Outstanding Malaysians: No Art Is Too Small For This Young Malaysian Woman

Small items, big dream.

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Outstanding Malaysians: No Art Is Too Small For This Young Malaysian Woman
Image: Instagram/picoworm & The New Straits Times
'Outstanding Malaysians' is a series of original articles where we honour and pay tribute to our fellow Malaysians who are doing extraordinary things.

This edition, we spoke to Lim Pui Wan, a Kuala Lumpur-based artist who creates breathtaking miniature art. 

Having a busy work schedule, flying from one meeting to another and trying to keep up with deadlines; these are nothing new for career-driven people around us.

In fact, we may be one of them.
However, during all these important meetings, or perhaps in between them, have you subconsciously dreamt of being somewhere else, in another working environment, showcasing your real talents that yield something inspiring and magical?
Having such dreams is not something unusual, but most of us could not do anything about them because of our current commitments.
But one Malaysian woman was lucky enough to to turn her lifelong dream into a fulfilling career.

Pui Wan's dream is to make it big. 
Meet Lim Pui Wan, a full time miniature artist who creates wonderful mini things, from food and furniture to buildings and cookware.
Rojak Daily recently caught up with the 24-year-old, who is busy chasing her miniature dreams around the world. 

Dreaming of a miniature world

Pui Wan, as she is fondly called, told us that her dream would not have come true were it not for her sister.
“In 2007, when I was still in secondary school, my sister gifted me with a book about miniatures that she bought from Taiwan. I had no idea why she chose the book for me. However, she collects miniature items and perhaps that was why she bought the book for me," she said.

After reading the book, however, Pui Wan said she fell in love with miniature art.

Have a small seat.“After school, I would play with my sister’s miniature collection.
“From there, my curiosity was piqued. I started a self-learning process. I would scour the internet in search of any information about miniature art. I would search for tips to experiment with new or different materials as well as techniques to do this craft. I joined forums about this form of art."

What started off as a hobby turned into an obessession, Pui Wan told us.
“I bought countless books about miniature art and pored over them have a better understanding. I began to fall in love with miniatures. 

"Slowly, I learnt to put together miniature things and how to make tiny stuff. I am always excited when I am creating miniature art,” explained the Kuala Lumpur lass.

Your lunch is ready, sir. It actually looks yummy.
Pui Wan said she started off by creating some miniature items in an attempt to explore more about the art.
She explained that it was a struggle to develop her skills because more often than not, it was pretty difficult to find the materials to make the miniature items locally.
“I had to rely on whatever I had in hand and made do with it. I practiced a lot despite the lack of material. I focused and wanted to make it work. 

"Eventually, I joined art competitions and sent in the miniature items that I made. From there, the passion and confidence in the art kept growing,” she said.

Mini sweets, anyone?Pui Wan won her first competition in 2012 (the Dollhouse Competition organised by Dollhouse and Miniature Association Malaysia) and that gave her the boost that she needed. 

Making it a full-time dream

After graduating from high school, Pui Wan pursued mechanical engineering at the Tunku Abdul Rahman University College.
At the same time, she struggled to secure a certification for the art that she loves so much because, well, no one offered the course. 
Nevertheless, after graduating from university in 2016, she decided to pursue what she had longed for years: to become a full-time miniature artist.

Tiny gadgets for tiny people.
“I made miniature art even while I was studying and I didn’t get bored with it as everyone initially thought. It only made sense to pursue it as my career.
“So, I started to make miniatures for a living and I couldn’t be happier. I felt like my dream has finally came true, doing what I love best.
“Hopefully, I would be doing this for a lifetime. Doing what you love is just so great, isn't it?” she said.

The birth of Picoworm

In 2014, Pui Wan decided to launch her very own website and social media pages, using the name ‘picoworm’ to showcase her work and to better market her products.
“​Pico is a tremendously small unit in the metric system. ‘Worm’ is derived from the word 'bookworm'.

"The meaning behind ‘picoworm’ is signifying somebody who loves to devote time in making something small, and that person is me. Nestling in it is also the initials of my name, P.W.,” she explained.

Chicken rice for ants. She even made our favourite childhood snacks.
Pui Wan said most of her artwork are made of clay, wood or other suitable material, depending on the type of miniature she is working on.
“Let's say I am making a miniature food. This type of art is made out of resin clay. The process basically involves mixing colours of clay, sculpting, texturing, painting, glossing and other methods, to make the art as detailed as I could."

Besides stressing out on the details, Pui Wan said it's also important to get the size right.
"There is a precise calculation in order to get the most accurate ratio before I even start making the miniatures. I usually make the miniatures on a 1/12 scale, which is 12 times smaller than the actual item.

"Sometimes the miniatures are smaller than that, at a 1/35 scale too,” she said.
Not a real sundry store, by the way.
Pui Wan said she derives her inspiration for the art she creates from everything around her.
“My inspiration is everything. My surrounding, the people I meet, my memories; I always see my artwork as something that is able to preserve memories, be it mine or others’.
“So, it’s always very meaningful if I am able to create people’s memories through my art, as it will never fade over time.
“My art is also inspired by the unique culture of Malaysia, because if you notice my work is mostly very local,” she said adding that her role model is Japanese artist Tomo because his artwork is usually very amazing and impressive.

It's a matter of time

She said miniature art usually takes quite some time to create, depending on the complexity of the art.
For example, a miniature durian could take somewhere around two to three days to be completed, because it is very detailed what with the fruit’s shell, flesh and thorns.

"Also, resin clay takes a lot longer to dry and I could not proceed to the next step if the clay is not completely dry,” she said.

Ant-Man approves.Pui Wan told us that she sells her miniatures mostly online.
“I rarely sell my art in the art market. But I do take also take customised orders. Sometimes clients ask to make something out of their childhood memories, and I help them to recreate their memories.
“Currently, I am working on a project to make mini Melaka, to showcase about the stories of Melaka. I also conduct miniature art workshops for people who want to learn,” she said.

Buy one shoplot, free one small one.Pui Wan believes that there is no limit to learning because despite achieving so many things at a very young age, her desire to learn more drives her dreams.
I want to learn more, explore more about many things in order to improve from all aspects, both technically and mentally,” she added.

You can check out more of her miniature art on Facebook or Instagram.

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