Tangan Jewelery’s delicate polymer clay earrings are inspired by geometric shapes and nature

ByThomas J. Pawlak

Dec 15, 2021

What started as a hobby became the pride and joy of Naomi Wong, who was among the many affected by pandemic retrenchment.

Wong, who has a scientific background, was working in telecommunications in Melbourne when the coronavirus hit. After careful consideration, she decided to start a small business called Tangan Jewellery, selling unique colorful earrings on Instagram in July last year. She officially launched the website a month later.

Wong’s debut collection was inspired by a fusion of his interest in modern arts and Australians’ fascination with chunky, quirky accessories.

“I like geometric patterns like squares and circles. So I would make earrings with patterns like a circle within a circle, a square within a square, a triangle within a triangle, or a combination of those shapes,” says Wong, who has since returned to Malaysia.

Seeing that many of these earrings were sold in the markets, she wanted to try making her own. “I had to do this about 10 times before I could make earrings that looked presentable,” she laughs, adding that polymer clay can be very difficult to work with because it needs the right temperature and thickness to avoid cracking.

Different types of polymer clay can be obtained in different regions, and Wong has tried those from Thailand, Germany, and the United States. “The one from Thailand was rather crumbly and not suitable for jewelry. Currently, I use high quality polymer clay, which I source from Germany and the United States.

It was a challenge for Wong to start her business journey, especially during the pandemic, as she could not market her products at bazaars or fairs.

“The real challenge was getting my business online and interacting with the audience there. I also had to research the jewelry market and find out what designs and patterns people were interested in.

Wong reached out to small business communities on Facebook to learn how to navigate the territory; this has helped her enormously in overcoming her worries as a newcomer to the industry.

She also struggled to create a website for Tangan Jewellery, due to her limited knowledge of the subject. “I didn’t have the budget to spend on the website when I started, so it was very difficult to figure it out on my own. Now if I have any problem with coding and such, I will hire an expert to help me.

When Wong started, she was making a pair of earrings and posting them online to see if anyone would be interested in buying them. “I don’t produce my jewelry in large quantities so as not to waste resources,” she explains.

Wong releases his collections in batches. Once sold out, customers are welcome to place orders for all designs available on the Tangan Jewelery website.

In addition to geometric patterns, many of the brand’s earrings are inspired by flowers. “Every time I see a flower, I’m inspired to translate it into something I could accessorize with. My first floral earrings were actually the hibiscus – our national flower – because I thought of the house, because I was in Australia.

After experimenting with geometric and floral designs early in the business, Wong expanded Tangan Jewelery’s line of earrings with a mother-of-pearl collection. The shiny, three-dimensional earrings are inspired by mother-of-pearl and come in combinations of pink, blue, silver, gray and white.

“We are approaching gift giving season, so I wanted to come up with something different. As this collection has nothing to do with the previous ones, which had no shiny effect, I spent a lot of time adjusting the formula so that they look exquisite and not plastic,” she says.

The name Tangan Jewelery has often raised the inevitable question of why the brand specializes in earrings and not bracelets or rings, since Tangan means “hand” in Malay. “I saw my brand as people-centric. In Malay, tangan buatan means “handmade”, and boo tangan means “gift”. Thus, the idea that people buy my work for themselves or to offer to their loved ones is endearing. Tangan itself is a short and simple word.

Being a small business owner herself, Wong believes in showing support for local small businesses while being environmentally conscious. She buys packaging materials, such as rubber stamps for the Tangan Jewelery logo, from local businesses. Additionally, she uses honeycomb paper to replace bubble wrap and shreds old books to help secure the packaging.

Wong’s wish is for Tangan Jewelery to spread its wings globally. “I hope to incorporate designs that have Malaysian elements because that’s how I can showcase our country to the world.” She also wants to explore retail opportunities with overseas brands and boutiques.

Although she is getting help from her mother and husband to oversee the business for now, her goal is to grow Tangan Jewelery to the point where she can help the community by employing people to work with her.

This article was first published on November 22, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.