BALIK PULAU: Another living heritage craftsman in Penang is gone with the passing of silversmith Fong Ten Sent.
He passed away on Wednesday night from kidney cancer at the age of 73 at his shop which he had been running for many decades in Balik Pulau.
Sadly, he never passed his artisan skills to anyone as he was a bachelor and did not have any children.
Despite being diagnosed with cancer early last year, he continued to make the silver miniatures which he was renowned for, such as abacus, wok, charcoal stove, teapot, kettle, flask and other kitchenware using old-world tools and machines inherited from his father.
Fong opened his shop almost daily and continued taking orders until his death.
The eldest of seven siblings, he was sent by his father to be a goldsmith’s apprentice in George Town when he was 13.
His delicate silver pieces were appreciated by foreign tourists and he had customers from as far as the United States, Russia, South Africa, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Fong also had his face ‘immortalised’ in a monochrome mural created by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic on the wall of a shoplot in Jalan Balik Pulau.
Ho Sheau Fung, who worked with the silversmith in the My Balik Pulau project (a project initiated by Arts-ED Penang), described Fong as a passionate and persistent man.
“He created fantastic miniatures, which were quite rare in the market, and he was very proud of his skills.
“He could work throughout the year without a day off because of his love for the craft,” she said when contacted yesterday.
Fong’s family members will continue to run his shop for a month to sell off all his remaining pieces.
In June 2014, the last traditional handmade Chinese lantern craftsman in Penang, Lee Ah Hock, who ran the Tua Keat Seng Red Lantern shop in Magazine Road, passed away after a bout of illness.
Of the three lantern businesses that survived the Second World War, none remains in Penang.