Thursday, January 19, 2006

Royal Selangor Pewter


Everything pewter at the tin playground

THE Royal Selangor pewter-making facility is part-museum, part-playground, part-retail, part-craft school and an entirely rewarding experience that’s worth a visit with the whole family.

As a facility that makes pewter, you’d half expect Royal Selangor to be a huge block of uninspiring factory building set in the backyard of bustling Kuala Lumpur city. Well, though it isn’t a step away from the city, as its address, Setapak, suggests, it is a stone’s throw away from KLCC. But uninspiring, it isn’t. The steel and glass building that greets you upon entering its premises is modern and chic, housing the interesting Royal Selangor Visitor Centre, which is the frontage for the Royal Selangor headquarters and factory.

The Visitor Centre comprises three main sections – the gallery, the factory space and the retail outlet.

At the gallery, visitors get to learn about the history of this born-and-bred in Malaysia brand that has been around for more than a century. From its humble beginnings in Jalan Silang where its first store was set up, the company has grown to occupy a massive factory space and opened up retail outlets as far away as Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.

On display at the gallery are olden-day tin money, the first Royal Selangor pewter product catalogues, old tools of the trade, and first generation designs of pewter products made in the late 19th century.

The knowledgeable guide who takes you around the centre will not only feed you with a short history of tin, but also throw in some interesting trivia (that the Royal Selangor factory produces 1,578 kg of swarf, or pewter shavings, daily which are re-melted to make new products) and even a short lesson in chemistry (that tin melts at 231.9˚C) – made all the more interesting with the larger-than-life exhibits there.

The gallery is a veritable playground for kids and adults alike as visitors are encouraged to touch the exhibits on display and feel the many interesting textures that pewter is able to produce.

At the gallery’s Hall of Finishes, visitors go through a narrow and curving corridor, flanked on each side with floor to ceiling walls of pewter of various finish. Some are matte, others are smooth and shiny. Some are grooved, others are lightly dimpled and scrunched.

Another interesting exhibit at the gallery is the Chamber of Chimes where huge cylindrical wind chimes made of wood, bamboo, copper, plastic and of course pewter, hang from the high ceiling. It can be quite a racket, but it’s fun to ring the chimes and listen to the different tones and timbres that each material produces.

Children especially would enjoy a hand at the computer games made available at the gallery’s Game Port. The games, which have been specially designed for Royal Selangor, are a test of skill, creativity and knowledge, and would easily keep kids occupied.Exiting the gallery, visitors are then taken on a factory tour. Here, they are given a bird’s eye view of the actual factory space where the Royal Selangor employees work on the products. There are rows and rows of workstations where men and women bend over in various acts of pewter-smithing from casting to polishing, from moulding to hammering pewter products.

Visitors are given an up close and personal look at each stage of pewter-making, with the chance of rendering designs onto pewter itself. For those who wish to spend more time in the art of pewter-making, the factory tour offers such an opportunity through its School of Hard Knocks. For a token fee, visitors are taught to mould a piece of pewter into a dish using some simple tools while they learn about the processes of forming, scraping, polishing and packing.

After the tour, and perhaps inspired by the story of this local brand, visitors may indulge in a spot of retail therapy. The centre’s retail outlet spans over 18,000 square feet of space with a beautiful range of pewter products for sale such as elegant tea sets, traditional tankards, exquisite chess sets and handsome desk accessories. Besides pewter, there is also a fine selection of sterling silver by Comyns and fine jewellery by Selberan.

All in all, a visit to the Royal Selangor Visitor Centre is not only educational but also fun and, for the shopaholic, a unique place to do a spot of shopping.

The Royal Selangor Visitor Centre is open from 9am to 5pm, seven days a week throughout the year. There is no admission charge and guided tours are complimentary. Visitors can choose to do a brief 30-minute walk around the premises or take a tour of the entire centre in a 60-minute session. For more information, visit visitorcentre.royalselangor.com or call 03-4145 6122.
*articles appear from Travel Times-NST*