Honing aesthetic value of rattan

The perception that rattan crafts are ‘kampung products’ is no longer true as the heritage craft has evolved into high-end furniture and decor

By SAKINI MOHD SAID / BERNAMA

ASK any rattan craftsman what is the most arduous part of their job and they will say it is the weaving process.

Megat Rahimi receives a lot of orders for other rattan products such as bed frames, clothes racks, swings, baskets and tables

However, Megat Rahimi Megat Deris, who operates a rattan furniture workshop in Kampung Panji, Kota Baru, Kelantan, finds weaving relatively easy. It is the shellacking part that he finds most taxing because, according to the 38-year-old furniture maker, varnishing the finished products requires delicate skills.

“For me, the most difficult part (of making rattan furniture) is at the end when applying shellac on the rattan products. But many people think that is the easiest part and think that it can even be done by unskilled workers.

“One needs to be highly skilled and diligent when applying shellac to furniture, failing which the results will be far from satisfactory. It took me five years to master this skill and only after that did my customers start praising my handiwork,” Megat Rahimi told Bernama recently when met at his workshop named Mega Rotan Deco.

The media visit to the workshop was organised by the Malaysian Handicraft Development Corp (Kraftangan Malaysia) as part of its two-day National Craft Institute (IKN) Graduate Success Story Programme in Kelantan.

Flaws Cannot Be Rectified
Megat Rahimi said even a small mistake in the shellacking technique can cause a serious flaw that is beyond repair.

“It can cause the colour to be uneven and no matter what we do to rectify the mistake, it will still end up looking blotchy,” said the father of five, who has two workers to assist him at his workshop.

The weaving process, on the other hand, is less tricky because any mistake in the weaving can be concealed.

“We can create a beautiful rattan furniture piece but if the shellacking is flawed, the whole thing is ruined,” he said, adding that he was currently in the middle of shellacking some living room rattan furniture priced at RM11,000 which a customer has ordered.

“This customer is very fussy, so I have to be really careful,” he quipped.

Although Megat Rahimi, who has been involved in the furniture industry for 10 years, gets numerous orders for high-end rattan furniture, he only makes up to three sets of living room or dining room furniture per month.

This is because his rattan pieces are almost entirely handmade; he is also a stickler for quality — he only uses high-quality ‘manau’ rattan sourced from Negri Sembilan and Perak to make his furniture — and takes pains to ensure that his customers get what they want.

Megat Rahimi also receives a lot of orders for other rattan products such as bed frames, clothes racks, swings, baskets and tables.

Innovative
Megat Rahimi said the perception that rattan crafts are ‘kampung products’ is no longer true as the heritage craft has evolved into high-end furniture and decor and even penetrated the international market.

He has also been innovating his weaving designs to inject a breath of fresh air into his products so that they do not look outmoded and appeal to the young.

Megat Rahimi only uses high-quality ‘manau’ rattan sourced from Negri Sembilan and Perak to make his furniture

His more contemporary designs featuring square, hexagonal and oval-shaped geometric motifs in combination with traditional elements have placed his rattan crafts in a class of their own.

The enterprising craftsman has also innovated his furniture production techniques by using a small quantity of high-quality plywood together with rattan to make the framework for his products.

“I also use pineapple leaf and banana tree fibres for the portions (of the rattan products) that are weaved to get a more attractive colour tone,” he said, adding that these innovations were necessary to add value to his rattan products, so that they can compete with modern furniture.

Megat Rahimi’s efforts have paid off as his orderbook is always full and he is earning a five-figure monthly income from his business.

Often, he has to turn down orders for rattan crafts from hotels and large corporations due to the lack of skilled manpower.

“It’s hard to find workers who are skilled in making rattan crafts. I guess not many people are interested in this field. Even I was not interested until I completed my craft-making course at IKN as that was when I realised how lucrative the rattan industry was,” he added.

IKN’s Contributions
IKN, located in Rawang, Selangor, and established in October 2001 under the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, offers certificate and diploma programmes in batik making, weaving and making of ceramic, wood, metal and rattan crafts.

IKN senior director Zainal Abidin Che Pa said Kraftangan Malaysia extends a helping hand to the institute’s graduates and other craft operators by helping them to set up workshops and purchase equipment, as well as giving them an opportunity to attend courses on designing and marketing strategies, and participate in craft promotions overseas.

Between 2001 and 2018, IKN has produced 2,574 graduates, 1,409 of whom graduated at the diploma-level and the rest, certificate-level.

About 2,144 of those graduates or 83.3% have succeeded in pursuing a career in the crafts industry and in other sectors, proving that IKN graduates are employable and face a bright future. — Bernama

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