About the Project

We hold blankets close to our body, to keep us warm and safe. Those that are painstakingly quilted and lovingly gifted within the family become intimate keepsakes. Ten cotton blankets with printed images and calligraphy text, some with embroidery were made and showcased for this artist-led project.

Artwork 1 – To Cherish and to Hold – For this first blanket series, personal images and text express what the participant artists hold dear of their life experience as a legacy for when they leave the world. Some blankets remember family and loved ones; some remember happy pastimes and favourite activities; and some are simple positive values about living life well.

Closer - To Cherish To Hold - Wind Blankets

Artwork 2 – Wind Blankets – In the second blanket series, the participant artists focused more directly on the end-of-life and how they have come to terms with death. They do this by imagining what they hope will be their last position when they die. The blankets carry these images: some are lying, some sitting, some praying, and all in their individual imagined desired worlds. Open skies, trees, flowers, and nature in general, are dominant themes. The wind blankets are hung out in the open to interact, come rain or shine, with the elements, as a reminder of the last journey in life returning symbolically to nature. Called wind blankets, their messages and wishes are hopefully blown around by the wind to be shared with all.

Closer - To Cherish To Hold - Wind Blankets

Overall, the artwork marries this unique funerary custom with the craft of quilt making which is often elaborate in the design and which can take months, sometimes years, to complete.The same group of participant art-makers created the blankets after spending time in a workshop contemplating the end-of-life and how to come to terms with death.

Creation Process

Eight Chong Pang residents met with artist-facilitator Shirley Soh and volunteer Foo Jong Mui over eight months to get to know one another and feel comfortable talking about the main subject of the workshop – the end-of-life and what it means for each of them.

Death conversations often started the workshop and were structured over questions to be completed such as: when I die … before I die … and I am ready/not ready to die because….. With these conversations as a stimulus for reflection, the residents first sewed and stitched cushion covers and bags in preparation for the grand finale—their ‘death’ blankets.

The first blankets were made in quilt style as they signified a personal legacy and what the residents felt was important in their lives. These blankets also acted as an epitaph for their death blankets, as they do not directly allude to death as a subject.
The second blanket was made to depict the positions that residents hope to die in. Residents were encouraged to focus more directly on the end-of-life and how they have come to terms with death. As such, the blankets carry images of lying, sitting, and praying, all taking place in the individual’s imagined, desired worlds – open skies, trees, flowers, nature – were some of the dominant themes.

Closer - To Cherish To Hold - Wind Blankets

These wind blankets were hung in the open to interact, come rain or shine, with the elements, as a reminder of the last journey in life returning symbolically to nature. Hopefully, the residents’ messages and wishes were also blown around by the wind to be shared with all.

At the end of the workshops, residents concluded that the whole experience was more about becoming familiar with the idea of death and preparedness for death rather than facing death itself. Everyone realised that unless one is dying, thinking about death remains only a thought.



Artist Shirley Soh

Shirley Soh was born, works and lives in Singapore. She is an artist, lecturer, an erstwhile journalist and a perpetual student. Trained first in ceramics, she has branched into various mediums spanning embroidery to video making exploring recurrent themes of biodiversity and sustainability.

Interested in how individuals, community, economy and the environment interdependently connect in constantly shifting—and not often benign—ways, she has grown plants, worked with migrant workers and prison inmates, created a retail shop and meditated for her artwork. She has exhibited in Singapore, as well as, Malaysia, Switzerland, the United States and France.

Participant Art-Makers

Goh Ning

Goh Soo Kheng

Mary Guo

Ng Ah Yam

Ong Mui Khoon

Tan Choon Huey

Tan Lu See

Tsang Sow Kuen

Foo Jong Mui (Volunteer)


Closer - To Cherish To Hold by Goh Ning

Goh Ning

Goh Ning likes working with her hands having worked in a factory environment. Hence, when she retired, she spent her time enjoying craft making such as paper cut and sewing.

