The Artsy Craftsy started as a blog in 2008, to document founder, Shia Lynn’s journey in creative exploration and offer content related to DIY arts and crafts.
After more than 10 years on the scene, the unique Malaysian blog has grown into a team of four crafty women, who work together to share all kinds of arts and crafts delights for a life in constant creativity!
Shia Lynn is now joined by Rebecca Lawrence, Alice Lee, and Jessica Ning, all of whom act as coordinators for the content, community, and platform that The Artsy Craftsy has turned into.
Eksentrika recently interviewed them on how to grow an arts and crafts blog effectively.
Read on to learn their perspectives on turning The Artsy Craftsy into an inspiring platform with endless treasures in everything that’s related to crafts!
Thank you very much for having us – yes, it has been an interesting journey championing the arts and crafts scene.
In its early days, while I was still managing The Artsy Craftsy alone as a blog, I had the honor of featuring some of the local artists and crafters when they were starting out.
Some have moved on, but some are still very much active and have evolved in their creative career. I had the privilege to witness what they have made for themselves today in the scene.
Some of the Malaysian creatives that I have featured are individuals like, Rupa Subramaniam, TinyPinc, Karthine Maniam a.k.a TMK Henna, and even visual artists like Eugene Nandakumar, Jean Lynn Chang, Haris Rashid, Peisy Ting, even the previous retail store – Supermart Collective (who carried products by local designers & makers) managed by husband and wife duo – Aaron and Chrystin who are now owners of Salt x Paper Stationery & Gifts in Sabah.
Personally, I think it all depends on what is trending at the current time. For instance, we noticed that right now, polymer clay jewelry making is trending.
There was a time when lettering and calligraphy were trending, and almost everyone I know wanted to be able to write aesthetically.
Shortly after, the trend was followed by watercolour in the form of floral, lettering and food subjects, and so on. Then came embroidery and crochet – which was pretty interesting to see how a craft that was labelled as “old school” at one time, has such a modern take among the younger generation (take Sheena Liam’s embroidery works, for example, an aesthetic minimalism style with a touch of fashion illustration).
From my own observation, I also noticed that crafts such as leather making, bookbinding, soap making, woodworking, pouring art, and pottery are the ones that Malaysians enjoy.
People enjoy these crafts because they are now accessible locally (compared to years ago) and it is mainly for the experience.
Different arts and crafts have different levels and complexity – so I think, the idea of being able to craft something so technical based on their own with guidance, sparks joy in them! Good for self-development too! Having a creative lifestyle is a healthy outlet.
On top of my head, I think one of the most memorable milestones would be the year (2015) when I decided to go full-time on The Artsy Craftsy; to bring it forward from just a blog to a platform that celebrates creativity.
I took it one step at a time because there were so many things that I wanted to offer under The Artsy Craftsy name. I started off with content, followed by introducing creative hands-on learning experiences and then events, brand collaborations and partnerships, and so on and so forth.
I have always wanted to work towards building it as a platform; I suppose as time goes by, it led to another milestone in 2021 which is The Artsy Craftsy team expansion.
From a one-woman show to a group of four crafty ladies right now who share the same vision, mission, and interest. The timing couldn’t be perfect!
Editor’s Note: This part here is shared by The Artsy Craftsy’s creative content coordinator, Rebecca Lawrence.
A partnership with The Artsy Craftsy would mean, you would be entrusting your brand into the hands of seasoned, multi-faceted crafters to explore, use, experiment with.
All of this we do with our followers watching. They connect with us because we are like them and they see real everyday crafters using and working with brands that we care about.
We have always prided ourselves in being unbiased and telling it like it is; pros, cons, and all. That is our connection with our followers.
Brands can also have a wider reach than just one group of crafters because we are a platform for all types of artists, crafters, makers, and hobbyists.
Once again, this stems from our very diverse backgrounds, but yet we have found a connection with each other through arts and crafts.
Our ability to create and express ourselves through various mediums is what brings us together as a team and closer to our followers.
Our connection with like-minded crafters has created a sense of belonging to a wider community.
At The Artsy Craftsy, we focus on the FUN. To us, arts and crafts are more PLAY than work, because it teaches us how to problem solve and encourage us to explore something new every day while cultivating our followers with the therapeutic nature of it.
If we take a moment to focus on what sets The Artsy Craftsy apart from the other crafts offerings in Malaysia, I would say it is our willingness to openly share what we have learned over the years as seasoned crafters.
As a team, although individually we each may have our own chosen medium or focused-craft (ie. mixed media art, calligraphy, clay/sculpting, and decorative crafts), but collectively we are creatives who are advocates of creative PLAY.
We believe that art and creativity can be experienced best through exploration and experimentation – no idea is a bad idea, poor experiences are learning curves to us.
Take small craft business tips, for example, the mistakes that we may have made because of our lack of experience before, we deliver it now as a source of information through content so that the community can benefit from it.
People naturally turn to The Artsy Craftsy for advice or recommendations, whether it is for a craft project that they are starting out, or a handmade product they are looking for, or perhaps tips on therapeutic art and how to deal with creative blocks.
And again, I think this comes naturally for us because of the different experiences and diverse backgrounds that we carry as a team and what we offer.
I love this question!
