Conveying the beauty of printmaking through her designs, one tote bag at a time

20-year-old Nur Farihath shares her experience with linocut and how the support she has received from others helped push her forward in her art journey.

Sarah Chan
Sarah Chan

Likes museum trips and is sometimes artsy. Can be found in pattern prints.

Published: 3 November 2020, 11:32 AM

For 20-year-old Nur Farihath, her passion for the arts come from a place of gratitude for the support that she has received from others. To her, art is her medium of self-expression and the joy that others receive from her pieces are enough to inspire her forward in her journey.

The final year visual communication student at Singapore Polytechnic runs Farihaths, a nature inspired, flower-filled art account and business where she shares her works ranging from illustrations to arts and craft.

Since 2018, Farihath has launched several tote bag collections that she has designed using linocut (also known as linography) – a form of printmaking where a design is carved onto a piece of linoleum rubber to create a stamp.

Exploring the possibilities with linocut

Having first discovered her newfound love for linocut in 2018, Farihath decided to test her designs on other mediums. A chance encounter with a friend who had a lobang (opportunity) for a tote bag supplier led her to take the bags in to test her prints on.

Her first tote bag was a hit online when Farihath noticed the buzz generated from the pictures shared by the people around her, with some leaving positive feedback and others indicating their interest for the item.

That gave her the motivation to do it more often.


Farihath’s first collection, ‘ZAHRA’. Since 2018, she has launched three collections which have been positively received online. PHOTO CREDIT: NUR FARIHATH


Sharing her experience of running her business single-handedly, Farihath revealed that each collection takes almost three to four months of preparation before it is launched.

Creating the stamp would take almost three months as she carves them only during her free time away from school. Since linocut is irreversible, she has to be careful not to make any major mistakes or the rubber will go to waste.


It is easy to make mistakes while printing, but Farihath finds new ways of transforming the unsold bags by painting over them instead. PHOTO CREDIT: NUR FARIHATH


Then there is the test printing, sourcing of materials and personalising her thank you cards. She also manages her brand’s marketing material which usually takes two weeks of careful planning as she juggles between school and work.

But the hard work only comes when the orders stream in, she shared.


As each bag is stamped and packaged individually, fulfilling 30 to 40 orders would take between two to three weeks altogether. PHOTO CREDIT: NUR FARIHATH


“It can be very draining because it takes up a lot of energy for one bag,” said Farihath. Her latest RIMA collection, for example, was a Moroccon-inspired tile design that is stamped several times to form the final outlook.

“But when they receive the bag and they tell me that they like it, I don’t feel the tiredness at all as it is very heartwarming,” she said.

When asked about her favourite linocut design so far, Farihath shared that her Chinese Blue Porcelain bag was her most memorable piece to date.

“I was quite inspired by the Chinese blue porcelain vase. My father loves that kind of decor and we have a lot of it at home. I realised how he really treasures these items so I tried to make the design come alive using lino,” she shared.

The imperfectly perfect joys of linocut

When asked about her experience with linocut, Farihath shared that she was first introduced to the art form through a printmaking module in school. Despite the initial trial and error, she found the activity satisfying as she completed her stamp for an assignment.

“I did a sumo wrestler riding on a fish and I found it so interesting as I realised I can create a story out of carving out on a piece of rubber,” she said.

The possibilities were endless. Farihath fell in love with linocut – from the carving process to its flaws – and knew that she wanted to develop her skills further.

She doesn’t mind if other linographers are more detailed and had smoother outlines, neither does she mind if her designs had scratches when painted over. To Farihath, it was the raw and genuine outlook of linocut that caught her attention.

“I love how you can be imperfect in areas where you don’t have to be perfect. I love how sketchy it [linocut] looks.” she shared candidly.


Linocut involves several rounds of sketching, outlining and shading before a design is imprinted and ready for carving. PHOTO CREDIT: NUR FARIHATH


Farihath gave a run down of the steps involved in linocut. A quick count revealed almost five steps and it is no wonder that some may shy away from this intricate process.

But for her, she explained how she loves immersing herself into this activity as it is both therapeutic and freeing.

“The whole idea of carving and letting your hands do the work, I just love that feeling. The fact that you have the freedom to do whatever design you want is insane,” she shared, adding that despite the risk of cutting herself from the sharp tools used, she would rather forsake wearing safety gloves as she carved so as to stay in touch with the feeling of the rubber and her art.

Building connections through art

From seeking inspiration from home to building amicable relationships with her customers, Farihath connects deeply with her art and hopes to share her journey with others too.

When developing new designs, Farihath explained that she usually gathers her feedback from her customers even if the piece has not been officially revealed.

“I don’t mind sharing with them my work in progress even if I haven’t launched it yet. Because to me, what the customer wants matters to me and it is not just what I want,” she said.

While looking back on her art journey thus far, Farihath revealed that the feelings of insecurity towards her art is almost ever present especially with new launches.

“I face a mind block. At that point in time I don’t have any ideas and I would question myself: “Would this [business] ever work out?” I don’t even have any ideas and I was thinking if I should just quit,” she said.

But the support she received proved otherwise. When friends began to spot strangers carrying her designs, it was a proud moment that her passion and hardwork has reached others.

When her collections were positively received, it was a fuel to overcome her fears and challenge herself further.

“I started to believe in myself more as an artist and that was really heartwarming for me. From someone who is really timid to someone who is not afraid to venture out more,” she said.


When running an online business, the support from others is one of the most empowering qualities of social media to an artist like Farihath. PHOTO CREDIT: INSTAGRAM/@FARIHATHS


Sharing her experience of meeting other artists online, Farihath believes that any support shown towards an individual is significant enough in helping an establishing artist within the art community.

“Even if you don’t buy it, sharing and liking means a lot to the artist as it means that you appreciate their work. People might merely say it’s just a design but the thought process behind it is what makes it meaningful in general,” she said.

Her hopes for the future

Sharing her plans for the future, Farihath hopes to incorporate her love for fashion and expand her linocut designs onto t-shirts and other items for daily living.

“I don’t want to be known just as the tote bag [designer], I want to be known as someone who is versatile who creates other stuff as well. I want to try to approach different products to do linocut,” she said.

On linocut, she wishes that the art form can be more widely appreciated among youths.

Unlike the current embroidery or beaded jewellery trends, linocut and its traditional process may seem both tedious and messy to some. However, Farihath hopes that more can experiment to see the fun and therapeutic side of linocut instead.

Her advice to youths?

“Don’t be afraid, courage over fear. Printmaking is a fun process and I feel that creatives should really try something out of their comfort zone.”

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