We'd been eyeing Black Milk Project's rainbow hued Instagram for months, wondering who was behind the effervescent illustrations and artsy workshops that seemed to be teeming with Kuala Lumpur's creatives. So Black Milk Project (BMP) 's invitation to check out their brand new bungalow space in Subang Jaya was met with a lot of excitement - finally a chance to meet Wei Tieng, artist and founder of BMP and try our hand at artistry, however briefly!
We were greeted by a fantastically laid out table of illustrations, freshly foamed cappuccinos made by smiling baristas and a whole table of delicious bites. We expected a well executed workshop but didn't expect the fête that awaited us and all the other participants in the day long series of art workshops, along with DIY vendors all gathered in the tented garden.
Wei Tieng and the crafty team at Black Milk Project had organized this "Pendidikan Seni - Mari Ponteng, Datang Conteng" event to celebrate their studio launch with back to back workshops, so you could sample what type of art projects appeals to you the most.
We were intrigued by the Suminagashi class, which tantalized with the promise of learning the 'the Ancient Art of Japanese Marbling'. Led under the practiced eye of Liyana, a BMP team member, we sat down to trays of water, two brushes, and a stack of thick cut paper. She had experimented with the different ink, soap and paper mediums to perfect the proper ratios so that our attempts would result in something other than a black, watery mess.
It soon became evident that the key to Suminagashi was a light and patient touch. This delicate balance eluded me at first as my ink blobbed down with heavy strokes, but as I got into the slow paced rhythm of alternating the brushes in the ink and soap, the images began to create clear distinctive whorls.
It seems almost too trite to mention but there was indeed something meditatively zen about this process. As I relaxed into the rhythm, I realized the the marbling became more interesting the less I cared about the outcome.
Black Milk Project shares their "...aim to be the entrepreneurial springboard for both art enthusiasts and local artists & crafters alike - a platform for collaboration, experimentation and conversation. a space for inspirations, ingenuity, curious imaginations and limitless possibilities."
Now their new studio reflects just that ~ an open, light airy space that invites you to step in and explore something new!
We got the chance to catch up with Wei Tieng a few weeks later in Bangsar over a cup a of coffee at Roost (while I was still 9 months pregnant!) to learn about her evolution as an solo artist to the creation of this creative venture. After the interview below, you'll find the latest offerings as well as a chance to win two free classes at Black Milk Project via our Batik & Bubbles Facebook and Instagram!
Batik&Bubbles (B&B): With a graphic design background from Limkokwing University, what has been the trajectory of your creative/design career that has led you to founding "Black Milk Project".
Wei Tieng: I’ve always wanted my designs to be an expression of freedom. In graphic design, commercial advertising specifically, is pretty rigid and creative teams were given guidelines and instructions on designing due to a lot of restrictions apart from just client's preference as an individual - ie. mandatory brand identity guidelines, visual communication to targeted audience, just to name a few. There were less of free-spirited art, and I became very 'professionally' trained in adaptability of capturing and doing what creative briefs tell me.
Not to say it's all bad, but this has put me in a box and I figured that I needed to impose a different kind of art out there and I did. It took a lot of pushing boundaries and challenging the norm but I guess it is all worth it to be able to create a unique style of art for people to appreciate through Black Milk Project.
B&B: What was the moment when you felt confident to shift your freelance design work into your full time career?
Wei Tieng: To be very honest, in the earlier days there wasn't a moment I felt confident because things were so unclear back then. Walking into the unknown is definitely a step of faith and really trusting God that things will eventually work out. There were a lot of calculated risks, I remembered listing down my worst case scenarios especially on the financial side, and a counter-action 'plan' in preparing myself both physically but especially mentally - mental notes of that I will not break-down if it doesn't work out, or how I promised myself to work really hard and not give up.
So to answer your question, it was really just a, *deep breath* OK LET'S DO THIS moment. If we don't try, we'll never know.
B&B: With the advent and explosion of social media platforms and especially with Instagram, how has that affected and changed the impact and reach of Black Milk Project from its inception to today?
