The 67-year-old deftly cuts a plank from your massive log by using a storey-high band saw. “We are some of the few, or else the only, people still performing it in Hong Kong,” he tells visitors.
It was actually a thrill to see Wong at work and tour his 10,000 sq ft sawmill, chock-a-block with assorted logs of various species, age and sizes. But only a few decades ago, timber businesses such as Chi Kee were common.
Wong with his fantastic seven siblings matured playing within their father’s lumber yard, Chi Kee Sawmill & Timber, which began operations in North Point in 1947 before relocating to Chai Wan after which its current site in 1982.
Nevertheless the timber business in Hong Kong has steadily declined in recent decades as cheap, Furniture Hong Kong became easily accessible and manufacturing shifted to mainland China. Chi Kee can be a rare survivor in the twilight industry.
This has given Wong much more time for his personal search for sculpture and carpentry. However, he is a lot busier of late after his business arrived at public attention as one of the first slated to become cleared for 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.
While the fate of his factory is uncertain (he hopes to become relocated into a suitable site), Wong is delighted it has been drawing a lot buzz.
“These are crafts and livelihoods worth preserving,” he says. “We must think about a society’s sustainability; putting up buildings could only help you get to date.
“When I’m too busy to carry workshops etc, I share my knowledge on our Facebook page which my daughter set up for me personally. I focus on everything, from what different kinds of wood are ideal for to utilizing different tools along with the wisdom behind techniques like mortise and tenon joints [each time a cavity is cut into a sheet 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 owner the maximum amount of to your revival in woodworking among younger Hongkongers as opposition on the government’s development plan and support for smaller businesses.
An art form complete Chinese University, Wong Tin-yan credits outfits such as street art collective Start From Zero and SiFu Wood Works well with promoting craftsmanship and curiosity about woodworking, especially among younger people.
Lung Man-chuen of Mr Lung’s Wood Workshop can be a pioneer of this movement. The 83-year-old master craftsman started running classes with help from St James’ Settlement, and possesses since rekindled many people’s appreciation of traditional wood crafts. Now, Lung’s new workshop directly into Kwa Wan teems with students keen to figure out how to make basic furniture pieces, such as a rustic, nail-free bench. One of the latest to share with you 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 working together with wood. He started creating large-scale animal sculptures using bits of discarded wood while still at university. His school was under renovation at the time, 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 then he 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 need to look at a society’s sustainability; adding buildings can only require thus far.
“I also create a point out host [woodworking] workshops at schools. I want students to sense of themselves especially in this materialistic world what it’s love to make one’s own furniture,” he says. “To make is a human instinct and there’s plenty of enjoyment available from using it. Individuals are so bored through the homogeneity [of what’s available] they crave something different. They want something unique and creating your own is probably the ways. And creating is also among the best approaches to challenge society’s existing or mainstream value.”
In the past two years, Wong Tin-yan has additionally been contributing to a fortnightly column on woodworking for Ming Pao Sunday, introducing different artisanal brands and crafts people in Hong Kong and Taiwan, where additionally there is a surging curiosity about 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 produce Dining table Hong Kong to buy using recycled wood, will be the nearest achieving a sustainable enterprise model.
“Obviously, we can’t resume making everything by hand because of labour cost and efficiency, but mass-produced products from international brands are certainly not always durable and seldom takes into consideration the small homes and humidity in Hong Kong,” Wong Tin-yan says. “The best thing is usually to have choices from both worlds so that each person’s preference might be met with a relevant choice. Plus it doesn’t matter what you choose, but learning the difference between them and why there’s this type of difference inside the cost is essential.”
Start From Zero is rarely short of enthusiastic people hoping to get 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 his or her stencil art, cool T-shirt designs and guerilla stickers.
And merely as he became hooked on street art, Chan fell deeply in love with wood after he started obtaining junk wood and using it within his work.
“Probably the most appealing thing about woodworking is whatever I believe of I could construct it immediately. It’s such a versatile material and there are plenty of methods for you to handle it,” he says.
As his skills improved, Chan started receiving orders to produce furniture and make installations at events for example 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 very popular he has now put in place an ordinary agenda for short- or long term projects, making from a simple 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 really surprised if woodworking turned into a passing fad – many individuals just sign up to one class, viewing it as an entertaining gathering with friends with dexopky64 bonus of the cool piece of Office chairs Hong Kong to consider home. But Chan believes that may be not necessarily bad.
“From 10 people who were intrigued enough to take up street art, no less than two have kept doing the work. I’ve been at it within the last 10 years and I’m more keen about it than ever.”
Regarding his obsession with woodworking, Chan suspects it will remain with him for at least several years. It’s the medium he or she is spending nearly all of his time on. And the man is confident once people try their hand at their own wood project, they are going to be enticed by the sweetness and deeper meaning behind each item.
“After the last Clockenflap we needed to dismantle this wooden house we designed for the big event but we saved the wood for other uses. Among those doors now hangs during my room in the home. In addition, i crafted a stool personally following the event – which means this stool is much like it provides experienced the first and second world wars before arriving inside my flat. It offers so many stories behind it,” he says. “It’s like, from a piece you made with your own hands and something purchased from Ikea, which may you discard 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 produce forks, spoons and rings.