KAJANG: “Amigurumi” is the art of knitting or crocheting small, stuffed toys such as animals and dolls. Although widely considered a Japanese craft, it is believed to have originated in China before the technique arrived in Japan and evolved to what it is today.
For one Malaysian, Izyan Nadia Mohamad, her love affair with amigurumi began in 2017 when she chanced upon a YouTube video about the craft.
Soon she started imagining the different toys she could make for her two-year-old daughter, Isya Shameena Shafiee. At the time, she was already crocheting children’s cardigans and beanies through her business Mizzy Collections.
“When I tried amigurumi, I just fell in love with it,” the 35-year-old told FMT recently.
It didn’t take long for her to master the craft, especially with her prior experience with crocheting. However, there is a difference between the two.
While crochet uses a range of techniques, amigurumi involves making spheres that are usually sewed together and subsequently stuffed with polyester fibre or other materials.
Izyan’s ease with amigurumi can also be attributed to her love for craft in general, which is rather ironic since she is a science graduate. Even at a young age, she found joy in sewing and drawing.
Izyan said that she started Mizzy Collections in 2015 as a hobby. Today, it’s a full-fledged business marketing a range of adorable animals and cartoon characters popular among her customers, namely parents with young children. She makes all the products herself.
“I simply enjoy hearing about the children’s reaction when they first see the toy,” she said, adding that she also makes toys for her second daughter Isma Sharleena Shafiee – cats, and dolls to Hello Kitty toys.
Her handiworks are available in various sizes: big (30-39cm), medium (20-29cm), and small (10-19cm). She also makes keychains that are under 10cm in length.
Her customers typically send her a picture of the product they want made, and once the size and colour combinations are confirmed, she sources for the pattern online, or designs it herself from scratch despite this being a more time-consuming process.
With a readymade pattern in hand, she takes between two or three days to fully complete a product.
Empowering other women
Besides her crocheting, Izyan is also passionate about supporting other women.
“I want to empower housewives so they can generate an income,” she said, adding that making amigurumi craft is something that a person can do in their free time and from anywhere.
To that end, she conducts classes via TikTok Live where she teaches participants the basics as well as the various techniques on how to make a good product.
“What I share is based on research and from trial and error,” she said.
Like many other entrepreneurs, Izyan admitted that her journey was not entirely smooth sailing, particularly during the pandemic.
However, not one to sit idle, she took photography courses online so she could present her creations more professionally on social media. Her efforts paid off as her products started gaining more attention.
“Early last year, I was invited to talk about amigurumi on an episode of Nona on TV3,” she shared.
According to Izyan, although sales increased following her television appearance, the momentum did not sustain.
It was timely that last year, Izyan joined Persatuan Pembangunan Artisans (PPA), an NGO that helps local artisans to promote their products through a website, physical stores, and pop-up events.
During her first pop-up event with PPA, she brought ready stock of her products and to her amazement, they sold out.
“Although not many people knew about amigurumi, they loved it,” she shared, adding that sales have become more consistent since.
“I also supply ready stock to PPA, and I find animal toys to be popular among customers,” she said.
A doting mom, creative entrepreneur, and supporter of other women, one can’t help but wonder: how does she juggle it all?
“I get that question a lot, and for me, it’s a passion,” she shared with a smile, adding that she finds making her amigurumi toys relaxing.
And so, armed with this passion, she can’t help but feel excited about what’s next. And looking back on her journey so far, she concluded with a chuckle: “I definitely have saved a lot of money on toys for my children!”
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