IPOH, July 28 — skilfully wielding a paint brush, Cheah Bak Chong, meticulously paints some wooden shoes.
He then moves to the next process — placing the shoes on top of a round wooden block.
He proceeds to hammer plastic straps onto the shoes to complete a pair of wedding clogs.
The 82-year-old clog maker is among a handful of individuals in Ipoh town, who continues to hone the dying craft.
Cheah’s shop, located on the ground floor of a four-storey building in Jalan Silang, Ipoh, is adorned with red clogs, typically used in Chinese weddings and important occasions.
“Not many are painting these clogs anymore. There are only two or three who still do it,” he told Malay Mail.
The father of two children started selling wooden shoes when he was 40 years old.
“I was a lorry driver then and to support my children’s studies, I buy and sell clogs as a part-time business.
“But, after I retired about 20 years ago, I had some leisure time and that is when I started to draw designs on the clogs and paint them.”
Cheah said the demand for wooden clogs is high as not many sell them or have the skills to do it anymore.
Cheah said he learnt the skills from Chung-Wa School of Arts in Taiwan.
“During my younger days, I got the opportunity to study there (Chung-Wa School of Arts) for one year.
“I obtained a certificate and it was fully sponsored.
“That’s how I got these skills.”
Cheah said his wooden shoes are made from a factory in Tanjung Tualang.
“I don’t make the clogs. They come from a factory, I only draw the designs, paint them and tack on the plastic straps.”
He said drawing and painting the clogs was a time-consuming job.
“The difficult part is the drawing as we need to draw on wood. The painting is a bit time consuming, as you only can apply a different colour when the layer of paint is completely dry.
“You’ll need about seven to eight days to complete a dozen pair of shoes.”
He said most of the clogs he painted were red as the colour is considered auspicious among the Chinese.
“The shoes will have some floral motifs. If customers want different designs and colours, I will do it according to their preference,” he said.
Aside from wedding purposes, Cheah said people also use clogs in wet markets and bathrooms.
“If you go to markets, you can see fishmongers or chicken sellers wearing these clogs.
“But, of course, those clogs don’t have any colour or design.”
Cheah said clogs are priced between RM7.50 and RM15, depending on he design and colour, adding the shoe is suitable to be worn on all types of surfaces.
When asked who will continue the business after him, Cheah paused for a moment before answering.
“I don’t think anyone will continue this art. It will die off with me.
“The younger generation is not interested in this business,” he said.