TRADITIONAL crafts of Penang fascinated visitors to The Star Pitt St. in George Town during an Artisan Market featuring eight local craftsmen.
The crowd had fun trying out batik painting, wooden idol carving and Nyonya bead work under the experts’ guidance.
Perhaps the most ‘precious’ craft they learned was gilding — the art of pasting tissue-thin gold leaves onto carvings.
Heritage restorer Chor Teik Heng showed the gilding technique of meticulously and gingerly applying the glittering metal to wood carvings so immaculately that it seemed as if the gold had been fused into the wood’s grain.
Some had henna tattoos drawn onto their hands while others delved in varied aspects of palmistry in the half-day event organised by Think City, Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) and The Star.
Curator Chan Oga said it was aimed at rekindling interest in these time-honoured crafts, which are slowly being forgotten in modern times.
“Penang used to flourish with countless local artisans.
“However, they could not compete with technological advances that result in cheap factory-made goods and a fast-paced modern generation.
“The traditional artisans we have now could be the last of their kind if we do not spark greater interest in their artistry,” she noted in a statement.
She pointed out that while some people are keen to learn, the artisans are not easily accessible as they are scattered all over Penang.
Hence, the recent Artisan Market was intended to connect them with the public and provide a platform where people could engage in conversations and learned from them.
“We want to see new relevance and demand for traditional and contemporary local products and reverse the trend of relying on imported goods,” she added.
The artisans included batik trader James Lim and palmist Asokan Sithamvaram, who practices pro-bono to help people make the best out of their lives.
Wooden idol carver Yeap Siew Kay is a recipient of PHT's Living Heritage Award.
“Wood carving is the only thing I enjoy doing. Many masters in the past were not willing to pass down 100% of their know-ledge to others, but I want others to know everything I do,” he said.
Nyonya beadwork specialist Beng Yong is a housewife who makes her own intricate pieces to fill her time while henna artist Gayathri Asokan believes the art form has benefits beyond aesthetics.
Completing the lineup were macrame knotting artist Jamie Oon Muxian and acrylic artist Julius Raja Manickam.
Chan said Artisan Market would be held bi-monthly on the third Sunday, with the next one scheduled for June 19.
In the months between, there will be Artisan Workshops. There is one on May 15, from 2pm to 6pm, featuring Nyonya bead works.
Interested parties may register online at nyonyabeadworks.eventbrite.com. It is priced at RM30 per person and limited to 15 participants only. Details, email Oga at firstname.lastname@example.org.