Like most young girls, Irene Wong had a passion for fashion. She loved dressing up in pretty clothes, putting on jewellery and experimenting with different craft.
Her fascination with craft continued into adulthood and she’d make shawls, jewellery, cushion covers and wall decorations. Often, Wong found herself making one too many items and not knowing what to do, she’d generously give it away to friends. She also single-handedly made wedding favours comprising over 200 his and hers personalised key-chains for her son’s wedding, as a way of saying thanks to the guests.
But, it wasn’t until Wong rescued some dogs five years ago that a new hobby developed – from noticing their bare necks.
“I couldn’t find an appropriate collar in the shop that looked nice and I didn’t want to settle for any plain old dog collar. The normal canvas ones looked boring, so I set out to make something for them. Now, I’m hooked on making pet collars!
“I’ve never taken any courses so whatever I do is self-learnt and based on trial and error. Sometimes it’s a challenge on how to fix this onto that, especially when it comes to the buckles. My husband is the one who looks for places where I can find the materials because they are not available at the ordinary handicraft shops,” says Wong, 58, a homemaker.
Wong strives to make collars to accessorise the dogs and make it uniquely theirs. Her “main beneficiaries” are Paris the indoor poodle, and Patches and Pepper, the outdoor terrors.
“Paris was an abandoned dog and I had no intention of keeping her when she first arrived. Initially, we put her outside but she kept getting sick. Whenever we brought her indoors, she would immediately recover. The previous owner must have spoilt her and eventually, we fell in love with her and decided to let her stay. We named her Paris because she really does walk like Paris Hilton – her nose is held up high and she’s got such an air about her!” says Wong.
Most of her collars are made of faux or synthetic leather, or suede, which are befitting smaller dogs.
“Paris has a whole tray of collars but how many can she use in a week?” asks Wong, chuckling as she cradles the poodle. “She loves wearing them and every time she gets a weekly bath, she’ll run up and wait for me to put on a new collar. I even designed a special one for her to wear at my son’s wedding and she looked so regal in it!”
For her twin terrors, the collars are sturdier and made of two layers of faux leather.
Opening her cabinet at her workstation, Wong proudly shows me the hundreds of collars that are neatly tucked and labelled in rows of boxes.“As you can see, I love lace as it gives the collars a certain aura of femininity. And the way Paris struts, she’s such a dainty girl!” says Wong, who dabbles in her hobby once household chores are completed.
Around 9pm daily, she will creep into the room downstairs and work on her craft for hours until Paris comes trotting to remind Wong to feed her supper.
Wong says, “When my creative juices are flowing, I can literally get lost unless Paris scratches on the door to disturb! I may make one or two collars a night. I don’t have a blueprint. What I usually do is take out whatever material I have purchased and incorporate it into a design. I use buttons, embroidery, bling, stones and all sorts of stuff.
“I’m not very computer literate so I don’t Google much. The finished product is placed in a plastic box and stored in the cabinet until I decide what to do with it. Unfortunately, most of my decorative collars are for female dogs.
Wong defines her pet collars as “boutique” style – she doesn’t duplicate the design, unless it’s in a different colour or size.
Many visitors have complimented Wong on her lovely pet collars and because she has made so many, the affable lady decided to throw a birthday party for her pets earlier this year. She invited other pet owners and their pets, and as door gifts, each pet walked away with a pretty collar!
Wong shares, “We have an annual party for our dogs every year but I wanted to do something different this year. I also grilled lamb chops and had cup cakes with candles on them!” It may sound a little over the top but Wong says the guests were delighted to partake in the event.
She rationalises, “I don’t spend on shoes or bags so indulging in this hobby is okay. I don’t feel guilty though many have told me I can make money from it. It’s a joy to do something I like and I’m happy when people appreciate my work.”
Someday, before she runs out of ideas, Wong hopes to set up an online pet collar business. But before that, she plans to brush up on her computer skills first.
Let us know if you have a unique, out-of-this world, wacky hobby or passion in the comment box below.