Forging a future in ceramic beads

A ceramic bead necklace is assembled on a special tool tray before being strung together.

KUCHING, Mac 23: The use of ceramic beads has been gaining popularity among local beadmakers as they incorporate them into highly detailed ornaments worn by people who adore them.

Local craftsmen tend to use ceramic beads as it is more durable, and it has a history related to Sarawakian culture and heritage.

Many are skilled at designing and creating unique shapes and patterns with aesthetic appeal.

Ceramic bead craftswoman Monica Chadom at her work station.

The writer recently met Monica Chadom, an Iban lady from Kota Samarahan, who shared her journey and interest in making her very own ceramic beads and designs.

Hailing from Ng Bawan in Kanowit, 62-year-old Monica was interested in beadmaking when she was still in school.

Today, this mother of five children is not only a craftswoman skilled in using ceramic beads, but has also turned it into a lucrative business.

Monica said her journey began in 2018, after she attended a one-week course at Kraftangan Malaysia, Kuching.

“I was always interested in using ceramic beads after I saw it at a shop. But I have no idea how, and where to begin until a friend told me to register with the craft council,” she told the writer recently.

Monica said that her eagerness to learn became a reality after Kraftangan Malaysia replied here and asked her to attend the one-week course.

“I was overwhelmed and very excited that I was able to learn more about the craft. This is where I gained the incredible knowledge of using ceramic beads in beadmaking,” she added.

A necklace made of ceramic beads, designed and crafted by Monica.

Monica explained that another turning point in her life was when the craft council asked her to form a company to sell her products.

“For me, I was interested in making the ceramic beads for myself and not selling them. But they (craft council) informed me that my work is good and my products were quite marketable.

“With that, I decided to form a company,” she said, and that was the beginning of her journey as an entrepreneur.

Initially, Monica said that her customers were mainly her friends, who would be curious about where she got her ceramic beads.

She told them that she made these beads herself, and to her surprise, they started to order and bought these ornaments.

“Many customers asked me to customise their ceramic beads to their preference, and I try my best to satisfy their demands,” she shared.

Monica disclosed that when she started making her first ceramic products, she bought 25kg of clay from a factory making ceramic pots at Mile Five.

She explained that there are three stages in making ceramic beads.

The first stage is called greenware, where the product has been shaped while the second stage is bisque firing the clay, before it enters the finishing process of glazing.

Monica said making her handicraft work gives her satisfaction.

“I am pleased with my work now, but I am a bit worried as I don’t make enough beads due to increasing demand,” she said.

Monica added that to increase her production and the quality of her ceramic beads, she would need a kiln for the firing process.

Monica’s ceramic beads are allowed to cool down before they are taken out of the baking oven.

“If there is a kiln, it would be much easier, as the bead making would be sped up.

Monica opined that if she is more competent in the future, she would want to share her knowledge and experiences in making ceramic beads.

She is thankful to Kraftangan Malaysia for allowing her to become a better handicraft person.

“I appreciate what the council has done for me and and my business.”

Monica said she was happy that since the start of her business venture, she had gotten back her return of investment.

She intended to expand her products and wanted to ensure that she had accessories made for men, women and children.

Monica said the pandemic had halted many of her marketing and business plans in selling her crafts.

“I like to sell my products at public events here if there are opportunities, and my focus is not only in local but also the overseas market.

A tray of assorted ceramic beads is ready to be assembled.

She is also not perturbed by more expensive jewellery like gold, diamond, silver.

“It is a different story, and it’s up to individuals. Even if the product is expensive, it is up to people to choose what they want to wear.

“Ceramic beads have their followers and it remains a trendy ornament worn for all occasions. It will always have a place in a person’s heart,” she believed.

“Like golds, diamonds and expensive gems, we can keep these ceramics beads for generations, and they would not be out of fashion.

Monica encouraged everybody from all walks of life to get involved in making ceramic beads if they have an interest.

“I have the support of my husband and family, especially when it is achievable. My siblings are also involved in making all sorts of craftworks, and we hope that those involved in the craftwork industry will be successful,” she opined.

“It is a lucrative business if the person can have the discipline, diligence and patience. Now, our world is full of ideas, with many different technologies are there to help us.”

For inquiries, call 010-833 8355. — DayakDaily