She is a dentist by day and an entrepreneur by night – Ding Yan Wen has both a dental surgery degree, and a passion for handmade items.
Her interest led her to design fascinating flat purses, book covers or sleeves, batik-inspired scarves, scrunchies and head caps, made using a variety of fabrics.
One of her more innovative creations is a bubble tea cup carrier, useful for any bubble tea lover, made from eye-catching fabrics.
The 26-year-old learned to sew from her mother, using an old manual Singer sewing machine, before switching to her aunt’s mechanical machine. She eventually created her own online business on Instagram under the name Hamkke.co (@hamkee.co). Hamkke means ‘together’ in the Korean language.
“I have always loved the idea of bringing people or items together in everything I do. I believe that growing together as a community is essential,” said Ding, who graduated from the University of Otago in New Zealand.
“I am a huge fan of handmade products. I have collected and bought various products both locally and from overseas over the years. My inspiration to pick up sewing came from my older sister who shares my love for handmade items.”
Where do you get inspiration from?
“My ideas come from lifestyle items around me, mainly things that I find useful and that I will personally use in my daily life. After learning how to sew from my mum, I started making or sewing various items for myself and the people around me as a hobby.
“It is always a joy to select my design and later turn it into something that I can use.
“I started getting requests from my friends online after sharing my sewing projects on my personal Instagram account. It was then that I realised many people out there also share the same love for handmade products.
“I received a lot of encouragement, and decided to start an online business to make my products more accessible. Hence, Hamkke.co began in early 2019.”
Tell us about the bubble tea cup carrier.
“I am a huge fan of bubble tea. Back in 2018, I made a trip to Taiwan, the land of bubble tea, and I came across my very first cup carrier and bought it.
“It is so much more convenient using a cup carrier, and since it is reusable, it is also environmentally-friendly.
“Since then, I wanted to have more of these carriers in different designs, and I started to make them for myself. Soon, everyone in my family wanted one, too. So, what better way to share the love with my family than to make them myself?”
What items do you sell the most?
“My best-sellers would probably be the cup carriers, flat purses and the newly launched book or laptop sleeves. Our flat purses have a minimal and sleek design, and are made from unique fabrics.
“Our laptop or book sleeves are one of a kind, and customised to the exact dimensions of your book or laptop. Most importantly, they are all 100% handmade with love!”
How do you balance your job as a full-time dentist with your business?
“I have been a dentist for more than a year now, and I really love my job, but it is always a nice feeling to return home and have a break from dentistry and to do things that are not dental-related – like sewing.
“Time management is still a challenge at times, definitely. Sometimes, I do receive help from my family in managing my online page.”
What are your future plans?
“Definitely, I would like to explore different sewing projects and work with new fabrics. I hope to share more tutorial videos on the sewing process, from the beginning to the finished product. Hopefully, I can encourage more people to pick up sewing, as well!”