An uncanny connection with Loka Made

I normally scroll through and skip the many unsolicited posts on my Facebook feed but something about the Merdeka-themed children’s art workshop with Loka Made, planned for a weekend in Johor Baru, made me open the post to read it.

A range of Loka Made pop-up cards in the Shophouses series
The post introduced me to the co-founders of Loka Made, Chong Fei Giap and Audrey Chew, the talents behind this Malaysian creative brand.

The beautiful illustrations with this post, struck a familiar chord and captivated me, not only with its nostalgic charm but also by the mix of new and old, all in such amazing detail.

I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I just felt a clear connection…

Their stuff certainly reflected its brand name, Loka Made, a cleverly coined word inspired by the word, “local.”

What they are doing seemed very similar to what I am doing with My Johor Stories, so I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to meet them while they were in JB.

Audrey Chew guiding a participant
at the start of the Merdeka-themed
handicraft workshop at Me Books Nooks
A quick check of my calendar showed that it was impossible to go to their Saturday event at CzipLee Johor, Mid Valley Southkey but I should be able to make it for their Sunday event held at Me Books Nooks over at Sunway Citrine Hub, Iskandar Puteri.

That Saturday was a particularly long day for me but it did not stop me from getting up early the next morning to head to Citrine Hub to meet with the Loka Made team.

At Me Books Nooks, I recognized them from a photograph I saw in that Facebook post, so I just approached them and introduced myself.

I could tell that they were pleasantly surprised at my interest and as I shared with them about My Johor Stories, we discovered a common thread in how we were pursuing our passion in preserving local culture and heritage.

I watched as Audrey guided the workshop participants in their handicraft project with pop-up cards and then she left them to express their own creativity.

While keeping an eye on them, she joined Fei Giap to share with me, a little more about Loka Made.

Holding kids’ workshops such as this, participating in bazaars, exhibitions and weekend fairs, were just some of the ways Loka Made was promoting the local creative industry in the community.

The completed pop-up card handicraft!
For instance, in this Merdeka-themed workshop, Loka Made would provide all the materials for the participants to assemble a pop-up card in designs of local shopfronts.

Using scissors or paper-cutters, the kids could cut out and assemble the given elements according to their own thought and imagination.

Audrey said younger children were often aided by a parent and this was an excellent opportunity for family bonding as the parents talked to the child about their own experiences and the lifestyle in past generations.

She explained that working on a creative project like this allowed the child to stretch his or her imagination and they often ended up with surprising results because children have their own rationale for how they chose to assemble their final picture.

“Let them tell their story,” said Audrey as she would let the kids have their own creative experience and explore their own imagination.

A fusion of the old and new portrayed in
this charming illustration by Fei Giap
She said sometimes, instead of a lantern, a child may place a cow on the roof because there were no restrictions in art expressions.

When asked to explain why, the child would be encouraged to share his story and rationale for doing so. This was what she dubbed, “The Moment!”

Before partnering with Audrey to form their first creative venture known as Running Snails Studio, Fei Giap worked as an illustrator for six years.

Among his successful projects were the co-creation of the concept art and poster for popular local movie, The Journey, and the National Day advertising poster for Petronas Malaysia in 2014.

[I remember taking my mum to watch this movie and how we marveled at the way the scriptwriter somehow included the Johor Chingay into the story to showcase a renowned annual tradition of the Johor Old Temple!]

Meanwhile Fei Giap also lectured on Digital Illustration at The One Academy on a part-time basis and there he met with Audrey, who was then in his class.

A collector's item in this, A Legacy of Glory set
to commemorate the nation's 62nd anniversary
Audrey told me about how they found much in common, particularly in being inspired by local culture and heritage, especially heritage buildings and local scenes.

Audrey (I was very happy to discover) is from Skudai in Johor while Fei Giap was from Kuala Pilah in Negeri Sembilan, where his grandfather used to run a sundry shop at a village they fondly called, Tanjung.

After much deliberation, Audrey and Fei Giap decided to step out of their comfort zone to set up their own creative studio.

They operated this studio for more than two years and successfully met their clients’ requirements in drawing and illustration projects.

In 2015, they compiled a collection of their completed projects – studio work and corporate work – and published a Limited Edition book entitled, Loka Made Art Book.

This book literally launched the Loka Made image and this brand name was adopted since September 2015.

This attractive tote bag is among
this year's Merdeka merchandise items
Looking back, Fei Giap realised that he drew much of his inspiration from his childhood and would often see the world through the eyes of a child, vividly recalling the scenes of old cinemas, sundry shops, snack bars and familiar places he visited as a child.

[I could not help feeling a strong sense of solidarity with Loka Made because My Johor Stories* was also inspired by my own experiences and collection of “grandfather stories” to publish local stories like Old Markets and Bus Terminals, Escape to the Movies, Old Shops and even featured Johor Baru’s Coffee-shop King who opened the first snack bar here!]

They shared with me, the aims of Loka Made which is to create a fusion of nostalgia with new elements as a way to encourage local people to appreciate our local culture and to keep the creative culture alive, especially with the younger generation.

To this end, Loka Made created artwork that was more than just lifestyle products.

Starting with pop-up cards, these products shared the nation’s rich culture and heritage designed to evoke sentiments and encourage locals to rediscover the charm and beauty that we grew up in.

Three lucky patriotic people will get the
three preloaded Touch n' Go cards
The first series of pop-up cards were designed in the Shophouses theme, followed by the next two on Culture and Local Scenes.

From the kids’ workshop (that was still in progress), I saw that these pop-up cards were no ordinary greeting cards or postcards but designed with instructions (on the reverse side) on how to cut, fold and assemble the card into a “drama” reminiscent of local scenes in a bygone era.

After producing pop-up cards, Loka Made went on to create puzzles, postcards and books, all designed along the nostalgic theme of Malaysian culture and heritage.

Since 2015 Loka Made has celebrated National Day with commemorative items which they call, Merdeka merchandise, and this year, it is no different.

For National Day 2019, Loka Made has produced a Limited Edition set of commemorative items dubbed, A Legacy of Glory, a box set that includes one Touch ‘n Go card, one tote bag (made of fabric), three pocket “L” shape A5 folders, three enamel pins and five postcards in a range of designs.

Three enamel pins are included with A Legacy of Glory set
Since Aug 17, only 300 sets of A Legacy of Glory were distributed for sale throughout the nation and in JB, these are exclusively available from CzipLee Johor at Mid Valley Southkey and Me Books Nooks at Sunway Citrine Hub, Iskandar Puteri.

To add to the excitement, only three Touch n’ Go cards were preloaded with RM62 each and available for only three lucky patriotic people to get hold of them!

For more information or business enquiries, send email to:

Visit website: or drop by at the Loka Made Art Gallery located at USJ 9 in Subang Jaya, Selangor.

*My Johor Stories, the books. My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage and My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People, are available from MPH bookstores nationwide and online from www.mphonline.

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