KUALA LUMPUR: When the pandemic hit, Nor Aini Kamaruddin’s business was badly affected. Prolonged lockdowns eventually left her with no choice but to call it quits in September 2020.
But her entrepreneurial spirit was not completely diminished and before long she was looking for other business opportunities. She found the answer in decoupage.
This is the art of cutting and pasting cut-outs on wood, metal, or glass surfaces to simulate painting. The technique is believed to have originated in France in the 17th century.
“I learned to do decoupage on tiffins, because tiffins relate to food,” she told FMT.
It didn’t take long for the 60-year-old, whose love for art started when she was young, to become skilled in decoupage. And in October that same year, her new business, “Tiffins Made With Luv” was born.
When asked about the inspiration behind the name, she said: “Because to me, it’s got to do with passion. I’m a mother, and I do things from love,” said the proud mother of four and grandmother of one.
Her business soon started booming, thanks to the power of social media and word of mouth. To date, she has designed approximately 5,000 tiffins.
Designing each tiffin requires loads of patience. The process is an intricate one, and includes sandpapering the surface to a smooth finish first, then applying acrylic paint and carefully gluing the decoupage tissue. She takes approximately four hours to complete one tiffin.
According to Nor Aini, customers can choose from over 200 decoupage designs. These range from floral to animals and geometry. The decoupage tissues, she added, are imported from Germany and the UK.
The stainless-steel tiffins, on the other hand, are locally made. There are two and three-tiered tiffins, and both come in two sizes: 12cm or 14cm in diameter.
An evolving business
Intent on growing the business by diversifying her product offerings, Nor Aini has introduced an option to customise her tiffins – with food!
These include pulut kuning, rendang ayam, cakes and cookies. She shared that these have become popular as gifts for weddings and corporate events.
She added that she engages the services of other local businesses for the food. Among them is her daughter who loves baking cakes. She also offers decoupage workshops for those interested in learning the art.
In 2022, she introduced decoupage Penan bags and in this year, decoupage tumblers. And like the tiffins, these also bear her meticulous workmanship.
Today, she has customers from the UK, Singapore, Dubai, Brunei and Australia. This busy entrepreneur said she is grateful for the support of Persatuan Pembangunan Artisans (PPA), an NGO that helps artisans widen their distribution channels via its online platform, physical stores and pop-up events.
“For artisans like me, personally, it is not enough to only have your business online, especially in a post-Covid era,” she said, adding that a physical presence was also necessary.
“I have customers who’ve asked me ‘how can I see your tiffins?”. Through PPA, customers can come and see the products in person.”
The pandemic may have closed one door for Nor Aini, but it also opened another door for her, and she hopes to introduce more products in the future.
As to what keeps her going, she shared: “For me, I feel satisfied with every single product that I make. And when people say ‘cantik-lah!’, that is my reward.”
The tiffins and Penan bags are also available at:
- Sense of Malaysia outlets: KLIA2, Penang and Langkawi International Airports
- Ifmal outlets: Melawati, Bangi and Subang
- Persatuan Pembangunan Artisans outlets: Tokyo Street at Pavilion KL and Berjaya Times Square (tumblers also available here)
Read more PPA stories and get to know its artisans here.