Why the world needs creatives who make by hand, one at a time

You might be wondering:

Are you sisters behind everything?

Yes we are.

We've not chosen the easiest route. We didn't start this so that some day we can hire people to do the work while we focus on growing the business. We didn't start this so that some day we can flip a switch and let things run overnight.

We started our journey and share it with the world because we believe in honouring human input and skills, challenging the status quo that we're all better off when things are automated and programmed in an assembly line. If you take a closer look, most of these processes do more harm than good. Here we are today, living in a climate crisis as a result of wanting more done faster.

But we're not here to protest against mass production.

It brings cheaper and much quicker results. It means the linen fabric we use is reasonably priced, has a consistent long-lasting quality and takes 100 days to go from seed to fibre, not any longer. It means you get to access to good design at affordable prices with your IKEA furniture.

But having things done quickly and mechanically has made the human effort seem less important and often go unseen. That’s why the world needs creatives who make by hand, one at a time.

 
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A visible touch of the hand connects us all to our hearts and to each other. An antidote to the increasingly impersonal world.

Our role goes beyond mastering our craft.

It’s about reflecting a world if things were made slowly, thoughtfully, honouring human skills and respecting nature. Then, bring a very special group of people together to make that world a reality.

How did Fictive Fingers start?

We were sitting on the living room sofa, keeping an eye on our newborn niece (Hannah’s 11 now!) and thought of a name to call ourselves. We knew that making by hand was not only our strong point but what brought us closer despite being 7 years apart. We used to get our hands dirty as soon as we learnt something from our favourite childhood art show, Art Attack.

So we wrote down “fingers”.

The next thing we have in common is our love for literature so we thought of the literary device, alliteration and “fictive” was fitting since imagination is after all the heart of creation. We registered fictivefingers.com and it became a blog documenting our work that no one read.

It’s hard to think that Fictive Fingers was once shared just between the two of us, now that we’ve connected with thousands of people from all walks of life who own our products, been to our classes and follow along on Instagram. While much has changed, we still feel the same as we did when we made something just for the love of it: that it can create real connections and transform lives.

 
Hannah printing at the studio in 2015

Hannah printing at the studio in 2015

What keeps Fictive Fingers going?

What really brought us this far since the inception in 2008 and being our full-time career in 2013, is the unwavering belief that making by hand is important.

Even in a world of Amazon, a world where you can find things cheaper and get them faster somewhere else, making by hand is important.

It’s what our earliest customers who started the Fictive Fingers community, many of whom have turned from strangers to dear friends, believed in too.

Sustaining a belief is a lot more difficult than sustaining a business.

Fear and doubt can creep up on you anytime of the day. When you’re about to make sense of an idea in your head, when you’re just about to get your hands dirty and create, especially when you’re about to put it out there and say, “hey, I made this.”

We nurture this belief by getting better at our craft and the business.

This post shows just how different our work from 2013 and 2019 are because we’re always challenging ourselves to sharpen our skills and ideas, both in our craft and the way we run the business. We’ve come a long way to become a profitable, purpose-driven business while remaining small and handmade but we wouldn’t be here if it weren't for our simple, unshakeable belief that making by hand is important.

 

What did you two study?

Hani studied fashion design with a particular interest in textiles while I studied business, specifically in hospitality and tourism. We both didn’t come out the top of class and what we’re doing today wasn’t valued back then.

We believe that making by hand in and of itself lowers environmental impact, everything else we can do better when we know better. And many people have wrote in, telling us how our work has changed their life without even buying our products. Sustainability wasn’t a module in fashion school more than a decade ago. Marketing was taught as strategies on building relationships with as many random people as possible who can bring in the money — unfortunately a mindset still pervasive today.

Creativity usually lives outside an institutional setting, learn more in this TED Talk by Sir Ken Robinson on creativity and education.

 
One of the many open studios we had over the years

One of the many open studios we had over the years

What were some of the struggles?

If we were to pick one, it’d be knowing our worth. It affects everything from feeling worthy enough to show up, worthy enough to be paid fairly, worthy enough to stand up for something, worthy enough to share our knowledge, worthy enough to create something and share with the world.

It took us years to really figure out how we can engage our work from a place of worthiness while being criticised and questioned by people who think they’re at the top of the hierarchy and who are we kidding, even simple folks.

Honestly, things would have been a lot easier if Fictive Fingers remained shared just between the two of us. We won’t have to face our fears and doubts, external and internal criticism.

But then, you wouldn’t be reading this right now.

There wouldn’t be Raga and the go-to products so many people rely on in their everyday life. There wouldn’t be a safe place you can openly ask questions about responsible production, consumerism, textiles, ways to buy less and better. All if we were too afraid to define our worth and be seen.

We’re still afraid. As our community grow, so does the expectations. With more listening ears and watching eyes, everything we share possess more weight and more risk. We go over everything we write countless of times before we send or post. We’re not going to pretend that with more years and experience, we’ve become fearless.

But we’re brave because we’re not in this alone. The same people who have expectations and put trust in us to produce quality work are also the ones cheering us on and we’re forever grateful. The very special group of people we show up for.

Wanna know more of our struggles and how we overcome them to build a small, profitable, purpose-driven handmade business?

Aisah Dalduri