Meet the Maker: Ayang Cempaka

Nothing beats doing what you truly love—especially when you can also make a living out of it. Just ask Ayang Cempaka. Turning her childhood hobby of drawing into a well-crafted line of products, she has now already launched two brands under her belt.

Now based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, the Yogyakarta native admitted that her penchant for art started in the family. “My mother, Dyan Anggraini, is a painter who used to work in a cultural institution owned by the government. My grandfather is a painter and sculptor, while most of my cousins work in the art world—curator, ceramic artist, and even musician,” said Ayang.

Before launching her namesake brand, Ayang, who graduated from an architecture school, founded Cocomomo in her hometown. “It was the result of my frustration after graduation. I don’t want to be an architect,” she said. “I want to draw, but I don’t want to be an artist!” The brand mostly features practical bags and leather goods, like camera boxes and pouches because she thinks accessories are essential for most women’s lives.

She is currently focusing her time for the Ayang Cempaka brand, for which she creates paper goods products that are adorned by her whimsical illustrations, from posters to iPhone skins.

Working from her well-appointed apartment in Dubai, the full-time mom said the brand came to fruition because of her and her husband’s fascination with interior design. “We often spend hours on the weekend in stores like Ikea and Crate & Barrel,” she enthused. “So I made these Ayang Cempaka posters to complement our apartment’s interior.”

The themes of Ayang’s illustrations run a wide gamut, from fruits and vegetables to inspiring quotes that are inspired by her own daily life. “I made the ‘Be Present’ poster, for example, because it’s very easy for me to get panic,” she said.

Talking about her production process, Ayang mentioned that she uses gouache technique to make her illustrations because “the consistency is heavier and the color is opaque, making it more flexible compared to watercolor.” After finishing her illustrations in Dubai, everything is going to production with the help of her small team in Yogyakarta. “If there are things that need adjustment, I can edit it directly from Dubai. Easy peasy.”

Her work is mostly influenced by Japanese and Scandinavian styles, mid-century illustrations, and folk art. There are also designers and artists that she sees as role models, such as Eames, Marimekko, Lora lamm, Alice and Martin Provensen, Aliki, Mina Perhonen, and Naomi Ito.

But does the place where she lives now also inspire her? “I came to Dubai because my husband, Rio, accepted a job here. When I just arrived, I was a bit frustrated because it was totally different from Indonesia—it seemed arid, artificial, and there’s nothing artsy here,” she admitted. “But this condition made me able to get back to drawing.”

Asked about her beautifully decorated apartment that is shown here, Ayang admitted that she was inspired by Scandinavian style. “I’m inspired by Ikea basically, because I bought almost everything for my apartment there,” she said, laughing. She also often spends her weekend in bookstores, park, or beach. “I wish there were thrift stores in Dubai!”

So what’s next for Ayang Cempaka? “I want to apply my illustrations to interior elements, including those for kids.”

We certain cannot wait.