This interview was conducted by Michelle Genders and originally posted on the Australian Wandarrah team website.
Let’s get to know Hanna Maryam from Hanakrafts. She sells vibrant, patterned paper craft that’s been meticulously made and presented. Let’s take a tour around her new home town and have a peak in her studio:
Where do you live and how long have you lived there?
I live in Rotorua, New Zealand, with my husband, and we’re very new here: we’ve only been here for 6 months! Our home is quite unique because we’ve got a little treehouse on our lawn!
Can you describe the landscape of the place where you live?
Rotorua is in the Bay of Plenty region and is surrounded by lots of beautiful lakes and greenery. We also have a lot of geothermal activity here, which makes for amazing hot springs and geysers, but it also means you have to live with a whiff of sulphur every now and then!
What do you like most about where you live?
There’s always something to do no matter what you fancy! We have the Redwoods and the lakes if you’re an outdoorsy person, and we also have museums and cultural villages if that’s more your cup of tea. Rotorua also has an amazing artistic community—I’ve already gotten so much support in the short time I’ve been here.
It looks very beautiful and you must feel lucky to live there. I was lucky enough to visit New Zealand with my nan when I was a teenager. Roturua was definitely on of my favourite place – very intriguing.
Could you recommend one particular lake and one particular museum in the Rotorua area, maybe your favourite one and give a reason why its your favourite?
I would say the Blue Lake is my favourite in Rotorua. It’s just a short drive away from the city but it’s quiet and secluded, and there’s a nice little walk that you can take around the lake too. I would also recommend the Rotorua Museum because the building has a distinctive Elizabethan style, and you can learn so much about the history of Rotorua and New Zealand, as well as the culture of the Maori people, here. The Museum is unfortunately closed to the public right now as a precaution following the earthquake in November 2016, so hopefully it will reopen soon!
Ooh I will definitely have to take a trip back there some day and check those recommendations out!
Where do you make the pieces that you sell?
In my home studio that has a beautiful view of the greenery outside.
Do you get to spend a lot of time there?
Yes, my home studio is actually a spare bedroom. I do get to spend a lot of time there, making items and photographing them, as well as packing orders.
Do you listen to any particular music while you work?
I like to tune in to the radio while I work, but I don’t listen to New Zealand radio; I listen to my favourite Singapore radio station instead, via the internet! It keeps me updated with what’s happening back home and it’s more of my kind of humour. I also love to listen to podcasts such as Create and Thrive, Dear Handmade Life and Explore your Enthusiasm with Tara Swiger. When I have time I will also tune in to any relevant Creative Live workshops that are on air! Okay, I clearly love to be entertained while I work!
What is one things that you’ve put in your studio that makes it feel like your own?
My plastic stationery box is my constant companion in my studio. I’ve had it for many years and I used to bring it to the classroom with me during my teaching days, so it actually holds lots of memories. It used to contain my stash of red pens but now it holds all my crafty stuff instead!
What a sweet little place you have there, I reckon it would have been enjoyable to set up home in your new neighbourhood.
What do you like most about paper craft?
I love that paper is such a versatile medium, with so many patterns and textures, and that there are so many endless possibilities with it.
Yes, I too can get enough of paper and how it can be very fragile or very strong. And of course there are so many things to put ON the paper.
What is your favourite paper pattern design type?
I wish I could say I love all the patterns, because I do! But if I had to choose, I would say my favourite would be traditional Asian designs. Japanese or Chinese-inspired designs, Indonesian batik patterns, Indian sari patterns–they’re all so rich and beautiful to me.
What is the most difficult part about paper craft?
Helping people realize that paper craft is also a form of art, which means it is deserving of a higher price point, especially if the products are handmade.
What is your favourite tool or piece of equipment with?
My corner rounder! I love how rounded corners always give an elegant finishing touch to whatever product I’m creating.
What is your favourite kind of paper to work with?
Definitely Japanese origami paper, specifically Yuzen Chiyogami paper, which has a fibrous and textured surface that makes it feel more like fabric than paper. I use this to make my premium origami money envelopes which were the first items I ever launched and are still bestsellers today.
Ah thanks for the tip – I’ll have to get my hands on some and have a play…
Your Etsy shop ‘About’ page tells a lovely story about how you grew up crafting alongside of your mum:
“When I was young, my mum used to love making her own money envelopes for the festive seasons. She would buy rolls of wrapping paper in a pretty design, trace out the shape of the money envelope using a cardboard sample multiple times, then very carefully cut the shapes out. She would then fold in the creases, paste the edges and voila! Money envelopes ready for filling for Hari Raya!
Could you tell us more about the rituals involved in Hari Raya and how the envelopes in particular are used in these rituals?
Hari Raya, as it is called in countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, is better known as Eid in other countries. It is a Muslim festival that celebrates the end of a whole month of fasting. During this celebration, we dress up in our traditional clothes, get together with beloved family members and visit our elders. My favourite practice during this festival is when we ask for forgiveness from each other, an act that will always bring about tears and lots of big hearty hugs. Another common practice is to present gifts of money to children and to the elderly. This is where money envelopes come in handy, and if you’re a kid, you’ll definitely be looking forward to all the different designs of money envelopes that you’ll receive, as well as the money inside of course!
This item is the item that I would personally purchase from your beautiful shop: Arabian geometric hand-bound journals.
I write ‘morning pages’ most days and it would be lovely to write them in these journals 🙂 Do you have any stories of ways that your customers have used Hanakrafts that they’ve purchased?
That’s lovely to hear! I keep a personal planner—which I make myself of course!—and will write when I feel inspired to, but I love filling it up at the start of the year with important dates, and personalising it with stickers and hand lettering.
I love it when my customers share with me how they intend to use my products. One of my customers ordered a journal with a cover that featured titles of books—she said she was giving it to her husband, who is a bookworm, as a Valentine’s Day gift. Another customer wanted to take daily notes of her pregnancy, so she commissioned a journal from me with both lined and blank pages, and with a pocket for her to keep little mementoes in. I love knowing that my products end up becoming an important part of my customers’ lives.
I noticed on your Instagram post here that you recently completed a commission, could tell us a bit more about this commission and what their guest book is for?
This commissioned guest book was for a lady who was giving it as a gift to her sister-in-law and her husband. The guest book was for visitors to their home, so she wanted the inside pages to have questions that the visitors would answer, and she also wanted a section where they could leave their fingerprints! The book had an exposed Coptic stitch binding on the spine which made it look really special. The final flourish was the personalized hand lettering of the recipients’ names and a lovely quotation. This was truly one of my favourite commissioned pieces—I absolutely loved how it turned out and the customer did too!
Thank you Hanna. It has been lovely to chat with you. As a fellow paper and pattern lover, I’m often hearting your posts on Instagram so it was great to get to know you better! I look forward to seeing more pretty and dazzling paper products in your feed.