SELAYANG: 2013 was a particularly difficult year for Kogie Loganathan. Having undergone marital separation that year, the single mother of one was facing financial difficulties despite having a degree in biotechnology.
She had a steady job serving the Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau, but still struggled to provide her then two-year-old daughter a comfortable life.
Then, everything started to fall in place when she wore a crystal bracelet she had made herself and posted a picture on Instagram.
Family and friends began making enquiries as to whether she was selling jewellery, to which she said “No”.
It took six months and countless enquiries before she finally caved in and, with an initial investment of RM300, started a small enterprise selling hand-crafted gem jewellery.
Her Instagram followers eagerly bought her jewellery and word-of-mouth began to spread quickly.
Many years down the road she has sharpened her skills and acquired quite a following, with many beautiful necklaces, bracelets and earrings crafted under her own brand Hamsa Beads.
Speaking to FMT, Kogie explained that she chose to become a full-time jeweller to spend more time with her daughter.
She is one of the few wire jewellery makers in Malaysia and most of her designs are inspired by Czech jewellery.
Kogie believes that her father’s support was important in nurturing her artistic skills from a young age.
“I grew up seeing him as a DIY person. Whenever he saw something, he would say, ‘You know, it should be very easy to make it yourself.’”
The art and craft projects that her father gave her siblings and her helped immerse Kogie in the world of art at a young age.
A self-taught artisan, she uses YouTube videos for inspiration, but comes up with ways to make her work simpler.
Being a wire jeweller, she works with copper wire and beads that are made from actual gemstones.
“I want to make affordable jewellery, so I don’t work with 14-karat gold wire.”
She says being her own boss comes with its own distinct set of challenges.
“I initially thought my working hours would be more flexible. But it took me about a year to actually learn time management when you become your own boss.”
“In fact, you have to work longer hours and put in more effort.”
The need to constantly come up with unique pieces to stand out from competitors adds to the pressure and she admits that a regular nine to five job has its benefits.
Most of her work starts in the afternoon, after having seen to her daughter’s needs.
“Sometimes, it takes more than eight hours. To make a pair of earrings may take more than an hour.”
In addition to the time and expertise needed to produce jewellery, it is also hard to gauge monthly earnings.
However, she has no regrets in establishing her own enterprise and accepts the challenge of “creative pressure”.
“It actually forces you to come up with something new. You always get your creative juices flowing.”
The jewellery she makes is based on her own creativity, but she also customises pieces based on her customers’ requests.
When starting on a new piece, she first comes up with a mood board which allows her to pick colours and designs.
Her inspiration can come from anything. One design was inspired by the blue colour of the butterfly pea flower she saw while out walking.
“Inspiration strikes randomly,” she says.
When she gets into her stride making jewellery, it gets so addictive and therapeutic that she can’t put down her tools until she is satisfied with her work for the day.
Her prices are based on the amount of time in making a piece and the type of crystal gem used. Generally, her pieces are very affordable.
Despite the time and effort that goes into hand crafting each and every piece of jewellery, she still gets customers haggling prices or complaining about them.
“They don’t understand that it takes long hours to make this kind of jewellery. It’s not easy. People don’t understand that time is money.”
Having been in the business for some time, she notices certain trends that her customers like.
Indian customers have a preference for colourful and elaborate jewellery, whereas others prefer smaller, simpler pieces more suited for workplace wear.
Chinese customers occasionally put in orders for jewellery made from jade, a mineral that holds a high regard in Chinese culture.
Men buy pieces from her too, and she notes that they mostly pick bracelets made with darker colours.
As to what values are most important to her, Kogie simply says, “Patience and passion.”
“It takes three to four months to master one particular type of jewellery. If you don’t have the passion to do it, you will not develop further. “
“If money is your only concern, you will stop halfway because there is no passion. There’s no heart, no love in whatever it is that you’re doing. You will never get the satisfaction.”