The wide range of traditional Malay handicrafts, may be classified according to materials used and technique employed in their production into the following categories: Textiles, Weaving of various types of leaves and plants, Pottery, Wood-Craft Embroidery and Metal craft or according to usage. One of the most important ways in which arts and crafts are used is in Ceremonial situations.
Textiles are produced among the Malays in the various states using Weaving techniques, as well as tie and dye methods. Extremely high quality pieces of silk known as kain limar, appearing in plain colours as well as combinations of designs result. Weaving techniques employing gold or silver are seen at their best in extremely beautiful songket pieces. Songket production is to be found principally in the traditional Malay heartland states of Kelantan and Trengganu. The tie and die method results most importantly, in the creation of Batik.
A wide range of handicrafts are produced from the weaving or plaiting of leaves or other parts of plants including pandanus, mengkuang and bamboo. These, such as food covers, mats, or these mostly serve utilitarian purposes. Ceremonial crafts based upon the use of the betel-leaf (sirih) plant are justly famous, and indeed the betal plant plays a vital symbolic role in traditional Malay society.
Of utilitarian value, again, are some of the products of wood carving such as doors, pulpits (mimbar), furniture, as well as musical instruments, including a wide variety of drums, notably kompang. On the other hand a wide range of fine decorative art, secular as well as religious (in the form of calligraphy), is based upon the use of wood.
The art of pottery is seen in various manifestations, the most significant being the work done in Sayong, near Kuala Kangsar, as well as in Ulu Kelantan.
Tekat embroidery worked into textiles as well as into ceremonial paraphernalia results in the creation of wedding dais covers, bedspreads, pillow-cases, ceremonial fans and jewellery boxes.
And some of the best metal work is manifested in the form of silver jewelery and decorative items produced in Kelantan, in the brass ands bronze pieces used in ceremonial occasions as well as in the highly valued knobbed gongs.
Altogether, there is an extremely wide range of materials, and techniques used in the Malay handicrafts, handicrafts which are ubiquitous, finding their way into the daily life of the community as well as into ceremonial situations and performance traditions. In thee, he art of decoration often spills over even into certain items of ceremonial food.