Malaysia – Malacca woman Ong Bee Hong enjoys teaching the intricacies of making Nyonya beaded shoes to anyone as long as they’re willing to put in their time and effort.
Ong, a home-based customised beaded shoe maker or ‘kasut manik’ has made these shoes for weddings and even for customers overseas from as far as the UK.
Based in Malacca, Ong makes ‘kasut manik’ of various styles ― ranging from flower motifs, animal patterns, geometric patterns or any pattern that comes to her mind.
For the past five years, she has also been teaching the art to organisations such as the Malacca Cancer Society and to members of the Persatuan Peranakan Cina Melaka (PPCM) ― to preserve its heritage.
For an upcoming Manik Exhibition in an effort to preserve the Peranakan’s culture, Ong was tasked to teach about 40 students from all age groups and race the art of cross stitching beading using simple geometric or flower designs.
The exhibition, set on June 19, at the PPCM building, is aimed at showcasing the work of the beaded shoes by her students they have been working on since January this year.
Students pay RM50 for the lessons including materials, while the rest was sponsored by the Cultural Economy Development Agency (Cendana).
“A pair of beaded Nyonya shoes are always marvelled at for its beauty and elegance — and this requires a lot of effort and time from my students.
“Most of the students are working adults to retirees who are interested in this unique art and I taught them using the simple cross-stitch method with beads.
“But I’m strict in my classes and I tell my students that they are not allowed to give up on making their first pair of beaded shoes ― no matter how difficult the process is.
“Most times, I can tell the difference when a student finishes a stitching method fast and leaves out important details,” she told Malay Mail.
She added that as a teacher, she taught them the basic cross-stitching with beads using a template and used ‘manik kasar’ on a polyester material to make it easier for students to form shapes.