Friday, May 25, 2012

AliJon Hand Crafted Silver & Craft

Amongst the stalls in the arts and crafts bazaar at the Borneo Jazz Festival 2012, AliJon Hand Crafted Silver stood out because of the towering orange-red Heliconias in a large glass vase.

Closer inspection revealed an assortment of fine hand crafted silver items on display at the main counter while traditional Japanese “Washi” hand made craft items were displayed on the side.

The owners of the stall, John Ng and his wife Alice Ho were very friendly and it didn’t take very long for us to get chatting. We found the couple to be warm and approachable, with John eager to promote recycling and share his creative methods with us.

Washi is the light, strong traditional Japanese paper made by hand from the inner-bark fibers of trees and plants. The name Washi literally means "Japanese paper".

Making Washi involves a long and intricate process where certain types of tree bark are stripped, boiled and then dried. The fibers are boiled with lye to remove the starch, fat and tannin, and then placed in running water to remove the lye.

The fibers are then bleached and any remaining impurities in the fibers are picked out by hand. It is laid on a board and beaten to a pulp. Wet balls of pulp are mixed with water, scooped onto a screen and shaken to spread the fibers evenly. The addition of the pounded fibre to a liquid solution, combined with fermented hibiscus root produces a paste-like substance when it is mixed.

It is this "paste" which is tossed until evenly spread on a bamboo mesh screen to form each sheet of paper. The sheets are piled up wet, and later laid out to dry on wood in the sun. Considering the amount of work involved, John was selling his items for a song.

Looking at his exquisitely detailed silver pieces, it would never occur to you that John is entirely a self-taught artist. He studied architecture and socialogy, also took on liberal arts for his double major in Iowa, USA. While in the US, this gifted guy also found the time to work as a chef to satisfy his creative streak.

On completing his studies, he came back to Sarawak and having plenty of time on his hands, started painting. His work attracted the attention of the Sarawak Arts Society, and before long he was working in an architectural firm.

When Kuching (North) became a city, John was selected to design the Mayor’s robe, mace, chain of office and official crest. Recognition for his creative talent didn’t end there as he was again picked to helm the art department when Hollywood came to Sarawak to make the movie “Farewell To The King”.

In a twist of fate, John ended up working in the computer graphics department of Shell, developed a cough and went to the inhouse clinic where Alice Ho attended to his registration. Over several visits, the artist became smitten with Alice, and plucked up the courage to send her a bouquet of flowers with a witty and creative message:

“I always see you when I am ill,
Can I see you now that I am well?”     

Apparently Alice must have seen the humor in the message as well as the couple are now married and blessed with two teenage girls.

Soon after that John became the leader of the art group in Shell, and a British lady friend of his saw so much potential in him that she bought him some raw silver and challenged him to come up with some original pieces.

John duly taught himself silverwork, improvising along the way and now he is devoting his full time to his creative passion, quickly making a name for himself and his own brand AliJon Collection.

He still finds time to teach art and craft making to the Penans and Asli in an effort to encourage them to not only keep their culture and traditions alive but also as a means for them to earn income too.  

If you like reasonably priced limited edition hand made silver, you can contact John at

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

i don't blog, I don't face book, but I love John and Alice and Alijon and Susen and what a joyous serendipity it is that I saw this link when looking for something else from my campsite in the desert of the UAE ... wearing an AliJon artwork.
Patricia, NZ/Brunei/UAE

12:14 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now this really is a coincidence because I was looking for 'The Tree of Life" motif and also came across this website. So wonderful to see that your talent is being shared further. Whenever I wear your work or use your paper people always comment on how beautiful they are. Thank you. Sam in Oman.

8:11 pm  

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