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The couple behind joinery business Adiaida offer hands-on woodworking workshops at PJ – Options The Edge | Casual Expat

Working with wood creates building and gluing. For those attending the Women’s Woodworking Workshop in Adiaida, there’s the added thrill of carting home an item they’ve made and using it.

Adiaida is run by husband and wife team, Adi Kamal and Aida Ihsani, who came to carpentry from watching YouTube videos and believe that with guidance anyone can build a variety of practical items that will last.

At weekends, her workshop at Ara Damansara, Petaling Jaya, is filled with the hum of saws, hammers, nails being driven in, and roars of laughter as aproned women, some with friends, siblings or children, bend their arms, those more reminiscent of the Other gadgets are used to swinging to make shelves, cabinets, stools, bookshelves, kitchen carts, jewelry boxes, drawers, tables, mobile bars, storage boxes, and spice racks, among others.

The deal wasn’t planned, says Adi, but it seemed like the right thing to do years after they met Aida on a project while both were working for different NGOs. She was with Make-A-Wish Malaysia and he was with Epic Homes who build shelters and shelters for the Orang Asli.

“We built three houses together and did little DIY projects along the way. One was a drum-like chest for Aida’s mother for her birthday in 2014,” recalls Adi.

Thus began sessions on how to make personal objects in a small space in a friend’s workshop. Then the director of a private school asked her to set up carpentry courses for her young students. This was followed by training for the teachers as they wanted to include woodwork in the curriculum.

Other jobs came along, including setting up 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 let the company grow organically using their own funds and resources.

“We didn’t want to throw in a lot of money, take out loans, buy this and that and face a financial burden. That would create unnecessary pressure as we chase work to recoup it. We are comfortable with growing slowly. It corresponds to our way of life. We’re not the type to aim for the stars or live in excess,” says Adi.

However, it is in the nature of commissioned work that some months are harder than others. After seven years of business partnership, they tied the knot. Working as a couple helped them get through the pandemic years, largely because they were able to fluently make changes and offer clients 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 getting really busy again, they are working on ideas and plans for their women’s workshops. Participants come in and want to do something with their hands. They leave happy and knowing they can – with proof to show.

“It’s about giving them the space to learn a skill that’s otherwise considered a male domain. There is no pressure, no prejudice. It’s about women having conversations and connecting with other women. The dynamic would be different if we had both sexes together at the sessions,” says Aida.

However, those who enjoyed her classes began to comment, “That would be nice if I could build it with my brother, father, son.” Adiaida listened and started duo workshops.

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

How to do that is the fun part at Adiaida, where many women want to build their own furniture after moving to a new apartment. Depending on which project you choose, you will be provided with everything you need.

Screws, nails, rulers, erasers, pencils, sandpaper, and pieces of rubberwood—chosen for being strong and durable—are precut to the required length and width.

Each class is divided into five segments, with Adi and Aida providing instructions and demonstrating their execution. Everyone starts with measuring and layout and learning how to use the drill bit to drill holes. Part three involves nailing the pieces followed by sanding to smooth the edges and wood panels. The final process is assembling the components.

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

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

There is also the element of being in the zone with wood and tools and connecting with other participants. Raihan Abu Bakar attended her first class as she wanted to work with her hands after watching many online tutorials on furniture making.

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

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

Woodworking workshops are only offered on Saturdays and Sundays as the couple conducts home school group sessions the rest of the week. Again, this started organically with requests from mothers for their children. “They saw that we were having so much fun and they got to relive their Living Skills days at school. Many of them came after we started our women’s workshops.”

Of course, some parents are concerned when their children use hammers and saws. “But when they see us teaching them how to use real tools, they want to join in too. Children have to experience this themselves. You 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.

Updated: September 19, 2022 — 5:38 pm

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