Dying Trades of Ipoh>
With the advancement of technology and machines replacing human labour, many of today's products are machine made, rather than man-made. The advantages of machine-made goods may be speed and precision but those of us who have lived through the years of having everything made by the hands of skill craftsmen know to appreciate the finer details of each and every product that we come across, whether it is an item that we use or consume.
Affected industries are far and wide, from biscuit making to wood carving and blinds weaving. We at Wisma Chye Hin Ipoh Old Town miss those days of yore and hope to preserve that memory of Ipoh's bygone era through the city's 1st and Largest Indoor Mural Arts Experience at our premises.
On the walls of the first floor of Wisma Chye Hin are murals of these dying trades, many of which are no longer in existence, or currently being threatened by human development, as artisans are unable to engage the younger generation as apprentices. These days, young people prefer to work in more comfortable conditions, such as in an air-conditioned office.>
Not many people can tell dumplings apart, whether one is handmade or machine produced. Today, the man-made dumplings, uncommon as they are, are still very much sought after by those who do know their 'pau'.
Whether it is the texture or taste, those who have enjoyed man-made dumplings will keep looking out for them..>
Wood Carved Signboards>
Handcrafted traditional signboards with golden Chinese lettering is another craft that is dying. This highly-skilled work is backbreaking and takes plenty of patience to accomplish.
With other materials such as metal and LED replacing wooden signboards, these traditional boards are in low demand; hence it is difficult for artisans to make a living.>
With modern, more comfortable footwear replacing wooden clogs, it is hard pressed to look for a household that still has a pair or two of clogs in use. Very popular among the Chinese in the old days, the wooden soles of clogs were handmade, first shaped with an axe and then planed for a smooth finish.
The plastic strip was then nailed to both sides of each wooden sole.>
Ipoh's Lau Hooi Kee is possibly the city's last surviving chick blinds weaving business. Although proprietor Lau Chee Wah does receive orders from overseas, business is admittedly dwindling, as these blinds have lost favour among consumers, who now prefer more modern blinds.
Hand-weaved chick blinds were traditionally used as practical advertisement boards besides being a good controller of light and ventilation.>
With ready-to-wear apparel so easily available and at reasonable prices too, tailoring is a sunset career. There is still an odd tailor here and there in town, but unlike the old days, those whose business is still surviving are those who possess specialised skills in certain costumes, such as body-hugging traditional wear like saree, kebaya and cheongsam, rather than daily clothing.>
It is rare to come across a "roti man" or bread man on a motorcycle these days, let alone a cycling vendor. Although mobile vendors are still plying their trade, they have upgraded their vehicles.
Moreover, they no longer make their rounds in residential areas but stay put at an assigned area at fixed business hours, for the convenience of customers.>
Younger folk do not want to be seen carrying weaved baskets as they go after branded bags. However, with trends going in cycles, perhaps one of these days in the not too distant future, weaved baskets will be back in fashion.
At this point in time, though, weaved baskets are only used in certain trades, like wholesalers.>
Similar to handmade dumplings, mechanisation has revolutionalised the baking of biscuits. Despite the claim that home-baked biscuits are more fragrant, machines can produce more biscuits in the same amount of time, with each biscuit weighing and tasting the same.
More importantly, the shape of every biscuit is consistent. The home-baked biscuit business has been relegated to a cottage industry and a seasonal one at that, for festivities like Chinese New Year, Hari Raya and Deepavali.>
Indian barbers are still quite popular and their niche market is children and senior men, who have low demands and just want a quick hair cut.
Nevertheless, there is no denying that the majority of men and women opt for unisex salons these days, where hair stylists (as opposed to barbers) are skilled to recommend more hairstyles to suit our respective features.>
In due time, we suspect that many of these trades will no longer be in operation. We are aware that time passes swiftly and people move on.
With this in mind, we hope that our murals are able to curate the development of Ipoh’s living heritage and pass down this legacy to the younger generation who may not have the privilege to come across the above craftsmanship first hand.>