5 creative entrepreneurs putting innovative spins on traditional crafts

5 creative entrepreneurs putting innovative spins on traditional crafts

Want to support your local artisans? Here’s a list of Malaysian brands changing the artisan enterprise landscape with their creative product designs, just in time for year-end gift-giving.

By Kay Lynn Chua

Becoming a successful creative entrepreneur embodies the saying ‘do what you love’. Although it’s not a walk in the park, combining the passion for art with the skills and mindset of an entrepreneur can present one with endless business opportunities! These five local creative entrepreneurs show us the possibilities.

1. Mannik & Batik by Aznab Abdul Manan (Penang)

Aznab Abdul Manan founded his homegrown lifestyle brand Mannik & Batik in 2015. With his values deeply rooted in craftsmanship and quality, Aznab sells bags, placemats, and beaded accessories featuring traditional batik and artist collaboration prints. Before starting Mannik & Batik, Azman worked under a lifestyle brand in Kuala Lumpur for nine years before venturing out to start his own business in 2015.

Currently, Aznab resides in Penang. Catch him selling his handicrafts at various craft markets such as the weekly Hin Market.

2. Xiapism by Beng Lim & Jo Wong (Johor)

Xiapism is owned by artists Beng Lim and Jo Wong. Based in Pontian, Lim and Wong employ an old dyeing technique from the 50s on their modern-day products. The technique originated from fishermen who discovered that mangrove tannin could strengthen their fishing nets and make their clothes dry faster. Xiapism brings this old technique into a design line of eco-friendly products that are dyed using the strengthening mangrove tannin. From bags to passport holders, browse here to view their entire lifestyle range.

Natural dye cotton cushion cases on sale at Xiapism’s online store.

3. Sang Tukang by Adam Kitingan and Frida (Sabah)

In 2015, indigenous Sabahan artists Adam and Frida created their brand Sang Tukang in pursuit of reviving their home state’s cultural arts, striving to tell stories through their creations to keep Sabah’s rich heritage and tribal history alive.

Sang Tukang’s artisanal brass cuffs, rings, pendants, and headgear are designed with traditional Bornean motifs and symbols, sourcing local materials and hand made by local artisans. Check out their Facebook and Instagram pages for updates. Although currently completely sold out, Sang Tukang have been selling their cuffs on Salt x Paper so it might be worth it to bookmark and check back soon.  

Sang Tukang include detailed descriptions that show the research that goes into the making of their products. This cuff features the mondou (clouded leopard), a mystical creature in Dusunic lore but also the biggest – and very real – predator in Bornean forests.

4. Slumber Bugs by Wai-Ee and Li En (Kuala Lumpur)

Wai-Ee & Li En are two graphic designers who co-founded the only handmade paper brand in Malaysia – Slumber Bugs. Although the two creative entrepreneurs are graduates of editorial design and branding, they share a mutual love for hand craftsmanship.

Slumber Bugs papers are handmade from sugar cane waste, corn husks, and even pandan leaves! Wanting to make products that truly reflect the locality, the duo says that ‘We believe identity is very important. Malaysia was never known for paper making. Perhaps now, we can finally call it our own’.

Aside from being able to purchase paper, buyers can try their hands at Slumber Bug’s angpow packets for an eco-friendly way of giving or perhaps recycled envelopes to mail letters! The brand also provides screen printing services that start from RM1 per piece. 

A Chinese New Year themed paper made from recycled angpow packets and pineapple pulp, available at Slumber Bugs’ online store.

5. Nysakapas by Haniza Hisham (Terrenganu)

Ampang-born Haniza Hisham left the city and started living in Kampung Serada, Kuala Terengganu in 2010. With her background in architecture, Haniza started her block batik brand Nysakapas in 2016 after experimenting with batik for six years. Haniza’s urban eye gives her batik design a ‘new language’ – and makes her stand out amongst the traditional batik industry of Terengganu. All her batik designs are hand-block printed and designed by Haniza herself. Nysakapas exists to ‘bring new meaning and purpose to the art, modernising old techniques to improve and strengthen our skills in batik making and at the same time, protecting our artisans’ future’. Shop all things Nysakapas here.

Cover image by SwapnIl Dwivedi on Unsplash

A fine art graduate, Kay Lynn Chua splits her time between being an artist and running her own private art lesson business.