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Notes on Antique Textiles, Folk Art & Timeless Traditions – Jaina Mishra

Intricate Nyonya Glass Beadwork – antique pieces from the Peranakan Museum, Singapore

under construction

Peranakan culture expresses itself in many unique ways and the glass bead embroidery on articles of daily use is probably the prettiest of all Peranakan cultural signatures.

Glass bead embroidery is seen in many parts of the world – Native American tribes, Mexico, Turkey, Czech republic, Afghanistan and India but the beads used in the Straits are probably the tiniest of all, making the embroidery the finest and the most intricate.

Images of a few antique articles that are displayed in the Peranakan Museum, Singapore are posted below:

The tiny glass beads used by Nyonyas (Perankan ladies) came strung in bundles of 10 and were peddled by the travelling salesman.

The shimmer arises from the faceted surface of the glass beads created by a manufacturing process that is no longer in use. This feature distinguishes antique beads from new smooth round beads.

Beads were embroidered onto common articles such as slippers. Designs with figures and motifs were drawn on the fabric fixed in a ‘pidangan’ or wooden frame and then the stitches were sown on, fixing the beads to the anchor fabric. Once the embroidery was complete, the slipper faces were sent to the cobbler to be made into slippers.

spectacle case with bird motif

pouch with bird motifs

pouch with man and beast motif

purse

chewing leaf holder

tea cup cover

pouch with bird motif

Other Peranakan cultural objects :

the mourning costume

Floor tiles

All the articles above are exhibited at the Peranakan Museum, Singapore.

jm

april 2011

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