Rattan and Bamboo

Jonathan Tay

With a co-owner of
Gek Guan Enterprise
Jonathan Tay, 29
017-679 3066

Conversation on
29 January 2020

Rattan Bamboo Handicraft Gallery
4-6 Jalan Bunga Raya

Operating Hours:
9am - 6pm

My grandfather, Tay Wee Kean (1918-1991) was born in Muar. He learned about bamboo crafts in China, set up a business there, then came back and set up a shop here. That was 60-70 years ago [in the 1950s]. Then my father took over and introduced rattan into our designs. We modernised it a bit. 

Muar is my hometown. The family business is still in Muar. It’s only I who came to Melaka and opened this shop. One of my brothers opened a branch in Kuala Lumpur, and another brother runs a shop in Muar. There are 8 of us siblings, we are of Teochew heritage. We have a factory in Muar, it’s about 2 acres, with 20 workers. 90% of our stock is made there, 10% we import. The Peranakan style ceramics here are bought from Ipoh.

The rattan is gathered by Orang Asli from jungles in Rompin, Pahang, and in Muar too. The rattan must be about 10 years old. This relationship was begun by my father 30-40 years ago. Orang Asli have big families, they all work together 

Once harvested, the rattan is boiled in huge kuali, using 30% Petron oil and 70% water. The oil can be re-used 10-20 times. After boiling, the rattan is cleaned then air-dried for as long as a month, to ensure it’s properly dried. Then we can shape it. To obtain straight rattan, we use machines. 

This business, Gek Guan Enterprise, is a family business. In this shop we sell handicrafts, rattan, bamboo. The shop is 11 years old, before that, this was a sundry shop run by a Chinese towkay. We initially rented this building, then we bought it. Actually we had wanted to set up in Jonker Street or near the red house [Stadhuys], but the rent was too high.

I would describe our customers as 30% interior designers, 30% wholesalers, and 40% walk-in customers (half of whom are tourists and half locals).

Photo Gallery

Melaka Downtown Exhibition