Where once reserved for royals, modernising the songket means weaving it into the everyday fabric of Malaysian life. As a child, ...
Made In Malaysia
We tracked down four local furniture makers who are making a name for themselves at home and abroad.
Despite the recent opening of a popular mass furniture retailer in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, there seems to be a growing number of local furniture makers in the industry. We wonder: in a time of fast-moving consumer goods, can there be a healthy market for locally designed and produced furniture?
We sought out four furniture-makers with bold, distinct, and homegrown designs to find out more.
Founded by Hani Ali, LAIN, which means ‘different’ in Malay, is focused on producing well-crafted, bespoke wood furniture pieces.
“I became involved with furniture design and production in 2002 (during my studies) at TAFE College in Perth, Australia,” explained Hani.
“Woodworking is something I find challenging,” she says. “But the outcome would always be beautiful. When you draw furniture on paper or using the computer software, you think everything is possible. Soon you realise, you’ll be making amendments due to the limitations of the process.”
LAIN conducts LAIN Design Studio Workshop, a monthly woodworking session, mostly because Hani felt that “many of our local design students’ ideas are below average.” After pledging that she would help anyone who wants to learn about woodworking, Hani put together a syllabus for beginners and more advanced students. “I’ve had about 64 students so far since I started this program in 2012.”
In 2016, expect to see more LAIN pieces in places like Snackfood in Bangsar, Cakejalantiung Cafe in Shah Alam and GUDANG in KL.
Heartifacts by Heartpatrick
While wood-based furniture is quite a common sight, pieces made using recycled or recovered railway sleepers are quite special - there is a sense of history and functionality in the material itself, knowing that it was once part of a railway track somewhere.
But how did Heartifacts start?
“I was actually renovating my new own unit,” explained Heartpatrick, who is also a photographer. “And I got pretty frustrated with trying to source for furniture that I like locally. As such, I decided to make some for myself instead.”
While the use of railway sleepers was initially unplanned - they were meant to be used in his courtyard garden pathway - but due to exposure to constant rain, the material quickly became unmanageable. “I got the idea to make good use of them instead and turn them into furniture.”
In 2016, Heartifacts is looking to expand their product range using other types of recycled materials.
Started in 2014 by solid wood expert GK Choo and industrial designer Francis Lye, MFIVIO has risen swiftly in the furniture design world. “We never intended to start a business,” explained Lye. “Choo and I just started making things we wanted for ourselves and I guess other people did as well.”
Within a year of starting MFIVIO, Lye was already gaining recognition from the industry including winning first prize for Best Prototype at the Malaysian International Furniture Design in 2014 and a selection as one of Asia’s top 20 rising stars in furniture design at the International Furniture Fair Singapore (IFFS) in 2015.
On their aesthetic, Lye has this to say: “All our designs are uncomplicated and inclusive. At the core is a simplistic nature that will easily complement any environment and personality. Our designs are influenced by automotive design, the beauty of line and purity of form.”
Lye is very excited about the coming year. “We have a very clear direction of where we’d like to see MFIVIO - developing more product lines which cater to the continuous demands of our clients.”
With the motto “Why fake it when we can make it”, Kedai Bikin has been producing furniture pieces that are vibrant, beautiful, and also localised. Their Grandaddy Lounger and Merdeka chairs are reminiscent of an older Malaysia, for example.
“It’s partly nostalgic and about re-establishing our local aesthetics that have been forgotten,” shares Farah. “We felt that if given an upgrade, these chairs will be even greater products for contemporary use; they are lightweight, stackable, well ventilated and water resistant. Most importantly, they are comfortable, fairly priced and suit our tropical lifestyle.”
But are Malaysians ready for these remakes?
“Most Malaysians still need something affordable, from the kedai perabot to Ikea. We can’t deny that the market is also flooded with reproductions of popular Danish designs which are very affordable but are mostly made in China.”
“We felt that (by chance) our String Family of re-appropriated popular Malaysian classics from the ‘60s and ‘70s will provide an alternative choice for the mass market as they are proudly Malaysian made.”
What can we expect from Kedai Bikin in 2016? “We’ll be launching the website in early 2016, with online shopping in the pipeline.”
By Myra Mahyuddin
Photos of Heartifacts courtesy of Heartifacts
Photos of MFIVIO courtesy of MFIVIO
Photos of Kedai Bikin courtesy of Raymond Pung @ Unknown Imagery
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