Do you remember when you decided you would devote yourself to this craft?
After I graduated from university, I started collecting vintage Nyonya slippers. My craft started as a hobby out of this interest. I always wondered why the beaded shoes were so expensive, that was until I tried to make the shoes myself! I didn’t realise the use of fine seed beads of Peranakan embroidery would take so long to complete a pair of shoes.
In what way is your craft linked to the territory?
Peranakan culture is a lifestyle culture born from acculturation within the major trading port cities of Southeast Asia. “Peranakan” literally means “locally born foreigners”. Being part of a colony, Peranakan beadwork is adapted from Victorian cross-stitch designs with Chinese motifs.
Nicky Loh © Michelangelo Foundation
Have you mastered any specific techniques?
As a collector, I came across two main styles of beadwork: with embroidery loom and without. Even within these types, there is tent stitch style or free style, or the “Macramé” bead-weaving method (which means using multiple threads) and single thread “three-bead weaving”.
Could your craft be considered in danger?
There is a great need to continue educate the younger generation the beauty of their traditional costumes, its historical and cultural values. For a culture to move onwards, cultural arts and crafts have to evolve and be relevant to the current generation. Therefore, when traditions are too rigid, there is a risk that it will become extraneous to the lifestyle of the younger generation.