The 67-year-old deftly cuts a plank from your massive log by using a storey-high band saw. “We are one of the few, or even really the only, people still doing it in Hong Kong,” he tells visitors.
It was actually a thrill to see Wong at the office and tour his 10,000 sq ft sawmill, chock-a-block with assorted logs of different species, age and sizes. But just a few decades ago, timber businesses such as Chi Kee were common.
Wong along with his seven siblings grew up playing inside their father’s lumber yard, Chi Kee Sawmill & Timber, which began operations in North Reason for 1947 before relocating to Chai Wan and then its current site in 1982.
Although the timber business in Hong Kong has steadily declined in recent decades as cheap, Furniture Hong Kong became easily available and manufacturing moved to mainland China. Chi Kee is actually a rare survivor within the twilight industry.
It has given Wong additional time for his personal quest for sculpture and carpentry. However, he has become a lot busier lately after his business got to public attention as the first slated to be cleared for that controversial North East New Territories Development Plan.
Intrigued artists and design students begun to seek him out being a previously untapped resource on local wood crafts, and in a short time he was receiving school visits and holding woodworking workshops.
Whilst the fate of his factory is uncertain (he hopes to get relocated to a suitable site), Wong is delighted this has been drawing a whole lot buzz.
“They are crafts and livelihoods worth preserving,” he says. “We should consider a society’s sustainability; placing buildings are only able to take you up to now.
“When I’m too busy to hold workshops and such, I share my knowledge on our Facebook page which my daughter set up to me. I focus on everything, from what different kinds of wood are fantastic for to utilizing different tools as well as the wisdom behind techniques like mortise and tenon joints [when a cavity is cut into a sheet of timber to slot in another with a protruding ‘tongue’]. The page is now quite popular.”
However, artist Wong Tin-yan attributes the interest in Chi Kee and its particular owner the maximum amount of to your revival in woodworking among younger Hongkongers as opposition towards the government’s development plan and support for small enterprises.
An art finish Chinese University, Wong Tin-yan credits outfits such as street art collective Start From Zero and SiFu Wood Works for promoting craftsmanship and curiosity about woodworking, especially among young people.
Lung Man-chuen of Mr Lung’s Wood Workshop is a pioneer with this movement. The 83-year-old master craftsman started running classes with the aid of St James’ Settlement, and has since rekindled many people’s appreciation of traditional wood crafts. Now, Lung’s new workshop straight into Kwa Wan teems with students wanting to learn to make basic furniture pieces, like a rustic, nail-free bench. Among the latest to share with you their delight and knowledge about handcrafted items is Saturn Wood Workshop, started by two graduates from Baptist University.
Wong Tin-yan, too, helped fuel the renewed curiosity about working with wood. He started creating large-scale animal sculptures using pieces of discarded wood while still at university. His school was under renovation back then, which gave him entry to a good amount of discarded planks and pallets. The piles of rejects reminded him of animal skeletons, Wong says, and the man has since created various installations for the Hong Kong Art Biennial, malls, museums and art galleries.
These are typically crafts and livelihoods worth preserving. We must look at a society’s sustainability; putting up buildings is only able to help you get to date.
“I also come up with a point out host [woodworking] workshops at schools. I want students to feel for themselves specially in this materialistic world what it’s like to make one’s own furniture,” he says. “To create is a human instinct and there’s a great deal of enjoyment to be had from it. Customers are so bored through the homogeneity [of what’s available] they crave something different. They need something unique and creating your own personal is one of the ways. And creating is likewise one of the better ways to challenge society’s existing or mainstream value.”
In the past 2 yrs, Wong Tin-yan has been specifically bringing about a fortnightly column on woodworking for Ming Pao Sunday, introducing different artisanal brands and crafts individuals Hong Kong and Taiwan, where additionally there is a surging fascination with wood.
Unlike Taiwan, however, Hong Kong lacks a proper chain of supply and demand. Woodrite, a non-profit organisation which collaborates with designers and veteran carpenters to create Wood furniture Hong Kong to buy using recycled wood, is definitely the nearest to achieving a sustainable business structure.
“Naturally, we can’t get back to making everything by hand because of labour cost and efficiency, but mass-produced products from international brands will not be always durable and seldom takes into account the tiny homes and humidity in Hong Kong,” Wong Tin-yan says. “The greatest thing is always to have choices from both worlds so that each person’s preference could be met by using a relevant choice. And yes it doesn’t matter what you choose, but knowing the distinction between them and why there’s this sort of difference in the price is essential.”
Start From Zero is never lacking enthusiastic people hoping to buy a trick or two at founder Dominic Chan Yun-wai’s woodwork classes, run through its S.F.Z Untechnic Department.
Inspired by US street artist Shepard Fairey, the self-taught Chan started his street art initiative in 2000. Over time, the crew, including artist Katol Lo, has made an identity for their stencil art, cool T-shirt designs and guerilla stickers.
And merely since he became totally hooked on street art, Chan fell in love with wood after he started collecting junk wood and ultizing it within his work.
“One of the most appealing thing about woodworking is that whatever I do believe of I can construct it immediately. It’s this sort of versatile material and there are so many ways you can handle it,” he says.
As his skills improved, Chan started receiving orders to create furniture and build installations at events such as Clockenflap and Detour creative showcase.
They have also hosted irregular workshops at Rat’s Cave, the crew’s now-defunct shop in Sheung Wan. These proved so popular that he or she has now setup a normal agenda for short- or long term projects, making from a basic clothes hanger to coffee tables, mirror frames and stools within his studio space in a Ngau Tau Kok industrial building.
Chan says he would not be surprised if woodworking ended up being a passing fad – a lot of people just sign up to one class, viewing it as an entertaining gathering with friends with dexopky64 bonus of your cool bit of Dining Chairs Hong Kong to consider home. But Chan believes that may be possibly not bad.
“Out from 10 those who were intrigued enough to take up street art, at least two have kept doing the work. I’ve been at it for the past 15 years and I’m more enthusiastic about it than ever before.”
Concerning his obsession with woodworking, Chan suspects it would remain with him for a minimum of ten years. It’s the medium he is spending the majority of his time on. And that he is confident once people try their hand at their own wood project, they may be enticed by the beauty and deeper meaning behind each item.
“Following the last Clockenflap we needed to dismantle this wooden house we built for the big event but we saved the wood for other uses. Among those doors now hangs during my room in your house. In addition, i created a stool personally following the event – and this stool is like it provides experienced the foremost and second world wars before arriving in my flat. They have countless stories behind it,” he says. “It’s like, from a piece you made with your own hands and another bought from Ikea, which could you throw away first?”
Advocates of any more laid-back lifestyle, the organisers offer a variety of urban farming and craft workshops, including sessions on wood carving and turning, to generate forks, spoons and rings.