Arts & Crafts,  Singapore,  Travel

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.

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.


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


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.


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.


Paints of all kinds, thinners, glaze
Calligraphy stuff
Copic pens and markers
Papers and boards
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.


All the sketchbooks and sketchpads you can imagine


Creepy plastic heads

MT washi tape

More washi tape!

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.

Felt sheets

Embroidery hoops, wooden pegs, shaped wood cuts

Wooden letter shapes

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.