Troy Bolton bounds across the field, dancing as these words leave his lips in song: “I wanna listen to my own heart talking. I need to count on myself instead.” The High School Musical star might just be onto something.
He comes from a basketball background with his father as the coach, but Troy’s heart beats for performing, and well, Gabriella Montez. His teammates laughed his side hobbies off, and it took time, courage and persistence for Troy to finally break out of the mold his peers and family expected him to be in.
Similarly, this tale repeats itself with 23-year-old Malaysian, Rong Jie (RJ), but with origami as the backdrop of the story.
Paper Hearts, Paper Flowers
RJ comes from an economics background and, society expectations coupled with being Asian would have seen him working to become an accountant or an investment analyst. But that’s where RJ breaks away, because he decides to fold paper instead.
He acknowledges the fact that he has always been a very crafty person who enjoys DIY projects, and eventually, the art of origami. This stemmed from his habit of giving fresh flowers to his loved ones during special events, only to watch them wilt as quickly as they leave his hands.
When RJ was looking to find a gift for his girlfriend, he stumbled upon origami flowers and the love was immediate. After much practice and even crafting a paper flower bouquet for his uni mates, he found his validation in their appreciation. That was when he thought that this was actually a viable idea, and it led to the birth of Paper Project by RJ.
Bouquets That Actually Last
Paper Project by RJ currently has kusudama stalks and tulip flowers in store, priced between RM5-RM30, whilst roses can also be made upon request. Folding paper might sound like a walk in the park and something where an average Joe would go “Pfft, I can do this in minutes”. RJ thought the same until he started folding them himself.
It ended up taking him an entire day to perfect a bouquet, using materials such as wrapping paper, ribbon, strings and wire. He even had a close encounter with feeling just like ET when he accidentally glued his fingers together.
As time and practice went by, he needed only 20 minutes to get one flower done, complete with its stem and leaves. For one bouquet, it would be anywhere in the range of 90 minutes.
Each bouquet is durable and will last as long as one handles it with care. RJ’s word of advice? “Whatever you do, just DO NOT let it get caught in water.” Besides flowers, Paper Project by RJ also recently launched an origami handmade card collection for their target audience, which mostly consists of college and university students who are looking for economical, long-lasting gifts for their loved ones.
“This Is For Girls”
Being from a typical Asian family, RJ received flak for what he loved to do. Much like Troy was expected to play ball and not sing, RJ was expected to pursue economics, not flowers. In fact, RJ’s own dad didn’t think he stood a chance in such a feminine venture at first.
RJ shared, “Coming from a family that does not believe in a career in the arts, I had to pursue different majors (economics) for my tertiary education because they strongly believe that that would help me venture into a career that has a ‘guaranteed future’. Nevertheless, I will never gave up on my passion in arts and crafts.”
If anything his 3 year economic degree taught him one vital lesson which he could apply to his venture, and that is how to justify the price of each flower or bouquet. “What my 3 years economic degree taught me is that cost+labour+profit = price,” chirped RJ.
More Than Just Flowers
RJ sees how his passion bleeds into the lives of others, and though this is not his full-time job, he hopes that it will be someday. He isn’t limiting himself to flowers either, but any origami art which revolves around paper. RJ hints that one of their future projects may involve chocolates as well.
With this, he said, “I can’t wait to see how things turn out for us in the long run. Right now, we are just trying to learn up more knowledge on origami art and introduce better products for our supporters.” Paper Project by RJ has had about 100 customers since their inception in December 2015.
RJ said what makes his creations special as opposed to fresh flowers is their uniqueness and the fact that colours and patterns are endless. “Many think that this is just an easy task but it actually requires skills and time to complete each of our creations,” RJ said.
This makes every flea market/bazaar attendance, hunting down of materials and cramming orders during examination periods worth it for RJ. He said, “I enjoy how the origami flowers can put a smile on someone’s face! But mostly when they appreciate the handcrafting, it give us further encouragement and motivation to do what we do.”
Image Credit: Paper Project by RJ