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TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE: HOW WOODCARVERS ARE CONTRIBUTING TO THE SURVIVAL OF TRADITIONAL MALAY FABRIC GILDING

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Abstract

This paper will discuss how the contribution of one craft, namely woodcarving, can contribute to the revival and survival of another, namely Telepuk fabric making. This research also analyzes the knowledge transfer process that was enabled through a Telepuk Process & Woodblock Stamp Making Workshop organised by the Sultan Alam Shah Museum of Selangor and led by master craftsmen. ‘Telepuk’ is the name of a traditional Malay woven fabric that employs gilding with gold leaf or gold dust. It is an ancient craft that yields a rich fabric known as ‘Kain Telepuk’, which has been worn by Malay nobility for at least 300 years. The process of producing Telepuk cloth involves polishing the fabric with a shell and applying gold motifs with a carved wood block stamp using a kind of printing process. This meticulous process is timeconsuming and difficult to master and the high cost of gold makes it unaffordable to many. These factors have contributed to the decline of this traditional craft. It was once widely practiced by women in ancient royal households but today is had almost disappeared. Due to a lack of understanding and information about Telepuk, nowadays most Malaysians do not know about this textile heritage. The decline of Telepuk making has, naturally, also contributed to a decline in the carving of the wood block stamps. According to the Sultan Alam Shah Museum of Selangor, there are no woodcarvers today who create these woodblock stamps. In 2016, there was an effort by this museum to revive Telepuk textile making. However, this was constrained by a lack of woodblock carvers. This meant that they could only use old, existing motifs. Because of this, a master woodcarver was approached by the museum to help revive Telepuk and to document the tradition of woodblock printing process. The findings of this research illustrate the importance of multi-disciplinary collaboration in the revival of traditional crafts through the exchange of knowledge and skills. In this particular example, there was collaboration among woodcarvers, fabric makers, researchers and museum curators. In the future, there is much potential for designers to also become collaborators, to develop new patterns and designs suitable for a contemporary audience. This current research also aims to gain vital information about potential design strategies for contributing to the preservation of traditional crafts