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His wife, Ms M Thana, says there’s still quite a consistent demand for traditional and customised jewellery and common pieces are the thali chain, pendants, toe rings, and crosses.
“I was born in Penang, but my father had sent me back to China,”says the octogenarian of Teochew stock.Now 66, he had started learning the trade from his father who also worked at the same premises.He also makes the Turkish-originated tarbus, a taller round cap with a black tassel, and the round kopiah used by Haj pilgrims.Mr Sim is believed to be one of the last remaining rattan weavers in town with the know-how to make these baskets.The owner of Seang Hin Leong rattan shop on Beach Street had learnt his trade from his father.His grandfather had started the business in 1925, and one of the reasons why Seang Hin Leong still exists is because they own the shophouse themselves.
Mr Sim is retired now, but luckily, his son, Chew Poh, in his 50s, is carrying on the trade.
Just down the road towards Chulia Street, at the side of a shrine dedicated to a holy Muslim teacher from India, Haja Mohideen hardly ever looks up from his sewing machine even though different friends drop by to chat while he’s sewing.
He was 12 years old when he first learnt to make a songkok—the oval-shaped headgear worn by Muslim males.
Mr Murugesan melts a gold nugget in a small ceramic bowl with a handheld torch, and then the liquid gold is poured into a mould, picked up with tongs and cooled in a bowl of sulphuric acid.
Then, the goldsmith patiently runs the nugget to and fro a mechanised press, like sugarcane.
Penang is fortunate to still have a few artisans around town, especially now where there is a revived appreciation for the traditional and handmade.