Is it a bird? Is it a plane? NO! It’s SuperCorgi!
With a cheeky smile on his face, Super Corgi is a bundle of cheer. And with his red cape flapping in the wind and his round inflated tummy just waiting for a good scratch, Super Corgi is ready to bring joy to anyone who receives him.
Just like his maker, Chong Voon Ann (the designer behind Pocket Wonders Design) intended him to be, this small enamel pin seems to radiate sunshine. “I only started launching these pins late March and in just a little over a month, they’re almost all gone!” she says excitedly.
When I first met the bubbly 25-year-old, it’s her mismatched shoes (black on one foot and bright red on the other) that caught my eye. Wardrobe malfunction? I ask sympathetically. She throws back her head and laughs heartily before replying: “No, no! It’s just my style!”
“Her style” isn’t just limited to her colourful shoes, I soon realise. Decked in quirkily patterned clothing that can only be described as eccentric, her entire look might come off as odd to those who don’t know her.
“I’ve always been a very visual person since young,” she explains with a grin, before adding: “It may explain why I love making things with my hands. I love the texture and feel of things, and this has influenced the way I dress. I think!”
Her giggles are infectious. After reassuring me that I’m not the first to ask her if she had mistakenly put on the wrong pair of shoes (and I would most likely not be the last!), she eagerly shows me the wooden box that she had been tightly holding on to since she entered.
“This is my treasure box of miniature clay,” shares Chong in a half-whisper as she opens the cover with a dramatic flourish. From within, she pulls out a palm-sized hot air balloon with a hanging woven basket, all made from clay. “This is actually my very first corgi design,” she reveals while picking up a half thumb-sized clay dog that sits perfectly in the ‘basket’. “I’ve had so many people requesting for this corgi on my social media,” she confides, before continuing regretfully: “But I don’t have the time to create it for a mass market.”
She confides that she’s been crafting clay miniatures since her university days. “I wanted to expand this hobby and share with those who appreciate the craft,” says Chong, who confesses that it can be time consuming and a very demanding activity. “I’ve had to juggle this hobby with my full time job as a visual designer with an advertising company.”
But the challenges have not stopped her from creating the exquisitely-detailed and intricate pieces during whatever spare time she can spare. “When you love something, you find the time to do it. Even if it means slotting an hour here or there,” she says.
In addition to the little corgi in a hot air balloon, her collection also features a multitude of miniature food items: a plate of nasi lemak paired perfectly with a foamy cup of teh tarik; a bowl filled with fruits, cereal and milk that goes well with a glass of creamy milkshake. If you like, you can also opt for a plate of delicious pepperoni pizza. They look so real, I couldn’t help exclaiming, in awe of her detailed handiwork.
“I just love textures and I love studying them. For example, I’ll scrutinise the bubbles formed on the pizza dough, or the crackling on fried chicken,” she confides. “Mind you, I’m no cook! But I’m able to replicate food textures to the tee. And when I do, the satisfaction I get is indescribable.”
Patience is key
These miniatures are so perfectly formed that I wonder aloud if patience is a pre-requisite of this hobby. Smiling, Chong nods and replies: “Definitely! You’ll need all the patience you can muster to do something so minute and detailed.”
The lively designer confides that she has been able to cultivate such a high level of perseverance thanks to her parents whom she credits for constantly encouraging her and being so positive about her endeavours.
“My father is an architect and he used to bring me scraps from his office like paper or wood, and encourage me to create my own toys when I was younger,” she recalls fondly, before gleefully sharing that she even built her own dollhouse. “I loved art and drew a lot back then. I remember producing my own comics to entertain friends too!”
Enthusiastically, Chong tells me that she’s not the only creative one in her family. “My younger sister is a graphic designer. So perhaps the artistic gene is in our blood!” she exclaims with a chuckle. Her passion for the arts also extends to animation and photography. “My idol is Wes Anderson. I’m very drawn to his stop-motion animation of Fantastic Mr Fox (Roald Dahl’s children’s book of the same name)!” enthuses Chong, before revealing that she’s also a big fan of Disney and Pixar, citing Ratatouille, Up and Toy Story as among her favourite works. “I hope that one day I’ll be able to produce an animation of my own!” says Chong, her face all alight.
Bringing joy to friends
In addition to her fascination with textures, Chong confides that she has always been quite old school when it comes to gifting. “I generally love writing letters and crafting handmade items for people. I feel it’s more personal and meaningful.”
Her gifts may be tiny and inexpensive but she believes the value lies in the smiles on the faces of those whom she presents her handiwork to. “The looks on their faces as they receive these gifts and their smiles are good enough for me,” she says, modestly.
As the requests increased for her cute clay corgi, she found herself not wanting to disappoint her growing fan base. She started experimenting with shrink plastic before settling for the properly manufactured enamel pins instead.
Continues Chong: “I’d draw and colour the corgis on these special plastic sheets, cut them out and stick them in the oven. After a few seconds, these pieces would shrink and harden. Then I’d stick a pin to the back. But even with that process, I was only able to create a handful at a time.”
So Chong explored the possibility of manufacturing it properly and found a quality manufacturer in the UK. It took her a little over two months from the process of sketching and designing to manufacturing. “I would usually sketch a few poses and choose the one that works best. I also design the backing card to suit the character,” she reveals, adding: “Sometimes, I’d put out a poll on my social media platforms for opinions, especially when I’m torn between two or more designs!”
Sheepishly, Chong admits that her parents were not too convinced that she’d succeed with this venture. “Now they’re the ones offering to help me pack my items!” she says, chuckling.
Band of cute animals
Joining the Super Corgi in her first edition of enamel pins are the blue spotted whale shark and a turquoise ukulele-playing brown bear. “I call this (the bear) Chill Bear and it’s inspired by Wes Anderson’s film called Moon Rise Kingdom,” explains Chong. The night campfire depicted on the backing card pays homage to the main protagonist of the film, who’s a boy scout as well as the setting of the movie in a camp site.
Which is her favourite? “The whale shark!” exclaims Chong, without pausing to ponder the question.
“I love unique animals like the platypus and the whale shark. And you’ll definitely see this whale shark soon in an animation I’m dreaming of producing someday!”
With her Super Corgi gaining popularity on social media platforms locally, Chong sheepishly pooh-poohs the idea of herself becoming famous. “I’m really doing this out of interest, and hopefully my creations can bring a smile to anyone who needs it,” she confides.
Are there any plans to bring in more designs and characters? I asked, as I reluctantly help put the exquisite pins back into her “treasure box”. “Of course!” she exclaims with a grin. “I already have a few sketches and it’s just a matter of tweaking and sending them off to the manufacturer.”
Eyes twinkling, she continues: “These creations (the corgi, bear and whale shark) are limited in number. Once they’re sold off, there won’t be any more in production.” “No more Super Corgi?” I ask in dismay. Chong smiles before replying: “There will be others, don’t worry! I hope that these future characters will also bring smiles wherever they go. But just to let you know, the Super Corgi with his red cape is fast running out of stock!”
For info, visit www.facebook.com/pocketwondersdesign and