HIS nimble fingers worked on carving intricate Chinese seals, but Chan Hin Leong also dabbled in making ornaments from rock fragments to showcase the raw beauty of nature.
The 47-year-old art teacher’s passion for the gravel and hill dirt of Gunung Lambak, a popular hiking and recreation spot in the Kluang area, was heightened after a suggestion from his art mentor Pang Heng Khan.
âI have a fine arts degree, but I had ventured into another professional field for 10 years in Singapore before moving to Kluang in 2009.
âThis was around the time my art ‘guru’ told me to try working with mountain rock (Gunung Lambak).
âFollowing Pang’s advice, I decided to pick up rock fragments that had fallen at the foot of the mountain and nearby quarries and construction sites.
âHowever, I was very careful to only collect rock debris so as not to harm Mother Nature.
âI found that the rocks in the hills were not as hard and therefore easier to shape compared to rocks I worked with before that were purchased in China,â Chan told StarMetro.
Ornaments in the form of auspicious animals in Chinese culture, such as turtle and fish, as well as bamboo, seashells and ancient coins, were also the popular choice to adorn the top of Chinese seals, also known as yin zhang.
Chan said that although Chinese seal making and rock carvings are less common than other art forms in Malaysia, he regularly travels to China to learn and connect with other artists from Hong Kong and China. Taiwan.
He added that his interest in making ornaments from rock fragments and Chinese seals, previously used only by artists and educators, was growing in popularity among the younger generation and history buffs.
Besides the seals that bear names, he also worked on seals containing ancient Chinese sayings and classical verses, Chan said, adding that he had studied and consulted journals to produce historically accurate writings and scriptures.
âI also get orders from couples who want Chinese seals with their names engraved on them for their wedding, while parents want items such as personalized gifts for their children.
âI mainly share my products on social networks. A lot of my clients come from outside of Kluang, like Johor Baru, Melaka, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, âhe said.
He hopes to share his expertise with those who wish to acquire the skills of the trade in the future.
Chan – who teaches Chinese calligraphy at the Kluang Arts Society, where he is also a committee member – said seal and rock carving is a laborious and painstaking art form that requires patience and concentration.
âEach rock is like a canvas that I have to cut, shape and sculpt to produce the shapes and sizes I want. Once you make a mistake, you can never go back or start over.
“The art form demands a keen eye for detail and beauty because sometimes a piece of rock, after hours of hand sanding to smooth the surface, will reveal an unexpected surprise – whether in interesting patterns or colors.
âIt’s up to us as artists to preserve the unique characteristics and create an ornament that showcases the beauty of the rock,â he added.
Besides teaching, Chan and his peers have also been involved in projects and fundraisers initiated by the assembly of Mengkibol Chew Chong Sin over the past three years. This is to promote the arts and for them to do their part for the Kluang community.