Beads – The New Age

Ramsay Ong’s Bead Collection

It has not been that long since I found a fascination for bead work. I would say that it was only about two years ago that I started to appreciate beads.

I guess it was about two years ago when my good friend David Hogan Jr started asking me about places to buy Sarawak beads. Then the following year he went again to Sarawak, this time with Janice to attend the Borneo International Beads Conference in 2017.

This made me think that I probably have taken bead work a bit too lightly. Maybe so because Sarawak bead work is such a common sight for me.

Typical sight at any craft shop in Sarawak bound to have Orang Ulu Beads.

Beads play an important role in the Orang Ulu community. The women’s headgear for example, would indicate which tribe she belongs to; Kelabit or Lun Bawang for instance. Most importantly, beads used to be a symbol of status amongst the indigenous aristocrats. Among the Kelabits, for example, lower classes were rarely allowed to wear beads or bear traditional motifs.

Once worn as a show of status within the community it has now evolved and the more common man so to speak, would be able to wear bead accessories. The designs too, are taking on a more contemporary modern approach and on a personal note this is where I find it interesting.

Long Tuma in Lawas, Sarawak is famous for its hand painted beads

I visited David’s and Janice’s Green Daun craft shop in Petaling Jaya and that was an eye opener for me. Both have really high regards to Sarawak beads and after seeing some of their collection that features Sarawak designs and beads, I began to appreciate bead work even more.

Scouting around I almost documented the entire bead collection that they had. Both were kind enough to explain to me the types of beads they have and also about their customers that come in and asked for customised necklaces and bracelets.

Green Daun’s Sarawak Beads Collection

Most come for customised bracelets and necklace that have energy beads. Energy beads are semi-precious stones that is believed to be able assist you in spiritual, emotional, physical and holistic healing.

So I decided to make a bracelet and just recently while on a trip to Kuala Lumpur, I ended up asking Janice to make me a customised necklace. Took me quite a while choosing the stones and I ended up with choosing an Ammolite pendant complimented with two Botswana Agate stone.

I am now on a hunt for another bracelet. In the back of my mind I know i need to have one that features a few authentic Sarawak beads with an energy stone.

Perhaps on one of my upcoming Bejalai, I may find that inspiration. Perhaps also I could encourage our local artisans in Sarawak to come up with more contemporary modern designs. Bring Sarawak beads into a new age.

Thank you for reading and if you want extra details on the above, drop me a line and I’ll get back to you soon as possible. 

Till my next Bejalai, remember to be a responsible traveller. Respect nature and respect culture.. take care and don’t forget to comment.

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