When it comes to cushion work, not many have the skills Teh Soon Seng has mastered.
The 67-year-old is a third generation pillow and mattress maker whose hands-on approach to each piece makes it a custom-made creation.
His shop in Bishop Street, Penang, which he now runs with his wife, showcases years of history with one of a kind materials and the art of hand stuffing his creations with cotton, polyester and coconut husk.
“My grandfather started this business more than a hundred years ago and then my father took over. I watched them work and was always at the shop as we live upstairs.
“After school and whenever I was free, I would learn from my father and took over the business later on.
“It is an art and requires detail as some cushions need to be hand sewn while others need to be stitched with the old motorised sewing machines operated by using one’s leg.
“I used to take on plenty of work and make stuff to sell at my shop but now I make them based on orders, as it is tiring, ” he said when met at his shop.
Teh said the hardest to make are poufs as they take up time and it can be tiring to stuff with coconut husk.
“We make plenty of altar pillows and yoga pillows.
“We custom-make mattresses, especially for children.
“It is done from scratch, I take their measurements, stitch and fill it by hand.
“It does take up time as many do not realise filling mattresses requires extra work to ensure the cotton is evenly spread out and does not sink in. We usually use extra cotton to make sure it does not soften and shrink.
“We do have contracts with hotels as well to stitch their pillows, ” he said.
Teh said he uses feathers or cotton to fill his pillows depending on what the customer wants.
“I do have ready-made pillows just in case some are passing through and want one.
“We do make foam pillows as well, do upholstery on all sorts of furniture and make curtains as well.
“I am open every day as only when we work do we have an income.
“Even when we are closed, our contact number is outside, so if you call us, we will come downstairs.
“I usually work at night as the coconut husk and cotton will fly.
“I do not want to disturb my neighbours who are trying to make a living and run businesses.
“They are closed at night so I work then and clean up, ” he said.
Teh said it was hard work and not something his children would pursue.
“The trade will probably end with me as my children have chosen different paths in life.
“This shop has been my entire life and is the only home I know,
I will remain here till the end,” he said.
Did you find this article insightful?
90% readers found this article insightful