Sunday, September 26, 2010

Society Atelier Sarawak's 25th Anniversary

The World Eco-Fibre and Textile (WEFT) Forum was inaugurated in 1999 at the International Ikat Weaving Forum held in Kuching, Sarawak. Since then, the WEFT Forum has been a biennial event here in my home town triennially.

The WEFT Forum brings international delegates together in one place with the main objective of exchanging current and unpublished information related to textiles and fibres. Through research, work and experiences derived from stories, legends, traditions and oral retelling of history, this year's theme of "Nature's Colour Code in Basketry and Textiles" aims to promote, share, conserve, and encourage the use of natural and sustainable material in the creation of arts and crafts. The Forum focuses on networking natural-material producers and the craftspeople, and fosters cultural exchange through the exhibitions and conferences that are held during the 3-day forum.

Every year, the forum concludes its events with a grand Gala Dinner and fashion show showcasing works of international delegates who work within the forum's theme. Also this year, Society Atelier Sarawak celebrates its 25th Anniversary and guess who was asked to create a cake for the event?    :)

President of Atelier is Edric Ong, a man who passionately acquires knowledge, develops, endorses, shares and conserves the artform of eco-fabrics and artpieces-cum-textiles. In our home soil, he is known as the man who single-handedly pioneered the term he endearingly refers to as "wearable art". I'm sure I'm not alone in appreciating his personal twists on fashion pieces assimilating upcycled and repurposed natural elements acquired from the plant kingdom of our rainsforest.

Juxtaposing Atelier's Silver Anniversary with this year's WEFT Forum Gala, Edric requested a large cake incorporating all things associated with the society. The gala is to be held at the Borneo Convention Centre and the milestone celebration is in honour of the society's patron, the late YAB Datuk Amar Puan Sri Laila Taib.

Edric envisioned the cake composing a Melanau basket with textiles overflowing from it's brim - draped, hung and artfully displayed. Acknowledging that I am definitely no textile display artist, I did do my best in draping the fondant pieces while attempting conjuring up some flair  :)

The main structure of the basket is covered in black fondant and textured with more fondant for a basket-weave patterning. After sketching a few drafts, I settled on the cake having a front (the section facing the audience) and a back (the side facing the cake-cutter for the cake cutting ceremony). The basket's front and sides are draped with a myriad of eco-fabrics made from fondant : tree bark cloth; a red Chinese brocade; a golden yellow Indian sari; a Pua Kumbu; and a piece of blue Songket Melayu.

On top of the Songket Melayu is a casually strewn strand of Orang Ulu bead necklace. Inside the basket are rolled up pieces of various textiles, the blue shades were mimicked off the differing shades of natural indigo dye.

As I try to ensure all the decorations for my caking projects remain completely edible, the painting of the motifs were rather nerve-wrecking with no allowance for errors. The folds and creases created into the fondant didn't make it any easier too. Once the fondant had air dried, the motifs were handpainted free-hand with a fine tipped brush. All colourants, glitters and shimmer dusts are edible. The number 25 topper and the basket are not edible, the main cake being a dummy.

All decor is completely made from fondant while the bead necklace and iban silver belt (inside the basket) is gumpaste.

After the dinner and before the fashion show, the cake cutting ceremony on-stage was followed by the large cake being moved off-stage and placed in front of the main table. I was a tad shy from the handshakes and nods of approval from friends who were amongst the guests. I couldn't help to sneak a peek at people's expressions when they walked up to the cake for closer inspection. I was very excited to say the least. I am so relieved and am beyond ecstatic that Edric himself sent me a text message to assert that he thought it was lovely. I literally had a light bouncy skip in my walk for the hours that followed.

Earlier on in the evening before the cake was wheeled on-stage, my mom and her two buddies asked me to take them for a quick glimpse of the piece that involved 2 weeks' worth of sugar work. Their reaction was hilarious and will go down in the books as classic! They kept going, "... so where's the cake?" when they were in fact standing right in front of it. Pointing to the cake I was like, "this is the cake, see?", and they gave me a quizzical look until they realised that they were looking at it and not random pieces of fabric. After the dramatic gasps and squeals of glee subsided, Evelyn said to mom, "You thought your daughter would actually take a shortcut and put actual fabric on the cake eh? Me too!". Even the night before when Cil and Del dropped by the house, they walked pass the cake thinking that it was a few pieces of cloth thrown onto a basket! When it dawned on them that it was an actual cake, Cil related later that he thought I had "thrown a few pieces of rags around for fun"!!! Ha ha ha ha... in spite of the reference to RAGS, I was nonetheless pleased that they thought the fondant pieces imitated real fabric. My job was done.

This project was a challenging and gratifying accomplishment, one that I am proud to have done. Thank you Atelier and special appreciation goes to Edric for including me in your commemorative celebration. Happy 25th Anniversary Society Atelier Sarawak, here's to many years of continuous pioneering of loving conservation and promotion of our state's independent arts and crafts.


Cyn said...

This is absolutely gorgeous! One of your best pieces EVER.

Constant Craving said...

Hi Cyn! It sure felt like the most work to date! Thanks for dropping by.


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