In this article

I was scrolling through Facebook one day when I came across something that caught my attention.

It was a couple of photographs depicting a Chinese opera. The stage was brightly lit, the actors were busy performing on stage while the next-in-line were getting ready for their cue. There was a sense of candidness captured.

Image Credit: My Studio Associates

The attention to the finer characteristics of the stage and costumes made it hard to look away. Each time I looked closer, I’d find something new to admire, whether it was the wrinkled canvas beaten by wind or the intricate headpieces.

The most amazing thing was, this was a miniature!

Staring at the photos, I couldn’t help but wonder just how many more features weren’t able to be picked up by the camera. It’s almost as if I was observing a real moment preserved in time, just shrunk down to a much smaller scale.

Curious about who was behind this beautiful creation, I did my research, and, might I just say, the answer was just as intriguing as the art itself, if not more so.

Image Credit: My Studio Associates

So why did an ex-commando of the Singapore Army get into this craft in the first place?

A retirement hobby turned side gig

Truth be told, it wasn’t exactly planned. 

Wilfred Cheah, the miniature artist behind My Studio Associates, explained that he intended for this to be a retirement hobby when he turned 55 years old. He always knew he had an artistic streak and had a soft spot for handicrafts.

“I had no references as I did not really know what miniature art is all about,” he confided to us. “I just wanted to do something more than a 2D painting.”

Image Credit: My Studio Associates

The craft itself isn’t very common locally, which led him to be self-reliant when it came to learning the ins and outs. There was plenty of trial and error, mistake after mistake, but Wilfred mastered it soon enough.

His 28-year career in interior design consulting also came in handy. By just looking at photographs of buildings alone, he’s able to estimate the measurements and replicate it on a smaller scale. 

At the same time, his experience in the army equipped him with the unique opportunity of understanding the details of weapons. This contributes greatly to his line of military-related miniatures.

Image Credit: My Studio Associates

“I love and had a great interest in weapons, all kinds, that’s one of the reasons why I joined the army too,” Wilfred told us. “All my works I’ll try to insert as true and as much details onto it based on what I can recall or from online photos.”

Having an eye for detail

Each piece is made from everyday recycled materials, such as cardboards, plastic containers, and straws. Speaking candidly, he explained that he didn’t want to spend too much on the materials. Using discarded materials was also more eco-friendly as it gives the items a second life.

Image Credit: My Studio Associates

Part of his principle is also to create them using only his hands and not a machine. Wilfred prides himself greatly on the amount of details he’s able to include in each piece, and stated that details are “the life of the art”.

As he posted more and more of his miniature artworks on social media, Wilfred began receiving enquiries. People requested he create personalised commission works that resonated with them.

What was he to do but oblige and share this rather distinctive art form?

Image Credit: My Studio Associates

A total of 71 miniature sculptures have been handcrafted by Wilfred since My Studio Associates started in 2020. This includes the pieces he makes out of personal interest and the ones commissioned by fans.

The artist declined to share his rates, but he emphasised that his creations are more of a retirement pastime. “I’m not really in need of the extra cash from the commission works. I wouldn’t want to rush into a job or work for months on a project just to make a few hundreds.”

To put his art on the global map

Image Credit: My Studio Associates

That said, he acknowledged that making a living in the art industry can be tough. This is particularly true in Asia where the field is still seen as less important than STEM.

But as his 10 years in the army have taught him, “Tough times don’t last, tough men do.” 

“[I’m] hoping the government can help promote more local artists and Singaporeans can learn to appreciate the value of an artist and the time and effort spent behind each artwork,” Wilfred shared.

Now 58 years old, he’s very proud of every single artwork he’s made thus far regardless of size. They’re all like his babies, hand built from scratch and filled with patience and care.

Image Credit: My Studio Associates

My Studio Associates currently doesn’t have any showrooms that display its artworks. They’re all stored safely at Wilfred’s residence, and he has no plans of changing that. That said, he’s not opposed to organisations reaching out if they’d like to exhibit his miniatures for events.

If you come across a chance to see these exhibitions, he highly recommends paying them a visit to see his art in a different perspective. “Most people only see my artworks from photos that I posted on my social media, they don’t do much justice to the actual thing,” he expressed.

Wilfred plans to continue crafting for as long as he’s physically fit to do so. His ultimate goal for the brand is not only for people to know his art, but to one day have it listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO

Image Credit: My Studio Associates
  • Learn more about My Studio Associates here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about startups here.

Featured Image Credit: My Studio Associates

Subscribe to our newsletter

Stay updated with Vulcan Post weekly curated news and updates.


Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)

Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)