Lim Beng Wee’s interest in art began in his teens when he took a part-time job helping a friend make clay dolls. Familiar with assembling and coloring clay and wanting to give a meaningful gift to his partner Tan Chee Ling, Lim honed his skills by making clay miniatures. “Many years ago donuts were a crowd favorite. One day I asked her, ‘Do you know I can make little donuts?’ Of course, she didn’t believe me until I proved it to her,” he says.
The duo then began to experiment with other designs, but simply to satisfy their own creativity. Some friends saw the potential in their works and encouraged them to turn their hobby into a business. “Chee Ling and I joined a market in Penang run especially for business owners who made their products by hand and that’s how we started,” Lim says.
The idea of turning miniatures into accessories such as earrings, rings, bracelets, necklaces and brooches was born from the belief that women like to adorn themselves with bright and colorful things. “Items that can be worn are more interesting than those we buy just for display. It’s also exciting to have something unusual and eye-catching. I have customers who tell me that our accessories act as a conversation starter when socializing,” Lim points out.
Growing from a part-time business to a full-time business, Weez Concept – a portmanteau of the names Lim’s and Tan in English and Mandarin – was launched in 2007. For a decade it operated in street markets and kiosks in malls in Penang and Kuala Lumpur. , before opening a store in the old state five years ago.
The creative direction of the brand’s pieces is based on the couple’s favorite memories and life experiences. A trip to a friend’s restaurant in KL that served roast pork was the inspiration for his famous Sio Bak accessories, while the curry puff design was created in memory of Lim’s mother. The multiple lockdowns intensified their desire to create more food-based designs as people couldn’t go out to eat their favorite dishes.
Although Lim had experience with clay art during his younger years, he and Tan learned miniature clay art skills on their own. “I have some basics which I learned through my part-time job, but we didn’t take any lessons as I think it might disrupt our creativity as we tend to follow the style and technique being taught. by the teachers. We might end up creating something really similar to theirs. The best way to build our own identity is to learn it ourselves,” says Lim.
Trial and error has always been the brand’s fundamental technique for getting the details right. The process of making the products is tedious and demanding because most of them are really small – 1 cm by 1 cm. The different elements needed to create an object are manufactured at different stages before being assembled. For example, when performing nasi lemak-props inspired, they will first create and paint the rice, before doing the same for the sambaleggs, anchovies, peanuts, fried chicken, cucumber and banana leaves.
How long does it take them to come up with a design? “Some designs take years. Sometimes you have something in mind, but you are not able to bring it to life in a physical object. We complete an item and then put the project on hold if we can’t move on to the next step. The key is to keep trying,” Lim says.
In each production cycle, they can make 50 to 100 accessories. “It depends on how many parts we have to put together. the nasi lemak will take longer to complete as there are a lot of elements involved. It takes a long time and we don’t want to give customers anything different from what they see in the pictures,” says Tan.
Weez Concept uses polymer clay from the Sculpey brand, originating from the United States. “Our products are really tiny, so we have to be careful about the quality of the clay we use. We find Sculpey to be appropriate and it’s also one of the best brands in the United States,” says Tan.
The post for the earrings and the chain for the necklaces and bracelets are made of surgical stainless steel, which is allergen-free, rust-free and prevents color transfer. “All the materials we use are expensive, but here’s how I think: If I spend so much time creating a pair of earrings, why should I compromise its quality by using cheap materials? Our customers can also wear our products for a long time. Some still wear our earrings after 10 years, even the designs we discontinued. We are really happy and grateful to have such favorable customers,” Lim says.
Besides food, Lim and Tan also makes pieces inspired by flowers such as lilies and daisies. “Our corporate code is very simple. We see something, we like it, and then we sell it,” Lim says. Therefore, they are not big on custom orders as some requests are not what they are personally interested in.
There were times when the couple doubted if they were doing well in the business as the response they were getting from the Penangites was not good. Then they changed strategy by occasionally joining the art markets in KL. Lim and Tan experienced an epiphany when their products caught exceptional attention from customers the first time they opened a stall in KL. “It made us realize that we were doing very well; we just needed to have the right audience.
Today, the brand has thousands of loyal followers on Facebook and Instagram. Its product range has expanded to souvenirs such as photo frames and paintings because the founders want both women and men to be able to enjoy their creations.
This article was first published on March 21, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.