For this exclusive interview, we are going to venture into the life and business of Ms. Kirin Sharom, who is the one-woman team behind Bunga dan Bintang. Based in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, Kirin studied architecture before starting her own business, Bunga dan Bintang. “It was unexpected.” After she finished her study in Indonesia in 2019, Kirin decided to rest and apply for architectural courses and set herself to be an architect.
In the meantime, she started Bunga dan Bintang as a freelance illustration job to showcase her artwork. However, as the job offers increased, she decided to go for full-time as a businesswoman. That’s how her one-woman show behind Bunga dan Bintang started. “I realize I love illustration so much. I love illustration more than architecture. So that’s when I decided I’ll do this.”
So far, she has collaborated with many local and international brands. “I’ve been working with Samsung for 2 years, Celcom, and Poplook. Recently, H&M and The Olive Tree.”
When asked what was the reason she launched Bunga dan Bintang, she noted that it was pure passion and love for illustration that made her want Bunga dan Bintang to be real. “Illustration makes me very happy and always excited to explore new things. So, that’s why I make my own products.”
With so much love and interest in art, she wanted to make this as her path. When asked about the process behind learning illustration, she showed me her wall which was full of paintings. She added that her father loved to paint, so she inherited the interest as well. Despite the same love, they didn’t share the same style in illustration. She picked up styles from different artists on social media, like Youtube, and she also attended online classes. Kirin noted that she developed a love of painting traditionally on canvas when she was young. But she only started digital illustration in 2018 when she was in Indonesia.
“I found my favourite illustrator is hosting a digital illustration class so I went to his class, and I kept doing digital illustration till now, since then.”
Inspirations and Family Support
Additionally, she got most of her inspirations from plants and animals. “I love plants so much, I love animals, I love nature. Every artwork has its own story, there’s a story behind it.” She said as she explained why Bunga dan Bintang mostly featured floral artworks. Kirin also has her own favourite artist, allahyarham Yusof Gajah. “He is one of Malaysian’s legendary naïve art artists.” Allahyarham Yusof Gajah was her biggest inspiration, and she even got to work on an acrylic painting with him in the past, when she was a student at the University of Malaya (UM). “I think that was how I started to love doing illustration.”
Just like everyone else in the world, we wouldn’t get very far without the support and encouragement from others. This goes the same with Kirin. She was on her way to apply for PhD when she desired to dedicate her time for Bunga dan Bintang. She had to break the news to her parents. “I was scared but fortunately, they support me.” Kirin smiled, happy that her parents stated that they would support her in whatever she wanted to do and she felt extremely blessed. Until today, even her mum accompanied her to events.
When asked if she had any employee in her studio, she said “I used to have 2 cat interns.” Kirin actually worked behind Bunga dan Bintang alone but received help from her sisters and friends when she needed it. However, working alone is the biggest challenge that she has to face. “As I’m not from a business background, I make mistakes.” There was a time when she received a lot of defect items from her manufacturer, and from there, she learnt how to overcome such a difficult situation by herself. Adding to that, she found financial management was hard as well. After 3 years of managing Bunga dan Bintang alone, she successfully managed to handle almost everything by herself.
“Because you have to think by yourself, you have to do everything. You are the admin, you are the accountant, the photographer, you are the designer, and you are the person who handles production. It’s very tiring but along the way, I learnt a lot.” Kirin said that in order to overcome everything, she must take it slow and not rush her work. It’s important to care for her mental and physical health and that sometimes works can wait. No one can replace her as the boss of Bunga dan Bintang, after all.
One of the ways for her to overcome stress is that she shouldn’t work till night time, she learnt to abide by the 9 to 5 working hours. “I rest a lot, and I play a lot.”
She also has advice for people who are aiming to contribute their arts to the business world. Kirin understood that most artists wanted to look for their unique identity and branding of their arts. There was no need to rush both of those things, she said. “It will come along the way. Once your identity or branding is strong, you will go far.” The artist later said that it is okay to start small. “I started with a few postcards,” she said. “You can start small and you could grow slowly.”
Regarding future goals, she aims for more projects rather than thinking about how big Bunga dan Bintang will be. Kirin stated that she wants to do clothing when she has the chance.
Contributions for NGOs
Bunga dan Bintang has also worked with two non-government organisations (NGOs) to spread awareness. “First one is with Rimba Research about our fruitbat in Kluang. Specially for the collaboration, we made scarves, posters, and postcards. Then, I decided that 20% of the profit will go to the NGO.” She expressed sadness that our tigers are endangered. She was eager to participate in the fight to save and protect the Malayan tigers. “The number of tigers is very low now. We really need to help all the programs which protect the tigers.”
Other than that, the brand has worked with a non-profit research group called Rimba Research. The project that the studio has worked on aims to shed light on the deforestation issues that made it hard for fruit bats to find homes which cause outbreaks. The studio has also worked with RIMAU NGO to support the Menraq Patrol Unit program. RIMAU NGO’s Menraq Patrol Unit aims to protect tigers and wildlife from illegal poachers that contribute to deforestation and animal trade.
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