Husband team behind carpentry company Adiaida offers hands-on woodworking workshops in PJ

Building and gluing happens when you work with wood. For participants in the woodworking workshop for women in Adiaida, it is extra exciting to take home and use an item made by them.

Adiaida is run by husband and wife Adi Kamal and Aida Ihsani, who have picked up carpentry by watching YouTube videos and believe that with guidance anyone can build a myriad of practical items that will also last.

On weekends, their workshop in Ara Damansara, Petaling Jaya, buzzes with the hum of saws, hammers hammering nails into place and bursts of laughter, while apron-clad women, some with friends, siblings or children, are more used to their arms. using other gadgets to make shelving, cabinets, stools, bookshelves, kitchen trolleys, jewelery boxes, drawers, tables, mobile bars, storage cases and spice racks.

The company wasn’t planned, Adi says, but it felt like the right thing to do years after I met Aida on a project while both were working with separate non-governmental organizations. She was with Make-A-Wish Malaysia and he, Epic Homes, which builds homes and shelter for the Orang Asli.

“We built three houses together and also did small do-it-yourself projects. One was a drum-like coffin for Aida’s mother for her birthday in 2014,” Adi recalls.

That was the beginning of sessions on creating personal objects in a small space in a friend’s workshop. Then the principal of a private school asked them to set up carpentry classes for the young students. Then there was training for the teachers because they wanted to include woodworking in the curriculum.

Other jobs were added, including furnishing an entire office for an advertising agency, which they did after their day job. As they stepped back to look at their work—a wall shelf with a ladder over it, a swing set, and a pantry—the thought occurred to them: Why don’t we just do this?

This is how Adiaida was born in 2019. Excited but cautious, the founders allowed the company to grow organically, using their own funds and resources.

“We didn’t want to throw a lot of money in the trash, get loans, buy this and buy that, and end up with a financial burden. That would create undue pressure as we pursue work to recoup. We are comfortable with growing slowly. It fits how we live. We’re not the type to reach for the stars or live excessively,” Adi says.

Yet the nature of commissioned work is such that some months are harder than others. After seven years as business partners, they tied the knot. Working as a couple allowed them to get through the pandemic years, mainly because they could be fluid in making changes and what to offer customers depending on the situation. They are also grateful to the community, family, landlords and suppliers, whose support has helped them survive.

Now that things are bustling again, they are busy with ideas and plans for their women’s workshops. Participants walk in and want to do something with their hands. They leave happily, knowing they can do it – with evidence to show.

“It’s about giving them the space to learn a skill that one would think is male-dominated. There is no pressure, no prejudice. It’s about women having conversations and connecting with other women. The dynamics would be different if we had both sexes together during the sessions,” says Aida.

That said, those who enjoyed their lessons started saying, “This would be fun if I could build it with my brother, father, son.” Adiaida listened and started duo workshops.

“We’ve had a mother and daughter get together, one woman with her mother-in-law and another with her sibling.” Recently they had a father and son on holiday from India looking for such a workshop. “They had some tools at home, but didn’t know how to use them.”

How you do it is the fun part at Adiaida, where many women want to build their own furniture after moving to a new place. Depending on the project they choose to participate in, everything they need is mapped out for them.

Screws, nails, rulers, eraser, pencil, sandpaper and bits of rubber wood — chosen for strength and durability — are pre-cut to the desired length and width.

Each class is divided into five segments, with Adi and Aida instructing and demonstrating how to perform them. Everyone starts measuring and staking, and learning to use the drill to make holes. Part three involves nailing the pieces, followed by sanding to smooth the edges and boards of wood. The final process is assembling the components.

A maximum of four to six participants keeps classes small and personal. There is also the need to space things as a safety buffer.

What would take a beginner more than a day to build from scratch can be completed at Adiaida in four to eight hours, depending on the project. “We don’t want to overwhelm people. We want them to experience the tools and understand the process first,” says Adi. They also hope that as participants get better in class, they will want to develop their skills.

There is also the element of being in the zone with wood and tools, and bonding with fellow participants. Raihan Abu Bakar joined her first class because she wanted to work with her hands after watching many online tutorials on furniture building.

Stefanie Chong Suet Li has attended four workshops, including one with her brother (they built a kitchen trolley) and her seven-year-old daughter, who made a rack. “If kids get something too fast, they don’t like it” [process] work hard to get it. I want my daughter to appreciate things and enjoy making them. Her stretch may not be perfect, but it’s something she did. She was very proud of it.”

Adiaida has a catalog of six to eight projects at a time, for variety, with sessions open to children as young as five. There are also company workshops. “We try to run a project for four to six months before slowly introducing a new project, without phasing out as much. It also takes time to learn how to teach the class,” Aida says.

Woodworking workshops are only available on Saturdays and Sundays, as the couple conducts sessions for homeschool groups for the rest of the week. Again, this also started organically, with requests from mothers for their children. “They saw that we had so much fun and that they could relive their Living Skills days at school. A lot of them came after we launched our workshops for women.”

Of course, some parents are afraid that their children will handle hammers and saws. “But when they see how we teach them to use real tools, they want to get involved. Children have to experience this for themselves. They can get hurt; but it’s all part of the learning process,” adds Adi.

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia on September 5, 2022.

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