The lion dance is synonymous with Chinese New Year celebrations, and has its origins in China almost a thousand years ago. Today, it is performed in malls, companies and also homes during the 15 days of Chinese New Year, in the belief that it can usher in prosperity and luck.
Siow Ho Phiew makes the lion head costumes from his factory in Selangor. Better known as Master Siow, he is today among the few in Malaysia who inherited the intricate art.
Siow Ho Phiew, or Master Siow, has been making lion heads for more than 30 years.
Orders are meticulously recorded at Siow's lion head workshop in Shah Alam, Selangor.
The first step is making the frame for the lion head out of bamboo and rattan.
Due to its flexibility, rattan is used to form the skeletal structure of the lion head.
Siow uses masking tape to hold the rattan pieces in place.
The pieces of rattan are secured with adhesive tape and fastened onto an aluminium frame. The skeleton takes one or two days to complete.
Once the skeleton has been completed, layers of bamboo paper are applied to the frame to create the skin for the head.
Every design has specific meanings and symbolism.
A worker uses laser paper to cover the head before drawing and painting it with specially-ordered poster colour.
Chalk is used to draw the designs before applying poster colour.
Many types of brushes are used to paint the lion head, and the process can take up to three days.
Once the painting is done, a layer of lacquer is applied to protect it and to give the head a polished look and feel.
A worker applies processed sheep fur to add 'personality' to the lion head.
A strong adhesive is used to stick the fur and accessories to ensure they don't fall off during the acrobatic lion dance performances.
Master Siow does final touches to one of the eyes of the lion, a key attraction during a lion dance performance.
Master Siow's workshop produces up to 500 lion heads per year, including for export.
Siow's daughter, Siow Hooi Boon, ties the wires for the LED lights attached to the lion’s eyes.
The finished lion head is now ready for delivery.