in their iconic purple box, the scarf styling cards features a set of 13 cards with info on how to wear and tie each style.

9. Imran Silk Pocket Square
The soft silk pocket square features the iconic Imran design emblazoned on it.

10. Luxury Soap
Bathroom essential, individually wrapped in art deco style Liberty Print soaps are the perfect gift or bathroom accessory.

Happy Shopping at Liberty London!

9 Tokyo gourmet souvenirs

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Everyone knows that Japan is the land of everything adorable and refined, from its pop-culture to its culinary. The intricacies of the Japanese food design and presentation are a sight to behold. When it comes to gift giving, the Japanese often take it very seriously, and gift giving is itself an art with every little detail taken into account.

When in Tokyo, check out the lovely selections of gourmet souvenirs which are perfect for almost any special occasion, be it for birthdays, business functions, or Christmas parties. These gourmet souvenirs are unique and can only be found in only in Tokyo.

The food sections of department stores, confectionery shops, airport terminals or even train stations are a treasure trove filled with artisanal sweet delights waiting to be discovered!

1. Kabuki Pattern-Wrapped Okaki
Okaki are Japanese rice crackers that are either baked or fried, typically seasoned with salt and pepper. For gift giving, you can buy okaki wrapped in pochibukuro envelope featuring the pattern of a kabuki costume.

Get them at: Kakiyama

2. Kuya Monaka
Kuya Monaka is a speciality sweet with thick homemade azuki bean paste as filling and two crunchy outer shells. Because they’re often sold out, it’s best if you place an order beforehand. Check out other seasonal Japanese treats as well.

Get them at: Kuya

3. Tokyo Banana Sponge Cake
The light and fluffy sponge cake by Tokyo Banana is pretty similar to Twinkie, but with more unique flavours to choose from, including almond milk cream, caramel and maple banana. The sponge cakes come in various decorative patterns, like the giraffe-patterned and cheetah-patterned cakes.

Get them at: Tokyo Banana

4. Original RaisinWich
The Original RaisinWich is a European-style sweets made of raisins and special cream for filling sandwiched by two vanilla-flavoured butter cookies. The products often sold out, so it’s highly recommended that you place your reservation in advance.

Get them at: Paris Ogawaken

5. Handkerchief-Wrapped Assorted Candies And Nuts
The Japanese truly take pride in gift-wrapping, as seen in how they’d wrap gifts using patterned handkerchiefs. You can mix and match candies, nuts and even tea bags in a box wrapped in gorgeous patterned handkerchiefs.

Get them at: Mamegui

6. Tokyo Balm Tree Box
The Little Balm Tree is a small sponge cake on a stick that comes in various flavours, including chocolate and caramel. During festive seasons, the cakes often come in special packaging, with two to six cakes each box.

Get them at: Nenrinya

7. Walnut Cookies
Packaged in boxes with adorable illustrations of squirrels, the walnut cookies by Seikotei come in two different flavours, walnut and chocolate walnut, with four to ten cookies in a box. The boxes often feature different illustrations based on holiday seasons. If you’re not a fan of nut-based cookies, check out their cheese or coconut cookies.

Get them at: Seikotei

8. Crispy Karinto
Karinto is a deep-fried snack flavoured with brown sugar and is crispy in texture. The karinto sold at Azabu often have a very long queue, but it’s worth the wait!

Get them at: Azabu Karinto

9. Japanese Butter Cookies
The Japanese butter cookies are light, delicate, and semi-sweet powdered with various flavours such as sweet potato, wasanbon (Japanese fine-grained sugar), matcha, and strawberry. The cute and buttery cookies come in attractive traditional packaging.

Get them at: Wa.Bi.Sa

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