Speaking on behalf of my team – only because we just had this conversation recently; we LOVE experimenting with different arts and crafts products of various price ranges just to test out the quality and results before recommending them to people.
One of the things that we value most is telling people that you can enjoy crafts on a budget.
It is without a doubt that people tend to view arts and crafts as an expensive hobby. I would say that it depends on what you are dabbling in.
It can get expensive only because arts and crafts are wide and sometimes we can get carried away with spending on craft supplies.
The other thing that would make it expensive are the brands – most of the popular arts and craft brands are imported, therefore, with the currency exchange rate and tax, it would make the hobby expensive especially for those who are brand conscious and would use only the expensive range.
How to maintain a nice budget? I would say that there are ways to go about this and again, it depends if you are a professional, full-time working artist/crafter, or if you are a hobbyist.
For example: If I am a working artist-crafter, I will separate my supplies to professional brands and cheaper alternatives.
If I am on commissioned work or preparing for an art exhibition, I would use my high-end supplies because of the quality – I wouldn’t want something to “fall apart” after the job is done, I would want to deliver the best results.
But because I am also a big fan of art journaling, this is where I allow myself to test out different art supplies and sometimes even experiment with non-art materials to make art, which works out well for sharing arts and craft tips on The Artsy Craftsy.
The same goes for my team, some of us have experience working in a craft retail shop and that has encouraged us to be open to trying out different supplies of different price ranges.
So, firstly determine what sort of arts and crafts are you exploring; if it is a technical-based craft like leather or bookmaking, or soap or candle making, then yes be ready to be spending quite a bit on it.
If not, then keep it within a budget. Next, determine if you are doing this for fun as a hobby or experience, or you are expecting a ‘Return of Investment’, and finally do a little research first before purchasing.
And depending on the art/craft projects you are dabbling in, be open to alternatives – circling back to art journaling (I always use this as an example) if you are doing as a self-love hobby, have fun with it and be open to hunting for cheap art supplies or non-supplies that you can PLAY with.
Places like Daiso, MR DIY, RM2 shops are some of our favourite places that we love to hunt for supplies and materials to explore.
Looking back now, the pandemic has certainly brought about a lot of change, especially in terms of mindset.
As a creative, it has encouraged me to be open to the idea of embracing change in how things are done on The Artsy Craftsy, which led to the idea of welcoming a collaborating team into the picture.
The 3 creatives who are the latest addition to The Artsy Craftsy team were originally from The Artsy Craftsy’s inner circle.
We realised that we are not just passionate crafters, but seasoned creatives as well who share very similar interests and goals, and not to mention, we share the same REAL-LIFE experience as what every small artist/crafter has gone through.
The idea of a team collaboration made sense and fell into place.
What I love most about us as a team is that, collectively, we carry over 25 years of experience in the arts and crafts industry.
This includes retail, product knowledge, servicing, teaching, and events. Each of us possesses our own set of skills and knowledge that is not only just limited to arts and crafts, but in other areas as well.
We are learning so much more from each other, and now with The Artsy Craftsy, we are able to look into the possibilities of exploring and executing various creative ideas.
It has given us a diversified perspective of the existence of the many craft communities out there. We are continuously learning how to better represent, champion and serve and help these communities grow.
From just having knowledge of our own various crafts, we are now exposed and learn from others with similar passions in other crafts. We are enjoying the process very much.
Personally, as a founder, it was sort of a full circle situation (and a very, long one) that started out from my childhood and into my adult life.
Long story short, I was experiencing burnout in my 20s and was going through a self-discovery phase- questioning life, my purpose, and happiness.
I realised that I stopped art-ing because of my mental health blockages. I started asking myself questions like “What is my purpose?”, “What makes me happy?”, “How can I experience happiness internally?”
This introspection led to me wanting to express myself creatively, and I discovered on my own that I needed to look inward and focus on doing what I love most. I also learned that I was actually learning how to self-heal/self-cope when I make art.
And it wasn’t just specifically arts and crafts, it was the idea that I allowed myself to explore all things creative, whether it is through creative writing, music, photography, reading, etc.
I had something to look forward to every day when I documented my exploration. I allowed my inner child out to play through creativity.
It was then that I realised how important it is to have creativity or practise creative living because it helps with empowering our self-worth, especially for women. This was one of the reasons why I created The Artsy Craftsy.
People often wonder, what exactly is The Artsy Craftsy?
One of the most interesting questions that we have gotten recently was, “Is The Artsy Craftsy, the SoyaCincau for the arts and crafts?” I must admit, that was very interesting because we usually get questions like, “Are you a shop? Are you a studio or an art centre?”
I suppose people are often used to “labels and boxes”.
Truth is, The Artsy Craftsy is never that one thing. It was never meant to fit into any box.
As a matter of fact, The Artsy Craftsy was created to encourage creative exploration and to call out to those who struggle with boxing themselves up because they enjoy exploring with different skills, interests and are eager to pursue their passion.
Hence the name, The Artsy Craftsy.
Yes we do educate the community through our content and we do offer services, but it definitely is more than that.
Our hope is to make sure that we are able to go forward as a resourceful platform and explore more creative ideas on how else we can advocate and educate people on supporting the arts and crafts industry, and embrace the importance of creativity as a part of our lives.
Cover image by supplied by The Artsy Craftsy. This post was edited by Sukhbir Cheema.