Chatting With: Khai Li, Founder Of Khai Handmade & Design

Hi Khai Li, thank you so much for your time! I’m looking forward to hearing more about your work and your artistic background. Tell us about yourself and what you did before this?

I have more than 13 years of experience in graphic design. I was an art director at an advertising agency.

When did you first start painting? Have you always wanted to be an artist when you were small or did your interest in art develop over time?

I have always been drawn to the arts from a very young age. I didn’t think of being an artist then. When I decided to take the path to become a graphic designer, my tertiary education was how I professionally built my art foundation.

Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your path as an artist?

2018, when I decided to become a stay-at-home mother. From then on, apart from graphic design, I also offered modern calligraphy, illustration painting and artisan soap-making services, which, in a way, were far more fulfilling and artistic than all the previous work I’ve done when I was in the advertising field.

How did Khai Handmade come about, how were you inspired and what do you hope to accomplish with Khai Handmade?

Khai Handmade was founded in 2009; borne out of my passion for all things crafty. I love sewing dolls, accessories and bags. Artisan handmade craft was still very new in Malaysia then. Some of my sewing projects had been featured in newspapers and magazines. Over the years, Khai Handmade gradually became a platform where I shared my work with the masses.

I believe arts and creativity can make a profound impact on people’s lives. No matter their skill level. I love seeing both the young and old expressing their creativity through different types of art. Thus, in 2018, I began conducting creative art workshops to anyone interested in discovering the joy of making art. I taught modern calligraphy, watercolour, acrylic painting and creative soap-making.

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

Keeping a sketchbook really helps. That said, my creative process is not linear. Inspiration is everywhere. When I came across them; when some ideas began to take form at the back of my mind, I’d then try my best to sketch them. My sketchbook helps me in that way; it allows me to capture, store and explore these ideas and inspiration. I’d say my art-making process is a journey that is continuously evolving, and I don’t limit them to a particular subject matter or media.

How would you define beauty in 100 characters or less?

Beauty, in general, would be something that is pleasing to the eyes of the viewer. Everything has its beauty and it’s beautiful in its time.

Do you have a favourite photograph or painting which inspires you?

I wouldn’t say I’m inspired by one or two particular artworks. I’m indeed inspired by what the Instagram platform has to offer. In recent years, Instagram has since become a global art movement; a platform where its users actively share their works of art and continue to inspire anyone on the platform to be artistic and creative. That, as a result, motivated me to continue making art even when I was already a mother. Moreover, seeing artists, women and mothers in particular, who managed to divide their time between family and business, was nothing short of inspirational. This, ultimately, encouraged me to venture into creative business full time.

What kind of music do you listen to? Do you listen to them when you’re painting?

Sometimes, I’ll put on instrumental music while painting. I love singing and listening to songs. Some songs touch me; they trigger vivid memories. I’d then try to paint them, spontaneously, while listening to the song.

Have you ever experienced “artist’s block?” If so, what are some strategies you’ve used to overcome that?

I seldom experience artist’s block. I guess I’m blessed, my ideas often come naturally. For many people, the fear of ruining a blank canvas is always there. My advice is, just get it started because the more you paint, the more creativity you’ll unleash.

Do you have any advice for aspiring artists out there?

Everyone is born creative; and, as we grow up, we just tend to lose it. Children do not hold back on their creativity. I’ve seen how different age group create arts and I have always been fascinated by the imagination of a child.

Creativity is fundamental to everything we do. They are an important part of human self-expression. It’s never too late to pick up a brush and paint. Keep practising. It takes time to develop talent and personal styles. Don’t be afraid to share your work with others. You’ll never know how your artworks could be an encouragement to others.


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