The 67-year-old deftly cuts a plank from a massive log employing a storey-high band saw. “We are among the few, if not the only, people still doing the work in Hong Kong,” he tells visitors.
It was actually 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 only a few decades ago, timber businesses for example Chi Kee were common.
Wong with his fantastic seven siblings grew up playing in 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 accessible and manufacturing shifted to mainland China. Chi Kee is really a rare survivor from the twilight industry.
It has given Wong more hours for his personal pursuit of sculpture and carpentry. However, he is a lot busier recently after his business came to public attention among the first slated to be cleared for your controversial North East New Territories Development Plan.
Intrigued artists and design students began 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.
As the fate of his factory is uncertain (he hopes to become relocated to your suitable site), Wong is delighted it has been drawing so much buzz.
“These are crafts and livelihoods worth preserving,” he says. “We ought to think about society’s sustainability; adding buildings is only able to take you thus far.
“When I’m too busy to keep workshops and such, I share my knowledge on our Facebook page which my daughter put in place for me. I talk about everything, from what different types of wood are fantastic for to how to use different tools and also the wisdom behind techniques such as mortise and tenon joints [each time a cavity is cut into a piece of timber to slot in another having a protruding ‘tongue’]. The page has become quite popular.”
However, artist Wong Tin-yan attributes the interest in Chi Kee and its particular owner just as much to your revival in woodworking among younger Hongkongers as opposition for the government’s development plan and support for small companies.
An art graduate from Chinese University, Wong Tin-yan credits outfits for example street art collective Start From Zero and SiFu Wood Works for promoting craftsmanship and interest in woodworking, especially among teenagers.
Lung Man-chuen of Mr Lung’s Wood Workshop is a pioneer of 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 in To Kwa Wan teems with students eager to learn to make basic furniture pieces, like a rustic, nail-free bench. One of 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 fascination with utilizing wood. He started creating large-scale animal sculptures using pieces of discarded wood while still at university. His school was under renovation during the time, which gave him usage of plenty of discarded planks and pallets. The piles of rejects reminded him of animal skeletons, Wong says, and then he has since created various installations to the Hong Kong Art Biennial, malls, museums and art galleries.
These are typically crafts and livelihoods worth preserving. We ought to think about a society’s sustainability; setting up buildings could only get you to date.
“Furthermore, i produce a point out host [woodworking] workshops at schools. I want students to feel for themselves specifically in this materialistic world what it’s love to make one’s own furniture,” he says. “To create can be a human instinct and there’s a great deal of enjoyment to be had from using it. People are so bored through the homogeneity [of what’s available] they crave something different. They really want something unique and creating your own personal is amongst the ways. And creating is also one of the better methods 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 folks Hong Kong and Taiwan, where additionally there is 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 make Dining table Hong Kong to acquire using recycled wood, will be the nearest to achieving a sustainable business structure.
“Of course, we can’t resume making everything by hand as a consequence of labour cost and efficiency, but mass-produced products from international brands will not be always durable and seldom takes into mind the small homes and humidity in Hong Kong,” Wong Tin-yan says. “The best thing is usually to have choices from both worlds to ensure that each person’s preference may be met with a relevant choice. And yes it doesn’t matter whatever you choose, but knowing the difference between them and why there’s such a difference inside the price tag is vital.”
Start From Zero is never lacking 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 the years, the crew, including artist Katol Lo, has made an identity for his or her stencil art, cool T-shirt designs and guerilla stickers.
And only since he became totally hooked on street art, Chan fell in love with wood after he started picking up junk wood and making use of it within his work.
“The most appealing thing about woodworking is the fact that whatever I think of I will construct it immediately. It’s this kind of versatile material and there are so many ways you can handle it,” he says.
As his skills improved, Chan started receiving orders to make 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 very popular he has now set up a normal agenda for short- or long-term projects, making everything from a simple clothes hanger to coffee tables, mirror frames and stools in the studio space inside a Ngau Tau Kok industrial building.
Chan says he would not really surprised if woodworking turned into a passing fad – lots of people just subscribe to one class, viewing it as a an exciting gathering with friends with dexopky64 bonus of any cool bit of Dining Chairs Hong Kong for taking home. But Chan believes that is certainly not really a bad thing.
“From 10 individuals who were intrigued enough to take up street art, at the very least two have kept performing it. I’ve been at it over the past 20 years and I’m more enthusiastic about it than before.”
Concerning his obsession with woodworking, Chan suspects it can remain with him for a minimum of ten years. It’s the medium he is spending the majority of his time on. And the man is confident once people try their hand at their very own wood project, they will fall for the sweetness and deeper meaning behind each item.
“Once the last Clockenflap we needed to dismantle this wooden house we built for the celebration but we saved the wood for other uses. Some of those doors now hangs during my room at home. Also i produced a stool personally once the event – and this stool is like they have experienced the first and second world wars before arriving inside my flat. It offers countless stories behind it,” he says. “It’s like, from a piece you made with your own hands and another bought from Ikea, which may you discard first?”
Advocates of the more laid-back lifestyle, the organisers offer an array of urban farming and craft workshops, including sessions on wood carving and turning, to produce forks, spoons and rings.