Artist Fern Chua creating batik in Malaysia as part of Crafting Futures

‘Do not allow this time of turmoil to be the reason you quit.’

We catch up with Malaysian creative director and batik artist Fern Chua, who we have featured as part in our Crafting Futures programme, to find out how she’s keeping creative amid the challenges that Covid-19 has brought.

Tell us about your work and practice

I'm the Creative Director and Founder of the fashion brand FERN. Our focus is to modernise traditional Malaysian batik through our resort wear creations. Every collection is inspired by my story and my journey. The patterns are all hand painted through a wax resistant technique.

How has Covid 19 affected your work and life?

My daily routine before Covid 19 has always involved me moving around, between my studio, batik workshop and my shop. However, I’ve found that being at home has allowed me to focus on certain tasks more efficiently. 

This time has been tough for me personally, as I’m separated from my partner, family and friends. With work, our shop and our workshop have been closed which disrupts our sales and business while still having to ensure we have enough to pay for our monthly overheads. But I’ve found there has also been great cooperation and effort from my team to ensure that things are going as smoothly as possible. We are doing what we can to weather this stormy period.

More broadly for the creative industries here in Malaysia, I’m grateful that we are blessed with powerful tools like the Internet. People are still able to perform, create digitally, discuss, work and continue to progress. Social media has become a powerful tool to showcase work, the behind the scene process and a channel to communicate.

For myself, I’ve found that I have been able to refocus my energy during this time, learning to take care of myself better and have a healthy routine. I’ve learnt that I enjoy spending time on my own. I'm comfortable being alone as it enables me to quiet my mind to focus and understand myself better. As for my country, I’ve realised that people do come together no matter what our race, we do the best we can to provide and help one another to fight this for a better tomorrow. 

When things begin to open up again, I look forward to coming together again with my family and friends!

Could you recommend 3 artists in your country that we should check out?

Ahmad Zakii Anwar, Red Hong Yi, Shan Shan Lim

What is one piece of advice would you give other artists in this difficult and uncertain time?

Use this time to polish your skill set and continue to persevere, do not allow this time of turmoil to be the reason you quit. 

Fern established her sustainable fashion label in Malaysia in 2015. She wanted to elevate and use the traditional craft of batik to create contemporary designs and womenswear.

Want to know more about Fern?

You can see Fern at work in our Crafting Futures film series ‘Why I Make’, which celebrates craft and shares maker's stories from around the globe. Watch Fern’s film here. And find out more about the film series here

Crafting Futures is our global programme, building a positive future by unlocking craft’s unique potential to inspire people around the globe. The programme celebrates the value of craft in our history, culture and world today.

Worried about Covid-19 and your practice? We've pulled together the latest advice, funding, resources, and tips from across the sector for staying creative.