Merryn Tan is a mum on a mission. She has a three-year-old son and is on a quest to bring craftmaking back into the lives of children.
Craftmaking is a dying art, she says, now that TV, computers, the Internet and portable game consoles are so deeply entrenched in the minds and free-time of most kids.
“Everywhere you go, you see children with their heads buried in their PSP or Nintendo screens. They’re not even interacting with their parents or other kids around them,” she laments.
Don’t get Tan wrong — she’s not against technology. But there needs to be a balance to the electronics world that our children are being exposed to.
She believes that craftmaking is the perfect foil, and is not adverse to using technology to achieve this goal. She’s turned to the Internet to reach out to children with her craftmaking skills.
The hobby teaches children to improve their motor skills and develops their creativity, she says.
Tan used to work at an English literacy centre and when she had her son Ethan in 2007, she resigned to fully take care of him.
“When my son turned one, I started craftmaking with him,” she says. Eventually she started a blog called Crafty-Crafted to share the arts and crafts that she and Ethan created, with others.
She never expected her blog to become so popular; it attracts 600 to 700 hits per day on average and during certain holiday periods, such as the recent Chinese New Year seasion, it soared to 2,000 hits.
“This was probably also because we had created a Chinese lantern from used ang pow packets,” she adds.
Tan attributes the popularity of her blog to several other factors, particularly the clear step-by-step picture guides that she provides, so that even a three-year-old can follow the craftmaking instructions.
Crafty-Crafted also helps instill good recycling habits in parents and their young ones. Almost 90% of the craft materials Tan uses are recycled; these are egg cartons, toilet-paper rolls, discarded boxes and bottles and the such.
She has always been interested in craftmaking since she was a child and during her stint at the English literacy centre she underwent creative training and attended several workshops on the art.
To further enhance her skills, she looks for crafting information on the Web, and still attends courses provided by her blog’s advertisers and suppliers.
As the word spread about her blog, what began as an avenue for mother and son to bond, turned into an opportunity to start a small business.
Other parents became interested and started asking her to teach their kids craftmaking.
At first, she used a spare room in her house as a place to teach. But the room can only hold five people comfortably, so as the number of students grew, she had to find another venue.
She has just opened a studio in Shah Alam that can accommodate 10 students per session.
Now, she also gets enquiries from kindergardens to train their staff.
“Malaysia does not have enough of an arts and crafts community, not even a forum that I know of. There are blogs by other mummies but these aren’t just about craftmaking,”
Tan says. “Most craftmaking sites I come across are mostly from overseas.” She plans to start a forum on craftmaking and hopes the response will be good.
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