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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Attraction Of Langkawi-made 'Crystals'

By Kamarul Ariffin Md Yassin

LANGKAWI, Sept 13 (Bernama) -- Items handcrafted from crystals are considered exotic, and have always received attention. Many are used for home- and office-decor.

Crystal-based handicraft pieces are more expensive than many other handicrafts, as they exhibit such unique features as the ability to shine and gleam.

Making handicrafts from crystals is not easy, however, so not many handicrafters are keen to craft them.

For crystal-based handicraft entrepreneur Kamarul Faizy Roslan, 41, producing crystal items needs patience and tenacity.

What's more, he said, the crafter has to endure heat of up to 1,400 degrees Celsius when making the items.

For a large-sized crystal item, the crystal glass-blowing technique is necessary to form a shimmering type of crystal that will capture the attention of buyers, said Kamarul Faizy, who makes and sells his work at Langkawi Craft Complex here.

"If we want the crystal to be big, then the flame also has to be big, and we have to blow (more) to make it bigger. If the product is small, then a small flame is adequate and we do not have to blow (the glass) as much.

"Glass and crystal come from the same source, which is silica. To make crystal, the silica has to be turned into a high-quality matter, softer and more resistant to temperature changes. Crystal is actually a high-quality silica," he told Bernama.


Kamarul Faizy said the shortest time it takes to make a crystal piece is two minutes, while the longest is two hours.

"Making crystal products is different from making ceramics," he said.

"In ceramics, we can stop at one stage and continue later. In contrast, when making crystal products we have to continue until we finish. Stopping halfway would be pointless.

"To make the raw material melt, heat of up to 1,400 degrees Celsius is needed. For the end product, heat of 1,100 degrees is required," said Kamarul Faizy, who hails from Batu Pahat, Johor.

He said crystal-making during the fasting month of Ramadan is carried out at night, as workers may not be able to withstand the extreme heat generated in making the crystals.

"Workers have to drink lots of water because of the intense heat, and can work only up to eight hours. In order to meet demand by the customers in Ramadan, workers have to work at night," said Kamarul Faizy, who has been making crystals since 1995.

After a crystal item is crafted into a shape, it has to be placed in an oven for two hours for "cooling off" before ending up as a finished product, he said.

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Kamarul Faizy worked with Industri Kristal Malaysia (Inkrisma), later renamed Langkawi Crystal, from 1995 to 2000. When that company stopped making crystal products, he decided to venture out on his own.

"For two years I saved for the capital. I managed to collect RM30,000. In 2002, I started my own business with assistance from the Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation (Kraftangan Malaysia) in Kampung Pasir Hitam here.

"When I started out, I only had three workers. In 2003, I moved my operations to the Langkawi Craft Complex," he said.

Kamarul Faizy said the cheapest crystal item that he makes costs RM5, while the most expensive is RM8,000.

In 2004, he obtained RM50,000 financing from SME Bank to expand his business. Now he produces high-quality crystals by the glass-blowing method.

Kamarul Faizy said there is not much competition in the industry, because of a lack of skilled manpower.

"There are many clients but no competition, as there are no other crystal makers. Companies that sell crystals obtain their products from abroad before selling it locally," he said.


Kamarul Faizy makes crystal-based products for the local market. Among his clients are hotels. The items he makes include ashtrays, plates and mugs, as well as souvenirs and gifts for VVIPs.

"At this moment, my farthest foreign market is in Maldives. There is demand in the United States, but I am not able to meet it.

"I focus more on the local market - first, because of the lack of skilled manpower, and second, because of insufficient capital.

"There is a lot of demand in Malaysia, but I cannot meet it. My capability is limited for now.

"The industry needs skilled workers, and this will take a long time. It is difficult to train workers, and it is difficult to recruit the younger ones, as this job needs interest, patience and determination, as well as an eye for details," he said.

In an effort to widen his market internationally, Kamarul Faizy participates in road shows in foreign countries by Kraftangan Malaysia and International Trade and Industry Ministry.

The shows are held in the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Hong Kong and other places.

His crystal products on sale at the Langkawi Craft Complex receive good response from foreign tourists, as the items are priced lower than those available abroad.

Norizan Lob, Director of Langkawi Craft Complex, said Kamarul Faizy's crystal items are pricey but of high quality, which is why foreign tourists buy them.

"The materials used in making the crystals are genuine," he said.

"Kamarul Faizy is among the entrepreneurs that we have produced via the Incubator Scheme," he added.


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