From artistic photography to jute and batik bags — at Shop Howard

Howard at Shop Howard with his products. — Pictures by K.E.Ooi
Howard at Shop Howard with his products. — Pictures by K.E.Ooi

GEORGE TOWN, Aug 31 — He used to be a software engineer and photography was merely a hobby to express his creativity but today, Howard Tan is one of the leading artistic photographers known for his bright colourful photography of scenes of George Town.

The 40-year-old started displaying and selling his photography works at the Little Penang Street Market more than eight years ago and before long, he opened his own studio and shop in a shared space with glass artist, Fuan Wong, called Studio Howard along Armenian Street.

Last year, Studio Howard was closed as they search for a newer, larger space to relocate and he opened Shop Howard just around the corner from the old studio, along Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling.

Shop Howard is a showcase of all of Tan’s framed works along with an eclectic collection of souvenirs, pottery, costume jewellery, soap, photo books, postcards and his latest addition, jute and batik bags.

“I’ve been working with batik material for a very long time, making batik-covered boxes, frames and note pads so when I started designing bags with jute from old gunny sacks, I combined it with batik so that it is more comfortable to hold,” he said when describing his bags.

His jute and batik combination bags come in four different designs, Interestingly, the jute material are all from gunny sacks used for chilli, peanuts, coffee beans and other dry food ingredients.

Tan buys the jute materials from recycle shops and cleans them up before giving them, along with his own collection of batik material, to a local seamstress to sew it all together to make the bags.

Shop Howard's latest line of products, jute and batik bags.
Shop Howard's latest line of products, jute and batik bags.

Other than jute bags, he also uses recycled polyester bags used to store sugar, rice and flour, into unique tote bags.

Shop Howard also displays and sells items by other local artists and designers such as costume jewellery, pottery and also beaded batik bags.

“I want to offer quality local products and things that I bought from everywhere in Malaysia which I felt is (sic) interesting in my shop,” he said.

The shop has a small collection of photo books as well as volumes of printed and handmade books, showcasing photography works by various photographers.

Tan has already found a new space for his studio, to be shared with Wong and a few others, and he intends to start a section dedicated especially to photo books.

“These are books with only photographs that tell stories by the photographers with very little words,” he explained.

Howard will be introducing a new section of photobooks in his soon to be opened Studio Howard.
Howard will be introducing a new section of photobooks in his soon to be opened Studio Howard.

Photo books is a niche market but a growing one that can effectively showcase works of talented photographers so Tan hopes to also produce and sell limited edition photo books.

“These are limited edition works and some are hand-made editions by photographers from all over,” he said.

Visitors browsing at Shop Howard. — Picture by K.E.Ooi
Visitors browsing at Shop Howard. — Picture by K.E.Ooi

The new studio, located along the now busy Armenian Street, is scheduled to open in late September and it will be a showcase of not only Tan’s works but also works by Wong and other local artists, photographers and designers.

Find out more about Shop Howard and Studio Howard over at http://www.studiohoward.com.

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