Is there a future for craft shops in an era where our eyes are glued to the screens of mobile devices all of the time? The answer is a resounding yes, writes JESSIE LIM who talks to Doralisa Lee of Craft Haven.
WITH the prevalence of smartphones and tablets, and people everywhere seemingly unable to take their eyes of bright little screens, do people have time for hobbies and crafts anymore?
According to Doralisa Lee, general manager of Craft Haven at 1 Utama, mobile devices can, in fact, introduce all sorts of crafts to a wider audience.
After all, people share their projects on social media all the time.
“We have more people undertaking do-it-yourself (DIY) craft projects now, whether it’s for their wedding, birthday parties, baby showers or home décor.
“They watch tutorials on sites like Pinterest and YouTube, and realise they can do it too,” Lee reveals.
“With the help of technology, we can actually share with everyone what craft is all about and encourage them to watch and learn how they can create something with what they have,” says Lee.
In fact, social media is driving the craft scene to evolve — and quickly — because when people come up with creative and innovative ways of doing something, they immediately share it.
From origami and scrapbooks to cross-stitching and jewellery-making using art clay silver, you can take up any craft these days after doing a little online research.
The bigger challenge that mobile devices pose, says Lee, is that they make craft trends change much more quickly than before.
“What can be the in-thing today can be gone tomorrow. Or what used to be a hit years ago can become a hit again,” says Lee.
Craft stores have to try to keep up with, if not anticipate, the trends.
“Our key business is selling raw materials, so we have to decide what to bring in and what not to because it’s hard to foresee or predict what trend is next,” explains Lee, whose sister Adelina, now residing in Abu Dhabi, founded Craft Haven in 2003.
Lee says it takes anywhere from a couple of weeks to two months for the materials they order to reach our shores. By then, people may have moved on to something else.
“Therefore, we have to make sure the materials have longevity — at least a year or two; otherwise, it would be hard for our business,” says Lee. Craft Haven sells a wide range of crafts materials like glass, porcelain, fabric, polymer clay and acrylic paint to cater to all sorts of craft needs, whether from children or adults.
Besides wanting to try their hands at something new, people get into craft because they find it therapeutic — a welcome break from a stressful week.
Craft also encourages one to be creative and think out of the box.
“Crafting allows inspiration to come to life. You also get the satisfaction of making something with your own two hands and see it materialise in front of you.
“Plus, it’s a form of personal development as it pushes you to think of more ways to achieve the same result.
“This broadens your senses, and you will realise that there’s nothing in life you cannot ‘craft’ your way towards to,” Lee suggests.
Also, it’s cheaper to D-I-Y than to buy ready-made items, not to mention the fact that it’s more personal.
“You can make your own jewellery — silver earrings, rings, and pendants. It costs around RM100 plus to buy a charm, but with 5g of clay you can make one, and the clay is only about RM50,” Lee points out.
Sometimes, one’s hobby can turn into a business too.
Lee recalls a customer who frequented Craft Haven to buy stamps and ink pads; but over time, she decided to be a wholesaler as more and more people started enquiring after those materials.
With more people getting into craft, the number of shops dedicated to this trade has increased, Lee discloses.
But she isn’t too worried about the competition; in fact, she is happy there are competitors out there.
It’s not a zero-sum game, as far as Lee is concerned.
“We look at them as other people spreading the practice of craft. We want to spread the love of craft — it’s not just dollars and cent.
“If we are going to be selfish, then we can only reach that many people. But with our competitors, more people will be aware.
“Plus, all of us are different. Craft Haven is a sole distributor for a number of brands from Japan, the US, France and Australia, and our materials are niche and of good quality, and can’t really be found in the market.
“Other outlets are more mainstream. Basically each of us are different in our own way,” explains Lee.
To further grow the love for craft, she plans to work with her competitors in the near future.
Currently Craft Haven organises classes for clay, glass painting, fabric painting, polymer clay, metal clay and mix media. They also facilitate arts and craft activities at birthday parties, corporate team-building, launches and other events.
This year, the outlet will have a programme for kids called Craft’s Cool — arts and craft lessons to help children expand their imagination and skills.
“We also want to collaborate with manufacturers and suppliers of the materials and come up with free or discounted classes to teach people how to use the materials for so many different things.
“At the same time, we want to grow our online store and have a comprehensive range of tutorials and information to teach people more about craft,” says Lee.
All in all, Lee is glad that more people are into craft now.