Deborah McKellar is the founder of Art and Design Studio Talking Textiles and a Mixed-Media Artist. Born in South Africa, Deborah moved to Singapore 22 years ago and has been enjoying the culture and diversity of Singapore.

Deborah has more than 15 years of experience as an artist and founded Talking Textiles in 2007 after being inspired by the rich culture and heritage of Singapore. She produces customized artworks for residential spaces as well as bespoke commercial projects. 

Here, Deborah reflects upon how moving to Singapore has shaped her outlook on inclusion. She articulates her aspiration to cultivate a vibrant, creative, and inclusive atmosphere within her studio, emphasizing respect for every individual. Furthermore, Deborah explores the transformative nature of her art, viewing it not only as a personal healing journey but also as a force for broader healing and support in the community.

Deborah Mckellar wearing As Intended's workleisure clothes to chat about International Women's Day 2024 #inspireinclusion SHOP DEBORAH'S DRESS  

On Moving to Singapore: 

Leaving my birth country of South Africa and coming to Singapore, I have always, as a foreigner, tried my best to figure out my place within a different society. For the most part, living in Singapore has been a positive experience, and I have always felt welcomed here.

The fashion team while working part-time at LASALLE College of the Arts made me feel really welcomed. The group was multi-national and diverse – as many of us shared the same experience of moving from another country to Singapore, it created a sense of understanding among us. 

These experiences inspired me to always uphold the same level of inclusivity and diversity at work or everyday life. The commitment to promoting inclusion is a perspective on life and a way of viewing people. This drives me to always consider others' needs and to be aware of the different types of people around me, and not view things purely from my own perspective alone, which could be very limiting.

It is good to self-assess and reflect on your outlook in life. Some people would call it karma – I believe in sowing and reaping. If you sow positive seeds, you will reap beautiful fruit.  

Deborah Mckellar wearing As Intended's workleisure clothes to chat about International Women's Day 2024 #inspireinclusion SHOP DEBORAH'S DRESS  

A Culture of Inclusion in my Studio: 

Within my studio, the atmosphere that we like to encourage really goes across culture, race and age.To me inspiring inclusion would mean leading by example, treating everyone in the workplace with kindness and respect, regardless of their position. 

In my studio, I work with a small team often with part-timers and interns from LASALLE or other universities. I make it a point to personally discuss with newcomers to understand and embrace the studio's upheld environment and atmosphere. One important aspect is inclusivity - working as a team and being respectful of each other’s differences. I find that inclusion blended with a culture of ‘no-blame’ and experimentation, creates a freedom in the studio which is essential for driving creativity.

It’s been fulfilling to see the positive working environment that has become a norm at Talking Textiles after 16 years, thanks to everyone who chooses to play a part in fostering it everyday. This has been expressed by the people who have worked here, especially interns who have enjoyed their time. They’ve said that there is such a welcoming, creative atmosphere. They had a lot of fun but worked hard and achieved a lot. 

Deborah Mckellar wearing As Intended's workleisure clothes to chat about International Women's Day 2024 #inspireinclusion SHOP DEBORAH'S DRESS  

On Art as a Catalyst for Healing and Support: 

"The Sage Forest," also known as "The Healing Forest," emerged from a personal journey marked by trauma. During this period, I found solace in painting with green hues and exploring plant life as my primary subject matter. Sage green, renowned for its healing attributes, became a focal point of my artistic expression.

In another piece titled "The River City," I focused specifically on Boat Quay in Singapore. Subsequently, this artwork was auctioned in partnership with International Justice Mission, generating funds vital for a rescue mission aiding children and women affected by Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OSEC) in the Philippines.

I was absolutely thrilled from the incredible outcome based on the donation that I had gifted them. There was a great sense of joy to know that my artwork was being used for such an amazing cause and I was grateful for the opportunity to be part of International Justice Mission efforts and work.

Deborah Mckellar wearing As Intended's workleisure clothes to chat about International Women's Day 2024 #inspireinclusion


On Taking Time to Let Go:

I used to juggle between lecturing, running my own studio and personal self-care. I’m currently not lecturing anymore but I’ve been managing my time by sticking to a schedule such as limiting my working hours.

As I’ve matured in my studio practice, I’ve become a little bit more aware of stopping work when it’s time to stop and taking the time to go and exercise and invest in other areas of my life. It can be really hard when you enjoy the work that you do because you get overly consumed with work alone, but I’ve managed to realize the importance of having a more balanced life.

Deborah’s Style

As Intended is a good example of my go-to fashion style. I love the comfortable stretchy fabric; it makes me feel like I’m in my workout gear, yet I still look work-ready and presentable.  

*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Photos c/o Augustine Yuen


IWD 2024 #inspireinclusion As Intended Banner

This series is part of our International Women’s Month where we talk to amazing women who tackle professional and personal life fearlessly while living, as intended. Aligning with this year's theme #inspireinclusion, we are thrilled to share the stories of women who have inspired inclusion in different aspects of their life to forge a better world for other women.

This year, As Intended is supporting Daughters Of Tomorrow (DOT) to raise donations to enhance their impact towards social mobility for families of women in the DOT community. 

Daughters of Tomorrow is a registered charity organization with IPC status in Singapore whose mission is to facilitate livelihood opportunities for underprivileged women, and support them in achieving financial independence and social mobility for their families. 

The lack of childminding support can be one of the biggest factors preventing a woman from being gainfully employed. Singapore Tote Board will match dollar for dollar for donations made and Tax Deduction Receipts (TDR) will also be issued for donations above $10. You may like to learn more, and choose to donate directly to: