“When you love your product, people will love it as much as you do,”
– Adesh Zaini, Creative Director and Co-Founder of BentukBentuk
Recently, the Creative Girlboss team had the opportunity of crossing paths with this power couple who we are very excited to feature! We would like to introduce you to Shahfiq Manap and his lovely wife, Adesh Zaini, together they are the Founders of BentukBentuk – a Malaysian handmade concrete decor company.
They were such a joy to be around and are truly forces to be reckoned with. Shahfiq currently works with a mobile gateway provider, while Adesh is a Service Delivery Analyst in an O&G company, they both pursue their creative lives on the side.
1. What is the inspiration behind Bentuk-Bentuk and what got you into it?
Adesh: I have always loved doing DIY projects. Even for our wedding, I handmade the wedding dais (pelamin) myself, together with all of the other decorations such as the table setting, door gifts, gifts to the groom (hantaran), etc.
Pinterest is a good source of inspiration, one day I stumbled upon a picture of a succulent in a concrete planter. I fell in love with it and we tried looking out for one, but couldn’t find any in Malaysia. Therefore, we tried making one ourselves and boy it was all worth it!
Shahfiq: We started posting it on our personal Instagram, and that became highly demanded by our friends. We started making and giving it for free at first but at one point we thought it’s time to explore more on the market here in Malaysia. We love edgy geometric feel to a home décor, so it is part of BentukBentuk’s aesthetic to infuse geometric feel in our design wherever possible.
2. What is the creative process behind Bentuk-Bentuk?
Adesh: Not all products undergo the same design process. For some, we use foam board to do a prototype and for others we use 3D printing for a more complex design. Once we have a prototype that we both agree on, we make a mould out of the final prototype using silicone. Once the mould is ready, it will be used to cast concrete for multiple times.
For each design, we put a lot of thought into it and do a thorough testing to ensure that the end product is a functional piece of art. We usually produce around 20-40 of mixed products at one go.
Shahfiq: Here’s a summary of the process from start to end:
- We mix the right proportion of cement, sand and water.
- For the coloured concrete like pastel pink and blue, special concrete pigment is added to achieve the desired colour.
- Once the mixture is ready, it is cast into the mould and wait to hardened for at least 24 hours.
- Each piece is then taken out from the mould to undergo a curing process by submerging the concrete in water for 24 to 48 hours for added durability.
- Once this process is completed, the concrete will be taken out of the water then left to air dry for a few hours.
- Once dried, each piece is then sanded down to get a smooth exterior before waterproof sealers are applied individually.
- The whole process will take roughly 3-4 days before the item is done and ready to be sold.
3. How did you decide to use concrete as your material?
Adesh: Concrete is really an unexpected material for ‘delicate’ home décor. It has always been referred to as a cold hard material with a gloomy feel by the majority, however, we choose to infuse warmth and art into it. It is quite a flexible material to begin with and we really like the effect that it brings to people.
Shahfiq: Lately, the chic industrial feel has become a trend and we find that our product is well suited to that trend, as well as the Nordic or minimalistic style. We hope that our pieces of art would be more appreciated and bring about a change in mindset to people for them to appreciate concrete as something beautiful.
4. What are some of the responses you’ve been getting from our fellow Malaysian customers?
Adesh: We’ve had a number of interesting responses and most of them mainly about how edgy the design looks. Customers explain how they are unable to find these in Malaysia, and how surprised they are to know that the material used is concrete! Also, the fact that it is handmade makes it more well-appreciated as it adds to the wow factor of our gorgeous product. We’re truly grateful for these positive feedback.
5. What has been your most exciting project up to date?
Shahfiq: We had a one month opportunity to display our products in Isetan The Japan Store Lot 10 earlier in March (until 5th April) together with other 5 Malaysian handmade designers. Being a handmade local crafter, it is our dream come true to be able to showcase our products in a huge and reputable retail store such as Isetan.
We came up with a limited edition range for Isetan called Sakura Grey. It is a mix of the pink and grey with marbling effect and it is available only in Isetan. The pink represent the Japan Sakura colour as it is the season and grey represent the colour of cement. Combined together, it is a marriage between the sakura colour (Isetan) and cement colour (BentukBentuk) and it represent our collaboration during the showcase.
The store loved it so much that we are being featured in the ‘Museum’ at the Ground Floor alongside other Japanese designer brands. We are one of the first few Malaysian brands that made it to the exhibition hall! It is a very memorable and priceless experience for us and we do hope we will get more interesting opportunity like this.
Adesh: Another one is the collaboration project with a handmade leather maker Unagi from Wanpi.co and expert terrarium maker Ronnie from OhsumMossum Terrarium to work on a collaboration project to create a one of a kind concrete diamond hanging planter with custom leather strap. It was challenging for all as we really went above and beyond to get the final unique design. We called it the “B.O.W Hanging Planter”(B for BentukBentuk, O for OhsumMossum, W for Wanpi.co).
6. What are your individual roles Adesh and Shahfiq as business partners?
Shahfiq: Adesh is the Creative Director and Co-Founder, she is responsible for new designs and the future direction for BentukBentuk. As for myself, I am the Managing Director and Co-Founder of BentukBentuk. In general, I handle the finance, marketing and inventory side of things. I also provide artistic ideas for the design. However, for the production of our items, job titles aside we are both very hands on in our work.
7. What are the perks and struggles of working as a couple?
Shahfiq: One of the struggle is… if we had an argument about the business, neither one of us can run away from it! On the positive end, it is not good to walk away from any argument so we learn to cope and handle any concern to make our personal and business relationship stronger. The best thing is, when we are together, it doesn’t matter when, if an idea comes… we can always talk about it even if it’s at midnight!
8. How do you define success for yourselves?
Adesh: Success to us means that we have BentukBentuk known to Malaysians and become a household brand for artisanal handmade products. We want to be the brand of choice when it comes to buying gifts or souvenir for others.
We had a few people who bought our items to gift their overseas friend as a Malaysian handmade souvenir, therefore it brings Malaysian aesthetic back home without comprising quality and the story behind it. This inspires us to become on par with brands like Royal Selangor where it is sought after as unique and a Malaysian made product.
Apart from that, we do believe that success means happiness when you are doing things that you love, we believe the money will follow.
9. What can we expect to see from you in the near future?
Adesh: We are looking to expand BentukBentuk to offer not just home decoration but lifestyle products. In the pipeline, we have plans for minimalist furniture such as lamp fixture, organisational items and novelty items made out of concrete as part of our collection. In addition, we plan to venture into concrete jewellery, and that will be released to consumers in July/August 2017.
10. If you could tell one thing to your fellow creatives out there who are in this business, what would it be?
Adesh: The road taken is not an easy one, but it is undeniably a fun one. Just follow your instinct and when you love your product or work, people will love it as much as you do.
For similar stories of creative entrepreneurs such as this check out – Live What You Love, Do What You Dream: Ivy Low. If you wished to be profiled or to share your story, reach us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or say Hello on our Creative Girlboss Facebook page.