After graduating with a degree in English Literature, Kina Hassan went into advertising sales and marketing. Then, she was offered an online marketing job in Bangkok, and took it. While she was there, she attended a five-hour jewellery-making workshop and was instantly hooked.
“You know, when you move to a new place, you feel like you can start doing something different. You can rebuild yourself. So, I guess being around creative people from all over the world gave me more confidence to pursue my dream because I have always loved making things with my hands, but didn’t have the creative confidence to pursue it,” says Kina.
When asked what attracted her to jewellery in particular, she replies, “Jewellery is something very personal. And what I make is more contemporary. In some ways, it’s more sculptural. So, it combines my interest in making things with my hands and shaping things. My jewellery is wearable art and it’s something personal.”
For many years, jewellery crafting remained a hobby and Kina sold her creations under her own name. “When I moved back to Malaysia, the thing that struck me most was the lack of a community of jewellery makers. But now, I’ve found them. The cost of running this kind of business can be high because the tools are quite expensive. So, when I found this place — a co-working space for jewellery makers — I was very happy because I also found a community,” she says.
One of Kina’s initial struggles had to do with believing in herself. “One of the main challenges was actually trying to convince myself that I am talented enough to do this, that I shouldn’t doubt so much. I should believe more in myself,” she says. This familiar internal struggle is one that most creative people face, and it’s a tough one to push past. Thankfully, Kina persevered. She registered her new business, Wasis Studio, in November 2019. “I believe that what was becomes what is. And my work is basically shaped by my past experiences and adventures”.
Wasis Studio’s first collection, Nuda, was inspired by her travels. Her designs are quite modern interpretations — some are more angular while others embrace circles and curves. She makes all kinds of jewellery, including earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings. What makes her work unique are the meaningful stories behind these creations.
“For example, one of the earrings is named Bibtia. It was inspired by my trip to Morocco, after my mother passed away. At the time, I was pretty lost, I was down and I doubted myself because I had moved back to be with my mother. When I went on that trip, I realised I was still able to do the things that I used to do before. And I could still rely on people’s kindness to get around, and continue to find time for myself,” says Kina.
Wasis Studio’s products take a lot of care and time to craft. She sketches her ideas before moulding potential pieces out of clay, followed by making test pieces. She then tries them on herself to test them out and see how people respond.
“I prefer working with brass and silver. Brass because it has sentimental value to me — I am from Terengganu and have always loved the local crafts. Also when I work with brass, it gives a certain warmth. It looks like gold but it is more affordable, so I think it’s a very accessible material. I will gold-plate some of the pieces as well so they don’t tarnish as easily in this climate, while some designs are better with silver,” says Kina.
The material used, techniques involved and complexity of the designs are also factors that determine the quantity of each product made. “Most of my rings are one-offs because I hand carve them using lost-wax casting, where you basically carve your work out of a block of wax or wax sheet, shape it, and then send it for casting,” she explains. Some of her pieces can be made in multiples so they are a permanent part of her collection while others are made in a limited run of about 5 to 10 pieces.
Kina began selling her collection of jewellery at bazaars and launched her website early this year. She had plans to rent a space at the Zhongshan Building in Jalan Kampung Attap, Kuala Lumpur, but Covid-19 derailed her plans. “At the beginning, it was very demotivating to me because everything changed. I was really down for a while. I’m trying to build my online presence and now, things are starting to look up again,” she says. Wasis Studio now has some key pieces for sale via online fashion retailer Zalora, and hopes to continue adding more of its collection there.
While the future is uncertain, Kina is positive. As she views her works as artistic creations rather than fashion jewellery, she has grand dreams of an exhibition of sorts. “It’s more of an art form. I’m actually interested in doing an exhibition. I don’t know where though, maybe Malaysia. There are communities in Bangkok, Europe, Australia, all over the world. So, I really hope that I will be able to join one of the exhibitions to present my art one day,” she says. She wants to improve her online sales, as well as find ways to make her designs more accessible and affordable, so that everyone can own a piece of her wearable art.
Wasis Studios designs are born out of Kina’s life journey, her passion and her belief in having no regrets. “I have experienced a lot of things in the past and I got through them. Everyone has gone through something, and they have made mistakes in their life. But instead of regret, sometimes you meet people through those mistakes, face circumstances or encounter opportunities that shape you who you are today.”
This article first appeared on Dec 14, 2020 in The Edge Malaysia.