Her blanket features 3 of her paper-cut patterns and the bat motif features prominently, which symbolises happiness and joy. The Chinese for bat (fu 蝠) sounds identical to the word for good fortune (fu 福) making bats a popular Chinese symbol. Five bats together represent the ‘Five Blessings’ (wufu 五福): long life, wealth, health, love of virtue and a peaceful death.

Closer - To Cherish To Hold by Goh Soo Kheng Mary Guo

Goh Soo Kheng

Sewing, embroidery and quilting come easily to Soo Kheng even though she spends less time now with them, and instead prefers to explore new hobbies such as Chinese calligraphy.

Soo Kheng, a Buddhist, is inspired by the lotus and its symbolism. Because the flower rises from the mud but blooms in exquisite beauty, it symbolises perfection and purity of both heart and mind that exists in all human beings.

Closer - To Cherish To Hold by Goh Soo Kheng

Mary Guo

Mary, a widow, lives alone with her aged dog, Baby, and worries that if she dies before he does, there will be no one to look after him.

So Mary says she has to look after herself to outlive Baby. She hopes she will be fine when he dies. So the blanket unsurprisingly features Baby.

Closer - To Cherish To Hold by Ng Ah Yam

Ng Ah Yam

Ah Yam loves gardening, especially growing flowering plants that are featured in her blanket.

But she also has a deft hand with sewing and fabric craft skills, which surfaced at the workshop and were used in decorating her blanket.

Closer - To Cherish To Hold by Ong Mui Khoon

Ong Mui Khoon

Mui Khoon sews and gardens but she finds herself, as she grows older, to be more adventurous, wanting new experiences.

For example, she participated in three out of the four Both Sides, Now arts workshops.

Closer - To Cherish To Hold by Tan Choon Huey

Tan Choon Huey

Choon Huey loved travelling when she was younger and particularly enjoyed visiting gardens and nature parks. In her blanket are her holiday photographs.

Guess who is that silhouette?

This signifies a past that exists only in memory, a presence that is now an absence. Just like our lives on earth.

Closer - To Cherish To Hold by Tan Lu See

Tan Lu See

Lu See loves craftwork, using her hands and fixing things around the house.

She is proud of being the one in the family that attends to and solves the plumbing problems in the house.

Her blanket features her love for nature and an old hobby, collecting stamps, which was for her a way of seeing the world. She says when she dies, she hopes her children will not be sad.

Closer - To Cherish To Hold by Tsang Sow Kuen

Tsang Sow Kuen

Sow Kuen enjoys quilting and has made many quilts for her family and loved ones.

She remembers keenly sewing quilts for a fundraiser for the Nepal earthquake disaster.

Her blanket features a happy everyday experience – feeding her son’s prized goldfish, which she does faithfully twice a day.

Closer - To Cherish To Hold by Fong Jong Mui

Foo Jong Mui

Jong Mui volunteers her time in community projects, to meet new friends and share experiences such as this Both Sides, Now blanket workshop.

She has made her blanket for her first and only granddaughter who loves the monkey.

She hopes when she passes away that the family will still be close and whatever misgivings there will be forgiven.

Closer - To Cherish To Hold by Shirley Soh

Shirley Soh

Shirley currently is the caregiver to her eldest cat Dusty who is suffering from terminal kidney failure.

She hears that cats go into hiding to die, and it makes her wonder if that is a more natural way to die.

She feels that even if there are loved ones around, dying is fundamentally a solitary experience. Hence, her blanket honours everyone who has died: cats, dogs and all human beings!

Workshop Process

Closer - Blanket Workshop - Shirley Soh
Closer - Blanket Workshop - Shirley Soh
Closer - Blanket Workshop - Shirley Soh
Closer - Blanket Workshop - Shirley Soh
Closer - Blanket Workshop - Shirley Soh
Closer - Blanket Workshop - Shirley Soh
Closer - Blanket Workshop - Shirley Soh

Community Voices

“I always thought death and dying was a sensitive topic that people would usually avoid. But seeing how people in the community are willing to talk about and embrace it as part and parcel of life is really inspiring and interesting.”

Audience Member