During the pandemic, many people are turning to online shopping because physical shops have been closed during the movement control order, particularly in the early phases of the National Recovery Plan (NRP).
Many have also lost their means of livelihood and have turned to their handmade crafts as a lifeline.
“It takes a lot of heart and passion to create something by hand, and many local artisans have turned to their craft as a lifeline when the pandemic hit and livelihoods were lost,” says CEO and curator Jade Lee.
To meet this need, founders semi-retirees Lee and Rosalie Lin established The Artisans Haven in May 2020, right in the midst of the pandemic.
“We started out with just 30 tenants and it grew to 250 tenants over the months. Currently, we’re growing at a rate of 50 new tenants each month and with a monthly rental of as low as RM25, we expect to cross the 1,000 tenant mark in the next 12 months,” says Lee.
But this is more than just a figure, she adds, revealing that more importantly, the number represents the many families that The Artisans Haven supports.
Caropaya Handicraft owner Caroline Jok Ngau from Miri, Sarawak has been selling handmade accessories such as bags, earrings and face-mask lanyards online through The Artisans Haven since the first movement control order started.
“Before the pandemic, I would have many groups of visitors, especially through the Department of Agriculture. But, since the MCO started, visitors haven’t been able to come to my premises to view and purchase my products,” she says.
“I’m grateful to The Artisans Haven as they’ve helped to market my products online - through Facebook Live and other channels - and reach a wider audience,” she adds.
“In fact, despite the pandemic having impacted the economy and business being slow for many, there are still people buying my handmade items through The Artisans Haven, in particular my Rose bag - which uses a unique paper rattan weaving-style resulting in a rose pattern,” says Caroline.
Artist Sashtri Vivekananda of Hand and Brush by Sashtri Art Gallery, has been painting customised portraits for clients for 15 years and most of his clients find him through social media like Facebook and Instagram, and also roadshows and exhibitions.
But during the pandemic when such events aren't possible, many of his orders have come from The Artisans Haven.
"The platform has enabled me to showcase my art in a virtual gallery and when people see my work, they often hire me to do customised portraits such as recreating cherished moments together with their loved one who have passed on,” says Sashtri who uses charcoals, and black and white pastels for his paintings.
“I also get orders for customised drawings of famous icons such as superheroes like Darth Maul, a Star Wars character, through the platform,” says Sashtri.
He adds that he also gets requests for animal and pet portraiture.
“The Artisans Haven has provided a good platform where people can see my work and hire me to do their customised portraits and drawings,” he says.
Nurul Asdiana Mohd Ariff who runs her Tudung Saji Che Ton family business, joined The Artisans Haven in April this year. Prior to that, Nurul who is home-based, marketed her product - the tudung saji (food cover) which is made of plastic and handwoven using satin ribbon - only through her Facebook page and WhatsApp.
According to Nurul, The Artisans Haven has been helping artisans such as herself through the difficulties they have encountered in marketing and selling their products during the pandemic.
“The pandemic has somewhat impacted business because it’s been difficult to get raw materials to make the tudung saji as shops are closed during the MCOs, and furthermore, sales have decreased because the income of most people has been affected by the MCOs,” she says.
“The Artisans Haven has helped to introduce and promote my products to a wider audience. They’ve a great e-commerce platform, and their excellent marketing strategy will not only make the artisans more known to the public, but also help increase sales for the artisans,” she adds.
The “virtual shopping mall” not only enables these artisans to market and sell their handmade products and crafts online during the pandemic when physical shops have been closed but it also provides a virtual space for them to share their stories and the “heart behind their brand and products”.
“The Artisans Haven will not only provide a virtual platform for talented Malaysian artisans to showcase their handmade products, but with our newly-upgraded e-commerce interface as as well as collaborations with corporations incluand banks, we hope to generate incremental sales of at least RM1mil in 12 months for our artisan e-tenants,” says Lee.
The website has an all-time view of more than 200,000. Its Facebook page has reached over 300,000 in the last 28 days, with regular Facebook Live sessions to showcase various artisan products.
“Through this platform, we also hope to start a trend for Malaysians to ‘shop artisan’ in support of local businesses and to promote local heritage and culture,” says Lee.
Together with their team, Lee and Lin have been working pro bono, leveraging on their expertise, experience and network to create and sustain this e-commerce platform for local artisans.
A portion of the sales from the virtual shopping mall also goes its #ShopforGood charity campaign to support five NGOs: Beautiful Gate, Community Excel Services (CES), Autistic training, RC Deaf Missions and Penan Healing Hands.
For more info, visit: The Artisans Haven and The Artisans Haven Facebook
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