TIM MAN • Tinsmith Craftsman • George Town • MALAYSIA
In some corners of Penang, old craftsmen, artisans, still grind away at traditional trades. Mr. Khaw is one of them. He’s a tinsmith. His hands and soul are lined with scars. Time and experience has shaped him, just as he crafts the metal he holds.
“My name is Chee Hwa. Khaw. Tinsmith. That’s what you call it. These days you can’t earn any money.”
“I’ve been doing this for decades, since my childhood. When dad ran the shop, we’d have to come home and help after school. When I was in my 30s, I got sick. Things were difficult because I had a young family and the kids were in school.”
“I became anxious… nervous. When I went to go outside, I became nervous. I got so scared, I couldn’t leave. As soon as I walked out the door, I’d break out in a sweat. I was so scared, I thought I would die. The doctor said you have an anxiety disorder. The doctor said you have to walk on your own. No friends. On your own without accompaniment. No friend to accompany me. I had to do it on my own. I just had to keep walking. Sometimes I’d start to walk, get scared and run back. The doctor said you have to stand and not run. ‘If you run, you’ve lost.’ I had to listen to the doctor. I had no choice. Bit by bit it worked.”
Old things in Penang were made very strong. Traditional craftsmen and craftswomen invested so much time into their work, each creation, that even with the passing of years, their products don’t fall apart very easily. Things made today in factories aren’t made to last.
Time tests us all. Mr. Khaw passed this test, but after raising and providing for a family, he’s retiring. Just one month after this interview, Mr. Kaw closed his shop.
“That’s enough. Finished.”