For Elizabeth Marlow, what started out as selling a few artworks and Singapore prints has blossomed into a successful business, By Fable. We find out more about her beautiful minimalist art and Singapore illustrations. Plus, what Elizabeth is enjoying most about being back in her home town!
Tell us a bit about your background.
I was actually born in Singapore and grew up here, however I went to secondary school and university in the UK. My parents are British expats that live in Singapore, so I guess I’m “originally” from the UK – but I definitely have a Singaporean side. I was living in London, which is an incredible city, but after we had our first child, the amazing activities were no longer as accessible. My parents and three sisters were living in Singapore and I was desperate to be closer to them – and the heat. So, in 2019 my husband and I moved back here and are raising our two kids in Singapore.
How did your minimalist art business By Fable begin?
I’m a graphic designer for luxury and lifestyle brands. Then, in 2020, everyone decided to reflect on their business and rebrand. This was great for my work, but by the end I was broken. I decided to start By Fable as a creative outlet for my own personal style and as a form of escapism from client work.
I saw that there wasn’t really a place in Singapore that was selling minimalist art with my aesthetic, or luxury stationery. So, I started to design some greeting cards and put some of my Singapore illustrations online. This was at the end of 2020 and the art illustrations really took off! It was such a wonderful surprise, and great to see each Singapore print and product through from conception right to the thank-you note that goes out to each and every customer.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
A typical day for me is usually spent balancing my studio work for clients and creating minimalist art for By Fable. The studio work can be anything from a new brand identity, the design of a look-book for a fashion client or an art illustration of a client’s product. For By Fable, the projects range from painting new original artwork to creating content and packing orders for a Singapore print. That’s what I love about my job: no two days are the same. But whatever happens, lots of coffee is involved.
Where do you call home in Singapore?
We live in Chip Bee Gardens, which we absolutely adore. It has a great creative community and I love that you’re able to really make the houses your own, which is unusual for rental properties. Walking around the neighbourhood, it’s amazing to see how every home has something different. It’s great for inspiring my next minimalist art illustration or Singapore print.
Do you have a particular home décor style?
I would say classic, neutral and, of course, monochrome. I’m a huge fan of Japanese aesthetics in everything from my designs to my interiors, so that is definitely reflected in my home. I also love mixing classic furniture with some more interesting pieces and ornaments that my husband and I collect when we’re away. Nothing touristy, just random items that we fall in love with and can’t live without – for example, a vase we found in an antique store in The Cotswolds, or a little ornament from a boutique in Amsterdam. Objects that remind us of our adventures.
What are a few things you like to do in Singapore when you’re not working on art illustrations?
I have two little kids who are four and one, so a lot of my weekends are spent in playgrounds or swimming pools. But I absolutely love the beach, especially when you go at high tide – if you try hard, you can imagine that you’re staring out across the clear horizon (and not at the tankers!)
What are you looking forward to or working towards this year?
I have a lot of requests from companies who love By Fable’s minimalist design aesthetic and want to create various projects for their brands, so I’m looking forward to showcasing more of this studio work and building the studio side of my brand. I’m also looking forward to growing the art side of the business with more original pieces and hopefully an exhibition at some point too.
Tell us about some of your favourite things in Singapore…
Casual restaurant? It’s got to be Col Bar. It’s the perfect Sunday afternoon hangout, with space for the kids to run around, and the best fried bee hoon in town.
Date-night restaurant? I love Dempsey Cookhouse for the interiors as well as the food. The monochrome décor is right up my street and the hanging geometric lights are absolutely divine.
Bar? I love the speakeasy vibe and fantastic cocktails and mocktails at Sago House.
Local food? The hawker centre in Holland Village has some great little stalls and it’s handy that it’s on our doorstep.
Nature space? It’s got to be the Botanic Gardens; it was my refuge during COVID and it still is the best place to calm me and help me with perspective.
Things to do with visitors? I love taking them on the bum boat to Pulau Ubin and having a little cycle around there. It’s always a lottery on the condition of the bike you get given, and it all adds to the fun. Afterwards, we reward ourselves with a lunch and tipple at Little Island Brewing Co – their pulled pork burger is amazing!
Nearby holiday destination? Batu Batu, an unspoilt island with the best infinity pool. Heaven.
Keep up to date with Elizabeth’s new minimalist designs and Singapore prints on her website. She also creates luxury stationary, greeting cards and framed Singapore illustrations.
This article first appeared in the June 2023 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!
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