I’m an independent artist, designer and paper sculptor who draws inspiration from nature as the source of my artistic expression. My fascination with paper stems from the possibilities found within it – beautiful, complicated forms arise from the transformation of this humble, almost-mundane material.
I cut, sculpt, create works of art out of paper. I do not paint on it, but rather I learn to focus on the raw material itself and try to uncover the hidden beauty of paper without any interference.
In Kuching, Sarawak, the environment is a lot different than most of the places I have ever been to. Perhaps it’s because I’m a Sarawakian myself and it’s probably only just natural to be drawn back to my roots. But no matter how much I try to work and make it outside, I would always find myself coming back home. Kuching may be many steps behind in technology and all things fun, but I find the slow pace just fine and actually great as a reminder for people to slow down, take a breather, and look at the beautiful things around us which we tend to forget and ignore, or take for granted.
No matter how much I try to work and make it outside, I would always find myself coming back home.
I used to work in London and compared to where I was before, there’s definitely a huge gap in everything. Having to live in a fast pace life previously, the environment constantly challenges me and pushes me to my boundaries, I was always surrounded by inspiring figures and amazing ideas. Everything seems easier to get hold of, to access. I loved it there without a doubt.
Whereas Kuching is, a very laid-back small town. The atmosphere is always very relaxing, very chill, perhaps a little too chill, to the point that it’s quite demotivating to do anything. It lacks development, it’s lacking in many ways in terms of technology, materials etc. Even though this is possibly the worst thing about Kuching, it is also the best thing there is to it. Instead of craving for a change of environment and situation, throughout the time here I learned to depend on myself rather than on ‘things’ and situations. I learned to make use of limited resources and to embrace what’s available in front of me. It makes me know how to appreciate the smallest things and cherish them dearly. It has sculpted me to a far better person than I was. As contradicting as it may sound, the worst might actually be the best thing about this city. Although it brings forth a lot of obstacles, they are always a lifetime of great lessons and amazing discoveries.
It took me quite a while to realize that, whether we succeed or fail, it’s not about what the world does to us or the situations it put us in, it depends on what we actually do after choosing the path to take. Our thoughts, actions and how we perceive things, are what define us.
Challenging, Ambitious, Exhilarating
I started doing paper art full time exactly 2 years ago, back in 2017. I worked as a designer for a couple of years after graduation, freelancing as a graphic designer doing mostly digital works while doing a little bit of paper art at the same time. I didn’t really love what I was doing, however as paper art wasn’t really a thing back then, I thought that that was the only way for me to continue making art, and for the sake of having a more stable income, I ended up working non-stop to support myself, 3 to 4 odd jobs at once until my health was at stake. I wasn’t happy, I was miserable. Along with some personal problems I was facing, I had to take a few months break to recalibrate myself.
It was at that moment that I started to think about life, about what I want. I have forgotten all about the joy of creating and my love for paper art until that very moment. It had me realize that our time in this life is limited, that life is too short to do things that you don’t love doing. If you don’t feel for what you’re doing and you can’t give it your best, then, by all means, get out of it. So as of 2017, with those thoughts, I decided to leave behind graphic design and work full time as a paper artist.
It was at that moment that I started to think about life, about what I want. I have forgotten all about the joy of creating and my love for paper art until that very moment.
Absolutely not! and I guess most creative or independent artists out there could relate to this particular question.
Everyone around me was doubtful, there were a lot of criticisms and harsh words, to the point that I believed in them and never had the confidence to pursue further. There were a few years gap, of which I completely gave in to the criticisms, not doing what I love to do, and only work odd jobs to pay the bills, to survive. The thought of me doing what I love was a very distant, almost impossible dream, needless to say becoming an artist.
Despite that, I’m glad I came around and listened to myself. Even though it was a few years late, I am a lot wiser and tougher now all thanks to those years. It has taught me, given me an immense amount of confidence, of days which I thought would tear me apart, only increasing my love towards what I do. People around me gradually saw the change and perseverance and started acknowledging my job as a creative, and I am truly grateful for that.
Thinking back, I realized that one thing leads to another, there is always a reason that some things happened, either bad or good, it’s up to us to decide. I’ve learned to see the good in the bad, and not dwell on it. I was lost along the way, and I realized that all those years I was trying to please everyone, meet their expectations instead of doing what I love. I did not listen to the voice in my head, I ignored how I feel and was miserable for many years of my life. Fast forward to today, despite the harsh times, I find myself smiling. Everything has changed and somehow, it feels like I am being more me than I have ever been, and I am proud of that. I may not be where I want to be just yet, the road ahead is still unclear and full of potholes, but I am thankful for moving forward and not being where I used to be. Thankful, for all the tough situations I was in, as they helped me to appreciate and achieve more, not just as an artist but also as a human being too.