Wei Tieng: It’s quite a bit different now! I've had other businesses before this, ie. I used to sell hand-made jewelries and I had a small space at The Gardens, Mid Valley years back (maybe like 7 years). It's really hard work on marketing and driving sales! Today, the social media presence makes it possible to build and manage Black Milk Project. This has helped me to reach farther out into the world than I could previously.
For an introvert that I am, I am definitely more comfortable sharing behind a screen and this has allowed me to to share a lot more of my thoughts, emotions, intuitions & desires through a painting; and on a more personal level, the way I experience the world, which for many is an extension of personality! I appreciate that I get to be very real when communicating with people thus, establishing a better connection with them, which I believe is the backbone of Black Milk Project.
B&B: You've recently expanded into a new space in Subang Jaya, how do you hope to grow this forward in the medium and short term.
Wei Tieng: Black Milk Project has always been the creative playground for me whereby I get to be free in my imaginations, bring about ideas without limitations, afterwards seeing them inspiring others. Now that I have my own space, I see it as an expansion of a bigger playground, which I can accommodate many more others to enjoy, to inspire and embrace this journey together.
B&B: We've noticed a growing trend in embracing the handmade, hand painted touches rather then purely graphic design when it comes to advertising campaigns or even promotional events, what are your thoughts on this?
Wei Tieng: With the advancement of technology, everything now is at your fingertips and everything is so digital. These are great, but at the same time, because of this digital era we're living in, people crave genuine human touches even more - which is why I think the growing trend in handmade items, personalised experiences has risen.
Coming from a graphic design background, it is a breath of fresh air, and a very interesting concept altogether and I believe it has created many opportunities for different artists/ designers to express their individual style, making campaigns 'warmer' and more relatable as to compare than just computer graphics.
B&B: How should aspiring creatives and talented freelancers get in touch with you if they are interested in collaborating and/or participating in Black Milk project workshops? How do you vet the artists you partner with?
Wei Tieng: I do select makers/artists very diligently - it's important that as the host, BMP only brings in teachers who are passionate and qualified, not in the sense of paper qualification, but their quality in holding up the class is at par with the skill they're presenting, and being able to really impart knowledge to the students who are present.
Another factor that needs to be in consideration when we vet the artists, is the business side of BMP on whether it's beneficial for us to take on the collaboration. So there are some that I will reject in enquiries of collaboration, but you really shouldn't be discouraged. I am more than willing to give pointers to those who are open to learn, drop me an email! I don't bite lol!
Pendidikan Seni is an event that we aim to have yearly. We are open to all sorts of collaboration relating to the arts, and that will be a very good ground and spring board for aspiring creatives to get in touch with us! I think it is extremely important to have open-mindedness with a good character when it comes to partnership. When both parties are receptive to a new idea, it will be a lot more meaningful & fun to work together!
B&B: Whats on the horizon for you personally as an artist - any new endeavors?
Wei Tieng: I'm actually starting an Art Therapy Certification Course in mid Oct! I've always thought how amazing it'd be, if I could bring my art to another level in the sense that it can actually help people. The Art Therapy Certification Course integrates psycho-therapeutic techniques with the creative process to improve mental health & well-being. It can be used to treat a wide range of psychological distress and help individuals who've experienced a traumatic event. To me, it's every bit of a dream and an amazing opportunity to do this. And somehow, it is a timely event that Black Milk Project is also working with the Women's Association Aid (http://www.wao.org.my/), so I'm just super excited on where this will lead us in launching a whole new community ground for Black Milk Project.
Culture Vultures & Art Aficionados, you can learn more about BMP, their schedule of classes and this latest collaboration with WAO and how it unfolds on Black Milk Project's website and Instagram! Batik&Bubbles certainly will be paying close attention!
- Black Milk Project is located at
- No. 8, Jalan SS 14/8b, Ss 14, 47500 Subang Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia
- www.blackmilkproject.com and on their Instagram
- Follow BMP and Batik&Bubbles IG and Facebook to enter a online contest to win 2 free classes for you & a friend at BMP!