The 67-year-old deftly cuts a plank from a massive log utilizing a storey-high band saw. “We are some of the few, if not the sole, people still doing the work in Hong Kong,” he tells visitors.
It was a thrill to discover Wong at your workplace and tour his 10,000 sq ft sawmill, chock-a-block with assorted logs of numerous species, age and sizes. But just a couple of decades ago, timber businesses for example Chi Kee were common.
Wong and his seven siblings grew up playing within their father’s lumber yard, Chi Kee Sawmill & Timber, which began operations in North Part of 1947 before relocating to Chai Wan after which its current site in 1982.
However the timber business in Hong Kong has steadily declined in recent decades as cheap, Furniture Hong Kong became easily available and manufacturing shifted to mainland China. Chi Kee can be a rare survivor within the twilight industry.
This has given Wong more hours for his personal quest for sculpture and carpentry. However, he is a huge lot busier of late after his business stumbled on public attention as the first slated to become cleared to the controversial North East New Territories Development Plan.
Intrigued artists and design students began to seek him out as a previously untapped resource on local wood crafts, and eventually he was receiving school visits and holding woodworking workshops.
Whilst the fate of his factory is uncertain (he hopes being relocated into a suitable site), Wong is delighted it really has been drawing a whole lot buzz.
“These are crafts and livelihoods worth preserving,” he says. “We should look at a society’s sustainability; adding buildings can only help you get so far.
“When I’m too busy to hold workshops etc, I share my knowledge on our Facebook page which my daughter create for me personally. I focus on everything, from what various kinds of wood are fantastic for to utilizing different tools along with the wisdom behind techniques such as mortise and tenon joints [every time a cavity is cut into a piece of timber to slot in another by using a protruding ‘tongue’]. The page has grown to be quite popular.”
However, artist Wong Tin-yan attributes the desire for Chi Kee and its particular owner all the to some revival in woodworking among younger Hongkongers as opposition for the government’s development plan and support for small enterprises.
A form of 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 fascination with woodworking, especially among young people.
Lung Man-chuen of Mr Lung’s Wood Workshop can be a pioneer of the movement. The 83-year-old master craftsman started running classes with assistance from St James’ Settlement, and contains since rekindled many people’s appreciation of traditional wood crafts. Now, Lung’s new workshop directly into Kwa Wan teems with students willing to learn how to make basic pieces of furniture, for instance a rustic, nail-free bench. One of the latest to talk about their delight and data about handcrafted items is Saturn Wood Workshop, started by two graduates from Baptist University.
Wong Tin-yan, too, helped fuel the renewed desire for utilizing wood. He started creating large-scale animal sculptures using pieces of discarded wood while still at university. His school was under renovation at the time, which gave him usage of a lot of discarded planks and pallets. The piles of rejects reminded him of animal skeletons, Wong says, and then he has since created various installations for the Hong Kong Art Biennial, malls, museums and art galleries.
They are crafts and livelihoods worth preserving. We must look at a society’s sustainability; putting up buildings can only take you to date.
“I also create a point to host [woodworking] workshops at schools. I want students to feel for themselves especially in this materialistic world what it’s prefer to make one’s own furniture,” he says. “To generate can be a human instinct and there’s a lot of enjoyment available from this. Individuals are so bored through the homogeneity [of what’s available] which they crave something different. They want something unique and creating your personal is amongst the ways. And creating is additionally among the finest strategies to challenge society’s existing or mainstream value.”
Over the past 2 yrs, Wong Tin-yan has been leading to a fortnightly column on woodworking for Ming Pao Sunday, introducing different artisanal brands and crafts people Hong Kong and Taiwan, where there is also a surging interest in wood.
Unlike Taiwan, however, Hong Kong lacks a good chain of supply and demand. Woodrite, a non-profit organisation which collaborates with designers and veteran carpenters to create Wood furniture Hong Kong to order using recycled wood, is definitely the closest to achieving a sustainable business structure.
“Needless to say, we can’t get back to making everything manually because of labour cost and efficiency, but mass-produced products from international brands are not always durable and seldom takes into consideration the tiny homes and humidity in Hong Kong,” Wong Tin-yan says. “The best thing would be to have choices from both worlds to ensure each person’s preference might be met with a relevant choice. And yes it doesn’t matter what you choose, but learning the distinction between them and why there’s such a difference from the asking price is very important.”
Start From Zero is rarely short of enthusiastic people hoping to grab 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. Throughout the years, the crew, including artist Katol Lo, makes an identity for their stencil art, cool T-shirt designs and guerilla stickers.
And simply as he became hooked on street art, Chan fell obsessed about wood after he started getting junk wood and using it in his work.
“Probably the most appealing thing about woodworking is that whatever I believe of I can construct it immediately. It’s this type of versatile material and there are many techniques to handle it,” he says.
As his skills improved, Chan started receiving orders to create furniture and make installations at events for example Clockenflap and Detour creative showcase.
He has also hosted irregular workshops at Rat’s Cave, the crew’s now-defunct shop in Sheung Wan. These proved so well liked he has put in place a normal schedule 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 surprised if woodworking ended up being a passing fad – many individuals just subscribe to one class, viewing it an exciting gathering with friends with dexopky64 bonus of your cool piece of bar stool HK to adopt home. But Chan believes that is certainly not necessarily bad.
“Away from 10 those who were intrigued enough for taking up street art, at the very least two have kept doing the work. I’ve been at it within the last 20 years and I’m more enthusiastic about it than in the past.”
As for his obsession with woodworking, Chan suspects it would remain with him for around ten years. It’s the medium he or she is spending nearly all of his time on. And he is confident once people try their hand at their particular wood project, they will fall for the sweetness and deeper meaning behind each item.
“Right after the last Clockenflap we were required to dismantle this wooden house we built for the celebration but we saved the wood for other uses. Some of those doors now hangs in my room in the home. In addition, i created a stool personally following the event – which means this stool is much like it offers experienced the foremost and second world wars before arriving within my flat. It has numerous stories behind it,” he says. “It’s like, from a piece you made with your personal hands and something bought from Ikea, which would you get rid of first?”
Advocates of the more laid-back lifestyle, the organisers offer a selection of urban farming and craft workshops, including sessions on wood carving and turning, to make forks, spoons and rings.