Everyone around me was doubtful, there were a lot of criticisms and harsh words, to the point that I believed in them and never had the confidence to pursue further.
As much as I have a lot of realistic ambitions for what I do, the one thing that I think is most important to me, is to keep striving to improve, to discover and uncover the unknowns and never stop exploring. I have discovered new possibilities over the years, but it made me realize that even though there are so many limitations to it, it also offered a lot of potentials if you could just go against the restrictions, which is possibly endless.
Collaboration, I have yet to consider this question because I don’t feel that I am qualified or good enough to do a collaboration with any person. But if I have to mention one now, it would be Left&Right, a powerhouse duo who honors stories, moments and emotions, translating them into beautiful jewelry pieces, which are out of this world. I am personally, fascinated and attracted by their personalities more than anything else. With everything they approach, they do it with so much passion and love, that the pieces they created make their expression come to life, as if they hold their very own souls in it, reflecting the creators themselves of who they are, too. I have no idea what will come out of this collaboration, however, just the thought of combining these two completely different mediums/elements and manipulating them side by side, thinking about the sparks and possibilities, is enough to make me want to jump into it!
Most of them probably aren’t in the creative field or have any relation to it at all, however, they are the ones who taught me important life lessons and most of all, to put myself first. It was through seeing their determination and persistence in their everyday life that allowed me to connect to them in a sense, which inspires me to have courage and press on.
No. Truthfully, I wasn’t very aware of the local art scene when I was growing up. Sure, I was interested in art, I tried to learn more about it, however, I have no access to anything, no one around me was into art. The only option was for me to participate in competitions, be it inside or outside of school, and sadly, it didn’t get me anywhere further. I was even thinking of pursuing to become a pharmacist! So, having that in mind, I didn’t bother to know more about the local creatives. Until that is when I decided to finally pursue it. It wasn’t my intention to become an artist that I am today, at all.
However, throughout the years I involved myself with art, I have had the pleasure to know some incredible creatives personally, and this one particular person that stood out to me is a lady who combines jewelry design with story-telling. Having been graduated as an engineer, everyone had high expectations for her and yet, she turned down numerous highly paid jobs to pursue her love for jewelry design. Her decision to embark on this entirely new journey of hers took a huge toll on her life; losing friends, being churned to the corners and looked down upon, barely making ends meet, practically no one was supportive of her and what she does. Despite the setbacks, she continues to persevere, went on touching the hearts of individuals with the sincere approach of her work and life. Fast forward to this day, the brand she started outgrew and has expanded itself to clients from all over the world commissioning for her pieces.
Of how she struggled through all those years in silence, she is still able to put on a big smile and maintain this positive outlook on life, encouraging like-minded artists and giving them her utmost support. Her presence has truly made a huge impact in my life, not just as an artist but also as a woman myself, she has broken the boundaries and stereotypical expectations. She is, one of the living reminders to me that endurance is often the key to success, and with constant hard work, everything is possible even the things that seem impossible.
I feel that an artist is an artist, just as a person is simply a person. What we do should definitely not be limited or judged based on our gender.
There hasn’t been any as of now, people in this field has been extremely encouraging and supportive of what I do, it definitely makes me feel at ease and blessed to be surrounded by a wonderful community, which is really hard to come by.
However, I do encountered individuals, be it professionals or strangers, who would tell me to work and settle down for less, that I shouldn’t be out there working on something like this, simply because I am a woman. In some circumstances, people would tell me straight to my face that I can’t survive in this industry and that I am expected to fail in what I do. It gave me a lot of uncertainties.
Over the years, I’ve definitely learned to keep my expectations realistic, but that doesn’t mean that I should dream or aim for any lesser. I feel that an artist is an artist, just as a person is simply a person. What we do should definitely not be limited or judged based on our gender.
Do not let anyone tell you how things should be done yet take as many criticisms and advice as you can. Regardless of any field you will be or are working in, get comfortable with the fear of failure, and take it as a notion to learn about yourself. Be loose, be you. Everyday encounters, even the failures, can lead to great opportunities and new beginnings if you just take the step to try.
Photos courtesy of Ceres Lau.
April 8, 2019