Sto­ry­telling ar­ti­sans

> Who knew a shoe­box of beads would un­lock a dream, and then a call­ing?

The Sun (Malaysia) - - YOUTH - BY JOYCE ANG

FOOD is usu­ally the star of fundrais­ing car­ni­vals, but when no one could con­jure up mouth-wa­ter­ing cui­sine, Elaine Phoan and Fabian Tan’s univer­sity mar­tial arts club had to turn to other re­sources. “I had a shoe­box of beads which I col­lected over the years, so I told ev­ery­one that I would do­nate the beads and string them into bracelets. Ev­ery­one was on board with the idea, and the sale turned out sur­pris­ingly well!” Phoan re­called.

Fol­low­ing that, they de­cided to con­tinue the busi­ness as a means of sup­port­ing them­selves.

Since then, both Kuch­ing na­tives have vastly grown in their craft, and are now full-time ar­ti­sanal jew­ellers op­er­at­ing un­der the moniker Left&Right.

Firstly, tell us about your­selves. Elaine: I hold dou­ble de­grees in me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing and fi­nance, but de­sign has been my pas­sion all along. Since young I’ve been pas­sion­ate about cre­at­ing and sto­ry­telling, which ex­plains my text­books and note­books that were al­ways filled with draw­ings and doo­dles.

Fabian: I ma­jored in me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing and mi­nored in biotech­nol­ogy. It is very dif­fer­ent from what I do now, but I have al­ways dab­bled in var­i­ous things. How­ever, I have al­ways wanted to start or cre­ate some­thing of my own, and I re­alised from an in­tern­ship that a con­ven­tional of­fice job was not for me.

Could you share a turn­ing point in your lives? E: One night when I was 17, I got home late from a night out with friends. My grand­mother waited up for me and typ­i­cally ad­vised me to not shower, as it was al­ready mid­night. I rudely waved her away and re­gret­ted it, but I was too ego­is­tic to apol­o­gise and thought that I could make it up to her the next day. The next morn­ing, I woke up to a loud noise only to find my grand­mother on the road in my cousin’s arms; she passed away that night. I wished to tell her many things, but it was too late. To com­mem­o­rate this, the drag­on­fly col­lec­tion was birthed, in­spired by the drag­on­fly I saw at her funeral. From then, I learnt to never leave any­thing un­said. That be­came the phi­los­o­phy of Left&Right.

F: There is no spe­cific turn­ing point, but rather an

ac­cu­mu­la­tion of ups and downs that I go through with ev­ery de­ci­sion. Also, we learnt from the peo­ple we met along the way that we all go through sim­i­lar strug­gles re­gard­less of back­grounds. From there, we grow.

What do your fam­i­lies think about what you do? E: My dad was very con­cerned and doubt­ful that my re­sults could land me a great pro­fes­sional job, so I had to keep com­mu­ni­cat­ing about my de­ci­sion to pur­sue this. His op­po­si­tion has less­ened now, but I still con­stantly com­mu­ni­cate with him.

In con­trast, my mom is su­per chill. She al­ways tells me, “I have no idea what you’re do­ing, but I be­lieve that you know what you’re do­ing, so go ahead and give your best.” That is re­ally all I need.

F: I come from a tra­di­tional Chi­nese work­ing-class fam­ily, and as a son with a pro­fes­sional de­gree who’s sud­denly in the jew­ellery busi­ness full-time, they are still very wor­ried. It is very hard for them to un­der­stand my cur­rent ca­reer choice – given that we don’t have any­thing big to show yet – but I be­lieve in due course, they can be con­vinced.

What is the ul­ti­mate goal of Left&Right? It would be hard to imag­ine if we say that we aim to be sto­ry­tellers, but we see it in the in­ter­ac­tion with our clients. We have heard in­ti­mate stories that could in­spire and tie peo­ple to­gether. From there, we hope that peo­ple see one another sim­ply as hu­mans with stories and emo­tions. Unity is what we want to bring with Left&Right.

They hope to train more ar­ti­sans and even­tu­ally sup­port more fam­i­lies through Left&Right.

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