Thursday, September 4, 2008

Labu Sayong - Unique Essence Jar of Sayong

I went to a company function in Perak last week and got blown off (got bluffed?) by a group of artiste makcik (aunties) in a village called Sayong. The place is nearby a river called Perak River facing the town of Kuala kangsar and their specialty in art is called Essence Jar of Sayong (above pic). Worth to say, the art stuff is very unique, that it is not available anywhere in the whole world but here! Also, the jar is made entirely of earth and it cools down anything put into it to a few degrees below ambient temperature. I did a test using my thermometer and it works! I was really excited about this last week and decided to go around the place yesterday to find out more of this stuff. Unfortunately, the jar-makers were not at work yesterday thanks to the pissing tropical rain and I can't document anything but the story of it.

Said before that they actually started making this earthenware around a few hundred years ago (!) after they discovered that the composition of clay around the area was quite different and very suitable for earthenware. Because this country is very hot, and refrigerator was ye to be available then, their chilling-earth-made-jar went out throughout the country as a cooler used to store water and other liquids. The jar-making was then evolved in shape and designs to suit the taste of the users who were rulers and kings of their time. The jar sold to the public were usually less intricate and less decorated.

There are only two colors available for the jar - brown and black. Brown is the original colour of the clay and black was achieved by rubbing some tree epoxy to the jar body while it was still hot from baking and believed to have better chilling effect than the plain (brown) jar. Hence - the royalties and the rich prefers black jar of essence. For decoration, motives were engraved to the clay prior to baking them. Some of the original motives were labu bocong, labu tela, labu pucung dan labu panai. Hiasan yang kebanyakannya digunakan ialah pecah empat, bunga api, bunga lawang, bunga cakar ayam, bunga tanjung, bunga cengkih and pucuk rebung. This is an interesting but intricate process and so time consuming that it greatly increase the value of the jar. See pictures for the feel of it. The baking process was done to harden the jar and it was baked by burying the jar inside a burning stack of rice hay.

Almost all of the Labu Sayong were made by professional makers even to these days. Fortunate for an artfan like me, the price was very cheap - around USD30 for plain and USD 60 for decorated black jar. Anyone interested, please contact me via comments and I will be happy to make arrangements without any surcharges :)