Returning to her village at Kampung Sungai Lang Tengah in Kuala Langat, Selangor after thirty years living in the city of Kuala Lumpur, Esiah Binti Kaimon, was suddenly overwhelmed by the foliage that surrounded her kampung house. The lush greenery was most refreshing compared to the concrete jungle that is Kuala Lumpur.
Recalling those days in the late 1990s, Esiah said, “I was newly divorced and was trying to cope as a single mother. I had to raise my three children, especially my youngest, who was only 9 years old then. That was why I decided to return to my roots.”
One day, as Esiah was strolling around her vast garden admiring the blossoming flowers and blooming fruit trees, she thought about the fallen leaves and flower petals. An inspiration suddenly struck her to make bookmarks out of pressed flowers. It was an activity most school children were taught to do during art classes, except that Esiah had big dreams for her idea, launching her craft on September 9, 1999. The auspicious date was chosen because Esiah believed in the power and longevity of the digit nine. Sixteen years on, her modest home-based business is still going strong.
Today, Esiah’s pressed flower pieces are well-known in many parts of the country as she goes around exhibiting her work under various Federal agencies, including the Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation and National Department for Culture and Arts. She has even exhibited in Shanghai, China and Chiang Mai, Thailand. In fact, her creations are owned by many distinguished personalities, not only Malaysians but also Saudi Arabians in Mecca and Medina.
Due to the vast amount of raw materials that Esiah requires for her art, instead of waiting for leaves to fall and flowers to wilt and then for the sun to dry them before they can be used, she is now aided by technology. Plucking what she needs fresh from her garden, she places them neatly into her microwave oven to be heated for three minutes. Unlike the conventional method of drying the leaves which only gives them different hues of brown, those microwaved retain their colours, making the artwork more vibrant and eye-catching.
Because of this, from just simple garden pieces, Esiah upgraded her artwork to include landscape scenes five years ago. Nevertheless, at 63 years old now, Esiah still makes simple bookmarks which are priced at RM5 each. Larger pieces and more complex ones are priced higher. Her largest piece thus far is one that measured 5 ft. by 2 ft. It was sold for RM10,000. On the average, her pieces are priced at RM3,000.
Even as Esiah’s talent and creativity are unquestionable, as she is believed to be only one of two people in the country creating pressed flower art commercially, she is blessed with a unique gift. Esiah loves inviting people to try their hand at making their own pressed flower bookmarks and from their work, read their character traits, be they positive or negative.
Those who have had their pressed flower art scrutinised by Esiah are usually amazed by what she can read from the simple arrangements of flowers and leaves. They rate her with an accuracy of at least eighty percent! Amazing, isn’t it?
Note: An edited version of this article [From concrete jungle to PRESSED garden] was published on 24th October, 2015, in the now-defunct The Malay Mail.
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