SUBANG JAYA, April 17 — Although handcrafted artisan goods are getting more popular in Malaysia, it’s hard for those who set up their own businesses to gain a meaningful online presence.
Enter Toh Shia Lynn who runs The Artsy Craftsy, an online platform that supports and showcases local talents in Malaysia’s budding creative scene.
“The Artsy Craftsy is actually a creative lifestyle blogazine. I’m revamping it into a new media commerce platform with its own product line. It will focus on the creative lifestyle scene in Malaysia: the local artisans, the crafters, the makers — anything that is creative lifestyle related. It is to encourage people to create a well-balanced lifestyle with creativity.”
Prior to running The Artsy Craftsy full-time, Toh was a copywriter for The One Academy. She does not have a formal education in art but is more self-taught. Her grandfather was one of the early staff of The Royal Press, a printing press company based in Malacca.
The Artsy Craftsy was started back in 2008 as a personal blog when Toh was teaching art and working as a copywriter. Initially, it was created just as a hobby and an outlet for her to reconnect with her creative passion.
Being a crafter herself, she would also sell her items on the site. As the years went by, it slowly evolved into a blog that supports the local crafting community. Toh would also post items on the site that touched on topics like arts, crafts and lifestyle.
The blog reached an important milestone in 2014 when it got shortlisted in the Top 10 Content Category at the Digi Wwwow Awards. It was only last year that she decided to push the initiative seriously after realising it was now or never.
She quit her job and focused on developing it into a full-time business where the personal blog was rebranded into a blogazine. As Toh says, “I think I should give it a shot and go full throttle into it.”
Toh has also worked with various companies like Lazada, Zalora and Etsy to promote the industry. She also works with budding entrepreneurs to give them more exposure for their creative ventures. In addition, The Artsy Craftsy also runs workshops for those who are interested in learning a new craft.
You can also shop for Toh’s handmade creations on The Artsy Craftsy. She focuses on inspirational accessories like a painted bag or a painted box. There are also Mala necklaces which are more for yoga-inspired people. As her personal interests are New Age and bohemian, her things have a magical and spiritual slant, like her charm bottles that can be worn as pendants. “People have told me before when they look at my items, they see a lot of magic in it. There is a magical theme in it.”
This February, Toh took The Artsy Craftsy to a new level by launching a crafts bazaar called The Craft Affair. The bazaar held at Main Place, USJ21 was jointly organised with Craft Haven and Ryl Designs. “It’s not a normal type of bazaar or event. What makes us different is that it is not the run-of-the-mill type of bazaar, it is not just selling handmade. It is to promote to cultivate the culture of making so that’s why we have Craftivity, Craft Haven set up a booth so that when they sell materials, they sell supplies then at least people are geared up to want to buy and make,” said Toh.
At The Craft Affair, there were two categories of workshops. One was the regular type that covered skills such as fabric painting, glass painting, calligraphy and things like that. The more unusual workshop was called Make and Take where people would participate, do the craft by themselves and go off taking what they made.
“The Craft Affair is the first event I organised and I was very excited because it was something I was aiming for. I was never able to do it because of the manpower. So, finally I met two other people and it all went well. Craft Haven is a pioneer in the industry and Ryl Design is a pioneer as well in the bazaar scene.
“They have been organising bazaars for a very long time as well. So, plus my side The Artsy Craftsy is known to have a strong network of artisans and makers in Malaysia. When these three come together, it is stronger that way. Each of us have our own uniqueness, our own specialty.”
Toh believes it is better to collaborate with other people rather than do it by yourself, as she strongly stands by the idea that one is stronger as a team. Together with Craft Haven and Ryl Designs, she curated the vendors for the bazaar ensuring that all the items were handmade and of good quality.
“There are a lot of crafters out there who are trying to tap into the scene and want to make it. Unfortunately, not a lot of people realise that you need branding. You can’t just make a felt keychain, put it there and say you want to sell for X amount of money. It has to come with branding.”
Another criteria Toh looked for was the whole package. For instance, it has to come with a logo and some marketing effort. “We also looked at variety as well, we didn’t want to have too much of accessories, for example. We wanted to have a balanced amount of vendors. So, when the crowd came in, there would be so many things to do and so many things to see at the same time.”
The event attracted a number of independent artists, which made Toh happy. She believes that it’s an important opportunity for young artists to join these events as it is a platform for them to start showing off their items to the crowd and get feedback. “People don’t realise that when they join art markets or events, it is not just about making money, it is about networking. The fee you pay for the table is as though you are paying for a marketing fee. It is for you to get your name out there. The more you participate, the more you are known so people keep taking your name cards. People see you there and it is an offline exposure.”
To keep yourself updated with the next The Craft Affair or just be inspired with The Artsy Craftsy, check out the links below:
The Arsty Craftsy: www.theartsycraftsy.com
The Craft Affair