Truly unique handicraft at the Sarawak craft festival
While the dragon boat races may have been the main attraction during the first of two weekend events of the Sarawak Regatta 2015, the Sarawak Craft Festival was equally attractive last weekend.
Straight from nature
From dabai seeds to tree bark, arts and craft entrepreneur Albot Gudang from Bau fully utilises anything he finds in nature and turns them into beautiful handicraft.
While the rest of us discard the dabai seed after we’re done eating it, Albot turns them into key chains with beautifully painted Orang Ulu motifs.
Besides dabai keychains, other interesting items handmade and hand-painted by Albot are intricately painted paper weights with Orang Ulu motif and key chains made from belian wood, ‘buah ghurah’ and ‘kupih pinang’.
Albot also makes rings out of ‘buah pinang’ (Areca nuts).
“As buah pinang can easily break, I need to be careful and choose the good ones to make these rings. Sometimes, out of 10 buah pinang, only three or four come out perfectly,” said Albot.
Among the highlights of his handmade items is the leaf-woven painting with a mirror attached.
“I like making decorations that have a function; I attached a mirror to this painting, for instance, making it function as both a mirror and a decorative piece,” said Albot.
Making things that other people don’t normally do and use and started making these items first started out as a hobby for Albot, but he soon discovered the potential of selling his handmade items as he could easily source its natural materials from the jungle.
Although Albot is Bidayuh, he chose Orang Ulu motif in his artwork, as he feels that the style comes naturally to him and it was God’s gift for him to paint.
“In comparison to traditional motif, my paintings are more on the contemporary side,” said Albot stating that he taught himself how to draw 15 years ago.
Words of encouragement
Friendly and bubbly, Ursula Lau said this was her second time joining the craft bazaar and it has been five years since she started making pendants out of clay.
Describing it as an integrated work, the process of making each clay piece is a long and intricate one.
“I cannot do mass production because each of these are all individually painted and when you paint it, you have to look at the colour. If you are happy with the colour, you glaze it. But if you are not, then you add more colour. So this is not a speedy process,” said Ursula.
“I do the clay base which is like making cookies, then set it. A few hours later, I’ll come back and cut it into shapes and put them in heat which requires few hours. On the second day, I would paint them and for each piece sometimes I could easily spend 20 minutes,” explained Ursula of the process of making the clay pendant.
Looking at her craft work, no two pieces of her handmade pendants are alike. When asked where she got the ideas for the designs, Ursula said it was from endless research.
“On the radio, the Minister of Education said that Malaysians were very rigid in terms of research compared to those overseas, and I am willing to listens to ideas and do research,” said Ursula.
Choosing inspiring words such as Ethos (which means the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its beliefs and aspirations), Logos (Greek for the Word of God, or principle of divine reason and creative order, identified in the Gospel of John with the second person of the Trinity incarnate in Jesus Christ), Passion, Hope and Driven, Ursula said that the purpose it is so that the wearer would embodied the attribute in themselves thus manifesting the positive quality in their life.
“I started with ‘Courage’, ‘Hope’ and ‘Faith’ and someone requested for ‘Ethos’ and ‘Joy’ and so I did that. For my last edition, I added ‘Passion’ and ‘Awesome’” said Ursula of her word-inspired pendants which are perfect as birthday and Christmas gifts.
‘I made this’
In Kayan, ‘Kat Kenak’ literally means ‘I made this’ and that is what entrepreneur Emang Wan decided to name his company.
Entrepreneur Emang was seen sitting at his booth intensely stringing his handmade contemporary sape.
“I have been making sape for eight years now,” said Emang, who hails from Baram.
Made out merbau or jelutong wood, most of his sape measure a little over a meter in length making them nice – especially for women – to hold them.
Also with Emang at the craft bazaar was his wife of more than 40 years, Sebet Wan who also made some of the items by hand such as the traditional Orang Ulu hat called ‘hong’ and headband called ‘luvong’.
“I learnt how to make them since I was young from my mother,” said Sebet of her handmade ‘hong’ with additional beautiful and intricate beading details added. “Making one requires some time as I need to find the leaves we Kayan call ‘sang’ to make and dry before weaving.”
For the ‘luvong’, the ones with more motif are easier to make compared to those with less motif as it is easier to conceptualise the designs, said Sebet.
“I have been making ‘gendang’ in the traditional way for 20 years but it has been three years since I made them using machine,” said ‘gendang’ maker Penin Ana from Sri Aman.
According to Pendi, cow skin is preferable for the ‘gendang’ or drum as it is thicker and lasts longer. Besides that, Pendi said that he used copper nails in making the drums so that they would not get rusty easily.
For the ‘aran’, which is the wooden base of the drum, Pendi said that he uses any type of wood to make them as long as they are durable.
“To prepare the skin, I would need three days as I only need to dry them under the skin but after that, to tighten the skin to the ‘aran’ with rattan is the most difficult and requires a lot of time,” said Pendi.
The Sarawak Craft Festival 2015 will be held together with the Sarawak Regatta at the Kuching Waterfront from September 18 to 27, and features 92 entrepreneurs from Sarawak, Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia as well as craft demonstrations.