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The Dying Skill of Bamboo Basket Weaving

Madam Lau Weng Thye was busy at her machine, shaving 1cm strips of bamboo for her three casual workers to weave into baskets when I dropped by at her workshop in Kanthan Baru, Perak a couple of days ago.

1. Madam Lau Weng Thye busy shaving bamboo strips
1. Madam Lau Weng Thye busy shaving bamboo strips

Her stock of bamboo raw material has just arrived from Lasah that morning. After about a week of enforced break when she had used up all her bamboo stock from the last batch, Mdm. Lau had to catch up with work to fulfil all the orders that had accumulated.

2. the base is the most difficult part to weave
2. the base is the most difficult part to weave

The business of weaving bamboo baskets used to be a major cottage industry in this Chemor village, but that was until the 1990s.

Over time, plastic containers have replaced bamboo baskets, weavers have passed on, profit has dwindled and it is no longer viable to run such a business, hence Mdm. Lau’s modest enterprise is the only one surviving today.

3. weaving of the basket body begins
3. weaving of the basket body begins

Probably already into her 60s, Mdm. Lau continues to push on, even as she is facing difficulty in sourcing for raw material and securing the services of manual workers, a skilled task that comes with the risk of getting cuts despite wearing thick gloves.

4. be happy with what you do and you will never work a day in your life
4. be happy with what you do and you will never work a day in your life

In the early days, bamboo baskets were woven in three sizes; Small, Medium and Large. These days, only Medium and Large sizes are made. Despite the difference in size, they are sold for RM5.50 each.

According to Mdm. Lau, a skilled weaver can complete a number of baskets a day while a newbie may take days to wrap up one. The most difficult section to weave would be its base, she said.

It is, in fact, also the most important part of the basket as a large one can support over a hundred kilogrammes in weight.

5. almost complete now
5. almost complete now

Mdm. Lau admits that these bamboo baskets are not durable, an additional factor that has caused merchants who normally use these baskets prefer plastic containers instead.

“What more when workers who have to carry heavy loads don’t take care of them and drop the baskets hurriedly on the floor,” she added.

6. completed baskets waiting to be collected by customers
6. completed baskets waiting to be collected by customers

By the looks of it, bamboo basket weaving is a dying skill. It is just a matter of time that bamboo baskets are no longer made, especially when it appears as though Mdm. Lau’s own family members are not keen to inherit her business.

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With love

22 thoughts on “The Dying Skill of Bamboo Basket Weaving

  1. I believe, sooner we don’t see this anymore. Really a great sharing. Ppl said never look back to the past… but i could say is, never forget the ROOT from your past…

  2. Last time my grandma also teach me how to use bamboo to do basket. I find this activities interesting and not much people know the real process.

  3. I am a crafty person but I honestly can’t do what she can do. She is very skilled and talented.

  4. The bamboo base is really tough to weave. I have seen women back home doing it. It’s sad that the art is dying, but good to see some people preserving it.

  5. My Mom loves to use bamboo basket whenever she go to market. Now hardly could find such baskets at KL.

  6. agree with what you said- a dying skill that will extinct some day in future. hopefully the younger generation can learn and catch up the skill before that.

  7. It’s sad to see handmade basket weaving skill died. Today, with new technology factory can make them in hundreds by machines. I still like handmade ones though!

  8. this is one of the skills that I would like to have. I have an uncle who is really great doing this kind of stuff. Unfortunately the skill doesn’t run in the family

  9. Making Bamboo baskets is a lovely art form and just like other srt forms this should be preserved by teaching and learning. Thanks for sharing such lovely informative post.

  10. Im looking for this kind of basket, may i know is mdm still doing it? can i have the contact to check with?
    thank you

  11. I would like to buy these bamboo basket in quantity. How can I contact Madam Lau ?

    Thank you.

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