Where once reserved for royals, modernising the songket means weaving it into the everyday fabric of Malaysian life. As a child, ...
4 Makers You Need To Know
We speak to four Malaysian makers that have fought the odds to bring life to something new.
It is not easy being a contemporary maker. They often have few others in their field to jive with. They will have to do and learn everything on their own, and it will take time. An oft repeated question will surface - how does one balance full time work and a passion project? It often takes years of study and testing before a new product is released. When there is an knowledge gap in the market the product is vying for, some people will “just get it,” but in order to garner mass acceptance, makers often dance between creating what they love and what the market will accept.
It is also decidedly tough being a one-man or one-woman show. Supplies, tools and resources are scarce since manufacturing power was lost to China, Vietnam and Thailand. Progressing further after initial success or interest, it becomes challenging to penetrate the retail market, as there are very few platforms for small brands to test their products in a brick and mortar retail space, which is why places like Art Row in Publika has been lauded in their efforts to showcase new creative talents and their products.
Despite all of these challenges and more, makers are some of the happiest and kindest people around, an attitude that grows from fully expressing their creativity. A true maker has the persistent curiosity to take apart a recipe and figure out why every part is needed. Makers aren’t simply following what has gone before, they question the process, materials, tools and, most importantly - reinvent.
Attached Leather Co. – Ayu and Faiz @ Square Root Space
One of a handful of leatherworkers in Malaysia, they make satchels, sling bags, journal covers and cases, key and cardholders, as well as wallets. Every piece is made to order and customised for their clients. None of their work is readymade or off the shelf. They focus on original design, careful not to copy any other maker or brand. Ayu and Faiz were lucky enough to have stumbled across an “auntie” who took them under her wing and bullied them into making better leather designs when they first explored leather as a material to work with. Currently, the duo are working on expanding their range of tools to produce more complex pieces.
Chocolate Concierge – Ning-Geng @ Jason’s Food Hall, BSC
Freshly handcrafted chocolate in Malaysia, and perhaps some of the best in Malaysia. Ning-Geng aims to make chocolates directly from cocoa trees grown here in Malaysia, but until that becomes a reality, the cocoa used in their delectable products are sourced from fairly traded single origin cocoa beans chosen specifically for their flavour profile. At his counter, a range of hand-piped truffles, chocolates filled with various flavours, barks, brittles, bars and coins are found. Ning-Geng has a deep understanding of flavours, do hop down to BSC on a Sunday for some of his wonderful chocolate and a tasting demo. Irresistible!
LittleSyam – Syam’s Studio @ Desa Pandan
Those familiar with the makers in Malaysia are likely to have heard of LittleSyam. Her notebooks are stunning. In fact, upon first look it was quite hard to believe they were hand-bound. In addition, her love of nature inspires the screen-printed patterns on the book covers. Bookbinding combines several of her passions - books, working with textiles, and graphic design. LittleSyam has been crafting for the past twenty years and that quality and experience is tangibly visible in all her products. Being well established, is almost always a precursor to move into retail, but for now she is fully committed to sharing her work and knowledge, with workshops that she facilitates, with a bright and sunny disposition much like her well-loved books.
Mentega – Kevin @ Amplitude Barbershop, USJ
Mantega was a recent discovery, with Kevin creating a hair styling product for men called pomade, which has a lot of characteristics that would allowing stylists and customers to have the classic 60’s Elvis or Travolta look. Pomade is used to restyle hair and it’s a “build up” product, so many applications are not necessary. Kevin has made it naturally, so it doesn’t spoil natural hair and can be easily washed out. Originally developed for his own use, Kevin became convinced to sell his products. Initial reception has been good, and for now Kevin’s working on developing Mentega into a men’s grooming brand with more product ideas underway. Watch out for his travel pomade for Christmas!
If you’ve like these, here are several more makers to watch:
Stationery, Accessories and Homeware by Nala
- Malaysian-crafted furniture by Wood & Steel, Kedai Bikin, Lain Furniture
- Biodiversity Specialists, Terrarium Riumz
- Collaboration of Handmade Goods by Lapan/8
- Contemporary Footwear by Nelissa Hilman
- Ceramic Artist, Bangkita
- Custom-made Blades by Fursan
- CheeseDenim by The Yard Dry Goods
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