This week, I’m proud to present Oh & Ah, a collective of five artists, illustrators and designers who have been running their studio for the past 4 years right here in my neck of the woods – Malaysia. I’ve been a fan of theirs for some time now, and was happy to hear that they now have a dedicated space where they can show off all their wonderful things. Read on for more, and at the end of the interview, you’ll find a coupon code for use at their fun online shop!
Tell us a little more about yourself.
We are five playful Malaysians with different backgrounds who join forces to produce design items with an objective in utilizing our creativity to bring joy into our daily lives. Started out at the end of 2007, Oh&Ah is the place where we sell items we make + design + collect. We were inspired by the indie design scene in London, Taiwan and Bangkok thus found our interest to form Oh&Ah.
We produce delightful, eccentric everyday objects ranging from small to big scale, with a wide variety of products from fashionable accessories, tees, paper goods, stationery, toys to home décor. Our creations are inspired by Zakka, the art of seeing the savvy in the ordinary and mundane-ness; with a touch of playfulness!
Oh&Ah’s online store is now up and running, along with a studio/shop that is located in Cova Square, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.
You live in Malaysia. What stands out about living here, and what is your daily schedule like?
The opportunity to learn multiple languages and to experience the different culture here has given us plenty of advantages in understanding and exposing to how other designers/artists work in other parts of the world. While the contemporary handmade market is still considered new to our local community, interest has definitely been generated, so there has never been a more perfect moment for people like us to sow our seeds!
We work together every Saturday (yes, Saturday because each of us juggle a full-time job). There is no fixed schedule; we take that time to hold discussions, update each other on work-in-progress as that is the only time that we can congregate once a week. Also, we make use of that time in brainstorming, creating and photographing our products. Saturday is also a business day for us as our shop only opens on that day. On other days, our work is based solely online, like updating our Facebook page, our blog, online store as well as our Etsy page.
…and does being in Malaysia influence your art in any way?
Yes, definitely! We thought about our ‘Rojak’ culture! (Rojak is a local salad that incorporates a wide variety of fruits.) Being in Malaysia enables us to get along well with other races on a daily basis. We learned the art of respect as well as appreciation for all cultures present in our country. Just like the five of us-we come in different personalities, but we complement and complete each other as a whole. We are often excited by the curious hybrid of our creativity and design style and the endless possibilities it transpires. A huge part of our work comes from a joined effort as a team, and that usually makes the end result worthwhile.
As Malaysians, we are blessed with the advantage of our four main languages of the country: English, Malay, Chinese and Indian. And this has helped us in easy accessing to information on the internet, leading us to unbridled inspiration for our ideas and designs.
In malaysia, i find that the progress of the art & craft community has yet to catch on. What do you think can be done to increase awareness of art & craft locally?
A community for the exchange of ideas and resources! Also, we need more effort in changing the mindset of people’s perception towards handcrafted items as something traditional and old-fashioned. ‘Group power’! We would suggest that the art and craft community to work closely by supporting one another. We will be able to fashion a stronger identity and image of the value of art and craft to local community if we are presented in the form of alliance or group.
How did you get your start in illustration?
Ever since we were kids. We just feel comfortable expressing in drawing.
Could you tell us more about your thought process when you start a piece?
We will think about (not in fixed order) the originality of the idea, the materials available on hand, the price range, the number of products to be made, the visualization of the actual design, the method in making it, and finally the mock-up of our finished work.
What’s your favourite project so far?
As we have showered each project with hard labour and love, it’s tough for us to choose a favorite one in particular. From each project, we are empowered with a new level of energy and confidence that encourages us to proceed to our next piece.
Do you keep a journal / sketch book, and would you mind if we had a sneak peek?
Would you care to share your studio space as well?
Our studio also doubles as our shop, so you are more than welcomed to pay us a visit! Oh&Ah opens for business every Saturday.
What or who inspires you?
Nothing in particular, mostly random tidbits through our daily life, such as news articles, a conversation with another, or even a new material to work with. In a group of 5 people, inspirations are limitless!
Life; internet; dream; photography; found objects; the attitude of being playful and keep questioning; the fun of ‘Mix & Match’; hybrid integration of our teamwork; the believe of ‘if I want it too, other will want it too’; traveling, an unplanned journey; an idea, object or a concept that is beyond the norm and rules; cool shops inside Etsy; zakka; Jiyūgaoka, Kichiyouji, design atmosphere in Bangkok, markets in London; the ‘Rojak’ culture in Malaysia; art & craft from Malaysia; music, movie, sleeping, salad, it is quite random actually!
What keeps you motivated?
The passion, opportunities and the results. In particular, the feedback from the people who like our stuff!
Could you share with us your progression as an artist—- compared to when you first started out, how has your style changed since then?
Our style has always been open and diverse as we wish for it to grow and evolve, while we have gotten comments from people that our works bear a distinguishable look. Yet, our vision will never stray far from our aim-to establish ourselves as a Malaysian brand recognized for contemporary handmade crafts.
While we originally ventured into this to test the waters, we now view it as an actual business, a dream that we would want to achieve!
What’s your favourite tool?
Lorna: String & thread!
Teckyew: Pilot G-tec-c 0.3
Tuckloong: Definitely Camera!
Are you all fulltime artists?
No, we are not… yet 😛
What advice would you like to give people who are interested in being an artist full-time?
We are still on the path in making this dream a reality, so we can’t really offer any advice as we too, are still building our course towards that goal. But from previous experiences, we believe that good discipline, determination as well as a savvy eye for business will get you a long way. As the Latin saying goes, carpe diem, so seize any opportunity that comes along!
Where do you see yourself within the next few years?
With the launch of our shop and online boutique early this year, we hope to generate enough revenue to manage our business of Oh & Ah as a full-time job.
What message do you want to send out to people about your work?
“Surprise and Joy” are necessary in life, be it big or small. Always seek to be adventurous in what you are doing!
Tell us something random about yourselves!
This has been a long running joke among us, that we kick start our day with breakfast in Paris, followed by an afternoon meeting in Tokyo and concluding with a dinner back in Malaysia for our local beverage Teh Tarik!
We are crazy, aren’t we? Haha, well that was just the tip of the iceberg as to how we usually day dream… as a constant motivating force!
Oh & Ah is giving all Pikaland fans a 20% discount to any items purchase in their online store. Just use this coupon code: PIKAxOH&AH