I’ve fell in love with crafts for a long time. When I was studying for a very important exam, we were all so stressed. My Pure Mathematics teacher used to waltz into class wearing hair decorations from Evita Peroni. That time, ribbon roses hair clips were very fashionable and the hair clips were very expensive. A friend and me would be admiring her hair assessories. We had aspired to open a boutique selling these hair products- I produce these items while she concentrate on other aspects of the business.
As students, we used to stare at the store front of Evita Peroni- we were too shy to go in because we know we can’t really afford to buy them. But through looking and gathering ideas, I started to make hair clips using beads- then, I progressed to using ribbon roses.
Then, the imitation products from China flooded the market. I did not see the trend- I only noticed that there were less and less people wearing clips from Evita Peroni. Instead, girls were using hair clips bought for a fraction of what Evita Peroni was selling.
By the time, I’ve lost contact with that former schoolmate of mine- but I still held on to my dream of setting my own craft store. I imagine life would be fulfilling and meaningful, as I would be selling what I make and being surrounded by crafts and my creations. No one close to me shared my interest in craft- I was young and felt lonely that no one understood.
Imagine my delight when I had my first internet connection and got to know so many other craft sites all over the world. Many crafters produce their own original creations- a crafter would understand that a piece of us go into every product we make with our own hands. So I spent any available hours (that I am not working) surfing craft sites.
Eventually, I discovered craft forums and I started reading craft business forums. And the reality hit me- American crafters were competing with a lot of imports from China- that were mass produced and sold for a much lower price. It is okay if China is selling mass produced products related to Chinese heritage- but instead, a lot of original ideas were taken and duplicate copies were made. US crafters were all discussing about how these imports had hurt their business. The situation looked gloomy- a crafter can tell an original product from a mass produced one but not a customer who visits craft fair. As the result of mass production coming in, the craft industry in US and Europe suffered- a lot of craft malls eventually started closing down. Even when you go to Australia, their famous koala bear souvenirs have a “Made in China” tag on them- well, you go all the way to Australia to buy a souvenir with a “Made in China” tag on it. Well…
This opened my eyes to the reality- I started slowly observing the situation around me. What happens in America soon spread to Asia- to Malaysia and Singapore. Imports were finding their way in- more and more companies were selling them. I take me at least 2 hours to produce one hair clip. How can I compete for a similar product that was being sold for just RM10 to RM20? My day job paid much better. Still, reality hurts and it had taken years for me to let go of the fact that I will not be able to make a living being a full time crafter.
Furthermore, it’s strange but I somehow felt that my craft ability were not meant for me to make money out of it. I produce the most beautiful pieces when my heart intends to give it out for free- not when I wanted to sell it for a profit. When I sit down in front of my ribbons and beads and thought of making something for sale, I just could not come out with anything. But when I thought of making it and presenting it as a gift to a wonderful friend, the hands just worked automatically. And if the products does not sell, it may affect one’s sense of worth or confidence. Of course, I had wished to have a hobby that I’m passionate about that pays- but I also have to be realistic- when money is in the equation, it takes the joy out of crafting.
My craft interest led me to built my first website. And I develop the interest to constantly work to improve my website. My bosses then noticed my interest (because I was giving a lot of feedback on the company’s website) and got me transferred to support their website. The rest, is history- eventually my interest evolved in blogging and developing blogs- the energy is still there- but it has changed into different form. A lot of creativity is needed- I was able to understand various aspects of technology and learn to innovate and constantly try out new ideas. Still, each time I walk into a store selling craft products, beads, ribbons and creative items- I feel energised and joy would fill me as my eyes absorb to rich colours, creations and designs.