Friday, July 31, 2015

The shipmaker of Endau

The finished painting of the shipyard in Endau. Inset: Starting to put paint to paper.
While checking out the fishermen's wharves in Endau, a small fishing town about 150km south of Kuantan , Pahang, I stumbled upon a shipyard in Jalan Dato Mohd Ali that specialises in repair of local fishing boats. Being fond of marine vessels, I went right in uninvited to capture the scenery that I was familiar with while growing up near in Kuala Terengganu. 

Luckily for me, the owner of Cahaya Empat Slipway Sdn Bhd, Law Ah Wah, who is in his 70s, did not mind my intrusion. I explained to him that I wanted to paint one of the fishing boats that was undergoing repair and he agreed.

There were several fishing boats that were undergoing maintenance work that day. Under a shade at one end of the shipyard, a timber fishing vessel was being built. The boat that I intended to paint had undergone repairs and maintenance for some time and would be launched in a week. Another boat had just arrived and waiting to hauled onto land.

The shipyard uses several diesel-powered winches to tow the vessels onto a trailer which sits on a rail track before being hauled onto land. Once the boat is landed, it is cleaned and dried before the hull is stripped and checked for rotting parts and those that needed replacement.

For timber bottomed boats, planks of hardwood are usually joined side-by-side using a strong adhesive-sealant called damar. A type of fabric thread is inserted into the gaps between the joints before damar is applied. This is to not only strengthen joints but also make them waterproof. Once the joints are cured and smoothed, the hull is painted, and the vessel launched into the sea to continue its seafaring duties.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Potting around at the kiln in Ipoh

MY ARTIST friend Phang Chew who lives in Ipoh took me to this old pottery kiln in Jalan Kuala Kangsar to paint the scenery there. Ah Fatt, the partner-owner of the Xin Fa Pottery, is his friend. I decided to grab the opportunity to visit the place because I had never been to a pottery before. Phang, who is an accomplished outdoor painter well-known in Ipoh, has sold many pieces of the scenery he painted here.

My sketch of the old kiln's smokestack.
Located along Batu 2-1/2 Jalan Kuala Kangsar, just 100 metres off the  main road, Xin Fa Pottery is over 60 years old and has several kilns of various sizes producing many types of clay pots. 

According to Ah Fatt, there were quite a number of such factories two or three decades ago in the area. Dwindling business and development have caused many to move out. His factory now produces pots for the local market (including artistic clay sculptures) as well as for export.

A Schmincke Field Box in one hand and the leg becomes my easel.
Although the owner was a little busy to take me through the entire process of pot making, he did allow us to go into the main wood-fired dragon kiln which had yet to resume operation. The dragon kiln is a Chinese invention that dates back thousands of years. We had to be careful as the kiln’s ceiling is not very high and the years of firing have caused the glass-sharp stalagtite-like protrusions to form. We were told to lower our heads or risk getting a nasty cut.

Sifu Phang Chew in his element.
Phang, his wife and I ended up painting the scenery of an abandoned kiln located beside a dilapidated storehouse at a shady corner of the factory’s compound. I found much challenge in recording the various types of foliage around this old structure and came up with a watercolour sketch for good measure. My friend Phang and his wife drew on larger sheets of paper and within an hour, they had completed their masterpieces