Splash of local colour

Rashid Abdul Samad in front of his showroom
Adding a splash of local colour

IF you were in Mersing you would probably be just passing through.  Other than eating your fill of fresh seafood and buying some dried seafood products to take home, you may think there's nothing else to do here.  Known as the gateway to the Endau-Rompin National Park and the idyllic islands in the Mersing Marine Park, this fishing town, however, is fast becoming a popular tourist destination on Johor's east coast.

This is where Rashid Abdul Samad has a little showroom filled from wall-to-ceiling with hand-drawn and painted batik in his rustic kampung house.  Rashid, a designer and entrepreneur trained in the Kelantan batik technique, has more than 15 years' experience in the art of batik painting.

Rashid guiding guests to add colour to their batik pieces
Rashid Batik is a collection of exquisite works of art painted on cloth in various sizes, ranging from handkerchiefs to scrolls and banners.  The bold designs by Rashid Batik is a mix of solid colours with clever shading that gives a realistic touch to subjects like orchids, flowers, butterflies, seascapes, underwater scenes and abstract images.

Ready-made items like pareos, blouses and kaftans made of fabrics like silk, crepe and cotton, are also wearable.  Rashid also accepts orders to create custom-made or personalised designs for individuals and corporations.

A lady who loved watermelon had Rashid create a special design of slices of cut watermelon with an interesting touch of tiny ants crawling on each slice to depict how sweet the watermelon tastes.  So if you have a subject in mind, just let Rashid put it on fabric and you can have it tailored into into a unique outfit.

Rashid skillfully drawing with a canting
Hand-drawn batik offers endless possibilities for artistic freedom.  With a practised hand, Rashid uses a canting to draw outlines with smooth strokes on fabric stretched on a wooden frame.

A canting is an instrument with a small brass bowl at the end of a handle and a tiny spout on the bowl that allows melted wax to run onto the fabric.  Next to his showroom, a wide shelter in his garden houses a workshop where rows and rows of wooden stands with frames of fabric are brought to vibrant life with his designs and blends of colours.

This is also where you can try your hand at painting your own piece of batik. All you need is time and a little confidence in your creative expression.  Rashid provides a choice of picture outlines on fabric in various sizes for your selection.

After you have made your pick, he will let you choose your colours and advise you on the colour combination.  Then, armed with paint and brush, you will bring the designs to life by gently applying the colours onto the fabric.  Follow Rashid's demonstration and you cannot go wrong.

Add your signature after colouring your piece of batik
Painting can be therapeutic so take your time to enjoy the whole experience. You may just discover the artist inside you.  For groups of visitors, it can be exciting to organise a batik painting contest to challenge each other to create the most vibrant piece of batik.

So the next time you are in the neighbourhood, don't just pass through Mersing. Have a batik-painting experience with Rashid Batik and arrange to collect your masterpiece when it has dried the next day.

If you cannot spare the time, leave your address for Rashid to post it to you. Remember to sign your name with a felt-tip pen at the bottom of your masterpiece before you frame it up for all to admire.

Rashid Batik, located at 132, Jalan Haji Bandi, Kg Pengkalan Batu, 86800 Mersing, welcomes visitors between 9am to 5.30pm daily. Call 07-799 6205 or 019-720 6295 to make an appointment.

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Johor Buzz on 27 April 2009

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