Singapore’s Bras Basah Complex and Art Friend, the Asian equivalent of Michaels Arts and Crafts

(Read the first part of this two-part series here)

On our last full day in Singapore, my family and I decided to go our separate ways one afternoon since we all wanted to do different things. My parents went to Bugis, a street/flea market (they later complained that it was just like Manila’s Divisoria), my brother did touristy stuff like the Gardens by the Bay since he didn’t know what else to do (haha), and I took this chance to go to Bras Basah Complex.

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Photo: Wikipedia

Searching the Internet prior to our Singapore trip for artsy craftsy places to visit in SG, blogs pointed me to Bras Basah Complex, a four-level building touted as an arts, culture, and education hub, housing mostly specialty shops selling old/used books, stationery, and art/school/office supplies. Sounds right up my alley! It’s an old building, a stark contrast from Singapore’s shiny, air-conditioned malls, but a lot of what they sell can only be found there in Bras Basah.

Some shops of note:

Popular Book Co. (2nd level)
A large, multi-level commercial bookstore, much like Fully Booked in Manila. There were a lot of arts and crafts and graphic design titles right at the entrance on their first floor. They also had school and office supplies on their topmost floor.

Basheer Graphic Books (4th level)
I thought I would just pop in this shop for a quick look but I ended up browsing for longer than I expected. They had loads of interesting, foreign titles all about graphic design, illustration, new media, architecture, fashion design, photography, graphic novels, and hipster-y, novelty books that I haven’t seen in Manila. I recently ordered a few books from Amazon because I couldn’t find them in the Philippines, but Basheer Graphic Books had some of the titles I was looking for.

Cat Socrates (3rd level)
This was a cute and quaint little shop that gave off a homey, vintage, and somewhat independent vibe. They sold Korean/Japanese stationery, cute notebooks and journals, tote bags, stamps, washi tape, and other cute bric-a-brac. I found some of their products to be quite pricey though, but maybe only because I know I can get some of their stuff (stationery from Korea) at a cheaper price here in Manila and in Korea.

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Bonus for the crazy cat ladies (*raises hand*): they had a pet cat that lives there in the store but unfortunately, it was asleep when I was there :3

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Artmark (4th level)
A small art shop selling art supplies (paints, easels, canvas), craft supplies (scissors, clay, tools), and school and office supplies. I bought some mini easels and mini canvases here for $2+ SGD each.

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Art Friend (3rd level)
This, for me, was the highlight of my trip to Bras Basah Complex. If you’ve been to Michaels in the US, Artfriend is THE Asian equivalent, carrying a lot of the same items Michaels has. They had watercolors, oils and acrylics, canvases, scrapbooking supplies, papers and boards, styrofoam shapes… everything.

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Paints of all kinds, thinners, glaze

 
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Calligraphy stuff

 
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Copic pens and markers

 
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Papers and boards

 
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More stuff!

 
Art Friend also occupied what would’ve been another shop tenant’s space and turned it into a separate section for arts and crafts.

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All the sketchbooks and sketchpads you can imagine
 
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Clay
 
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Creepy plastic heads
 
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MT washi tape
 
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More washi tape!
 
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Mod Podge. Considered buying this to try it out because I’ve seen this on craft blogs and Pinterest but honestly, I’m not sure what I would use it for and it was a bit pricey. So I passed.
 
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Felt sheets
 
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Embroidery hoops, wooden pegs, shaped wood cuts
 
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Wooden letter shapes
 
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3D chipboard letters. Disappointed that R and S (my initials) were out of stock. I would’ve gotten a couple of letters each had they been available.

 
I only took photos of the stuff I was interested in, but there’s so much more in Art Friend for every kind of artist and crafter. But even with all the stuff available, I ended up buying: NOTHING. I knew I already had a lot of art materials and craft supplies at home, a lot of which I haven’t even used yet. Also, I was planning to go to The Little Happyshop in Holland Village (read my blog post about The Little Happyshop here) after Bras Basah so I thought I’d save my money for that. So I restrained myself. Still, it’s nice to know that a more accessible version of Michaels is available in the form of Art Friend in Singapore. I actually entertained delusions in my head about flying to Singapore (via a budget airline, of course!) in the morning, having a quick lunch of Hainanese Chicken Rice, hitting Art Friend and other interesting shops along Bras Basah and Orchard Road (where all the nice malls are) in the afternoon, then flying out back to Manila by night. If a lot of Pinoys fly out to Singapore for a day or two just to watch foreign bands that come there to perform, I can do the same to hoard arts and crafts supplies, yes? No? Ha, if only I had all the time and money in the world…

But seriously, if you’re into arts and crafts, quirky specialty shops, and interesting books that are hard to find in Manila, Bras Basah Complex is so worth a visit. I will definitely be hitting Bras Basah again (and other places I didn’t have time to check out– like shops in Orchard) if I find myself back in Singapore at another time.

Check out the Bras Basah Complex website for more information about the shops and directions how to get there.

13 Replies to “Singapore’s Bras Basah Complex and Art Friend, the Asian equivalent of Michaels Arts and Crafts”

  1. YESSSSS. Bras Basah Complex is one of my favorite places in Singapore. You can spend the whole afternoon there just whiling away your time through books and art supplies! My cup of tea indeed. 🙂 And Cat Socrates! I LOVE THAT STORE.

    1. The next time I’m in SG, I think majority of my time will be spent in Bras Basah. I don’t care for gardens and Sentosa 😛 I can spend an entire day in Art Friend and Basheer Graphic Books! 😮

      1. HAHA! Ohhhh! If you do find yourself over here again this year, I hope to run into you! 😀 Have you heard of Woods in the Books? It’s another local bookstore that specializes in picture books for children and adults! 🙂 I haven’t gone yet, but it sure does sound pretty!

        1. WHUUUUUUT! I just googled it. Something worth checking out the next time I visit! Thanks for the heads up, Carla! 😀 No plans of visiting again in the foreseeable future buuuut who knows, SG is so close and so convenient 🙂 I also wasn’t able to eat at any hawker stalls the last time I was there, so that’s another reason to visit 😛 😛

  2. Thank you for this post! I was looking for art supply stores in Singapore, specifically Art Friend and this post was very helpful! Thanks sooo much!

  3. You r right Alka i visited the shop . They have large verity of arts n Crafts. i almost find every thing that i need i find gifts for all my family under a one roof price are also affordable. Really a great stuff

  4. I am so glad that you did your research before coming to Singapore! 😀 Bras Basah is also my fav place in SG with all art and craft resources so available there. Just a side note, Bras Basah Complex is also home for both Western and Chinese musicians! The amount of learning centres there and the range of music stalls there is really good!
    In conclusion, any crafty, arty and “music-y” person who comes to Singapore must must must come to Bras Basah Complex! 😀 You will like it here. 🙂

  5. Hi!!! Indeed Bras Basah is a great place for art supplies. I love to get rare art supplies like brush pens and mod podge at Art Friend! There’s another outlet at Ion which I personally find much more convenient. There’s also a Spotlight at Plaza Singapura. Spotlight is another alternative to Art Friend, though it is mostly more expensive. I feel the things at Spotlight, are in some sense different, so if there’s something you cannot find at Bras Basah, you may want to try your luck at Spotlight, they are not exactly too far apart either(walkable, but you may get very annoyed about it, I’d recommend the bus)

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