Monday, May 19, 2008

Nonya Beadwork & Embroidery

My adventures with Eastcoastlife about the Katong area did not stop at our lunch at Kim Choo Kueh Chang - Restaurant.

On the second level of Kim Choo Kueh Chang - Restaurant/ Gallery is a gallery that showcases Nonya Beadwork & Embroidery, Nonya Kebaya and Nonya Porcelain. That was where we had headed after our lunch. My eyes were attracted to the colourful beadwork that were on display.

For the Nonyas, otherwise known as the young female Peranakans, the quality of her beadwork and embroidery is often regarded as a reflection of the quality of her upgrading. This is the case as a lot of patience and skills are required to bead and embroider.

In a traditional Peranakan family, a Nonya would have been introduced to and trained in sewing, beadwork and embroidery from an early of twelve, before they get married. Likely, by the time that a Nonya is of a suitable age to get married, she would usually have perfected the skills of beadwork and embroidery.

Look at the beaded shoes found in the photo above. These beaded slippers are known as kasut manek and are worn by Peranakan women as part of their traditional costume. Notice that similar to Malay designs, people are rarely depicted in most of the designs of the beadwork and embroidery. Most of the designs tend to be motifs of animals, phoenixes and flowers.

Look at how fine and tiny the beads are.

In making the kasut manek (beaded slippers/ shoes), I've found out at the Kim Choo Kueh Chang - Gallery that usually either Rocaille seed beads or Charlotte seed beads would be used. The beads are sewn painstakingly by hand onto the cloth with the help of a wooden frame (also known as pidangan).

For those of you who are interested in learning how to make such beaded shoes, I heard that Kim Choo Kueh Chang - Gallery conducts such courses. Please click on the link to find out more.

Demonstration of beaded slippers in the making.

In general, most ladies would place a sample of the design or cross-stitch patchwork in front of them when they sew. This is to guide them in their making of the kasut manek. I read that for those with decades of sewing experience, they can easily sew the designs on from memory. I cannot help but to feel impressed.

If you are still hungry for more insights to the art of making Peranakan beaded shoes, here is a Youtube video that features "a traditional Peranakan beaded shoe-maker, Mr Robert Sng" put up by bristow47 and his team:

- Lim, Catherine, G.S. (2003). Gateway to Peranakan Culture. Singapore: Asiapac Books.
- Tan, Gek Suan. (2004). Gateway to Peranakan Food Culture. Singapore: Asiapac Books.


tigerfish said...

I stay in Katong area but never had such an experience in nonya culture and tradition. Thanks. I will make it a point to visit when I am back in SG.

Tboxmy said...

This is interesting. How much does it cost to learn how to do the bead work?

eastcoastlife said...

Ooo... Bibik eastcoastlife's demo on sewing beads on a template. hahaha....

Informative post PY. The embroidered blouses and beaded shoes are so beautiful but expensive lah.

Doreen said...

Nice shoes!!!! ECl is looking good there. She seems very professional in the beaded slippers making. hehehe

oceanskies79 said...

Hi Tigerfish: I am sure it would be an interesting experience when you are back in Singapore, checking out the Katong area. :)

tboxmy: You could call 67412125 and look for Raymond Wong from 10am to 6pm on working days to enquire on the rates.

Eastcoastlife: Thanks for giving me the permission to use the photo. :)

Doreen: Yes, nice shoes, and professional looking ECL at work.

dawn said...

My sis bead the kasut manek too. you can pop to her needlework blog to take a peek.

oceanskies79 said...

Dawn: Thank you for the link to your sister's needlework blog. I'm impressed by people who could do that. :)

My aunt had tried to start me on it when I was younger, and she provided materials for cross-stitch. However, while I did attempt a few needlework and had even stitched and made a few teddy bears, these never ended up to be a hobby of mine.