The 67-year-old deftly cuts a plank coming from a massive log by using a storey-high band saw. “We are some of the few, otherwise the only real, people still doing it in Hong Kong,” he tells visitors.
It absolutely was a thrill to find out Wong at your workplace and tour his 10,000 sq ft sawmill, chock-a-block with assorted logs of different species, age and sizes. But just a couple decades ago, timber businesses for example Chi Kee were common.
Wong with his fantastic seven siblings grew up 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.
However the timber business in Hong Kong has steadily declined in recent decades as cheap, Furniture hk became readily available and manufacturing moved to mainland China. Chi Kee can be a rare survivor within the twilight industry.
This has given Wong much more time for his personal pursuit of sculpture and carpentry. However, he is a lot busier lately after his business got to public attention as the first slated being cleared for your controversial North East New Territories Development Plan.
Intrigued artists and design students started to seek him out as being a previously untapped resource on local wood crafts, and eventually he was receiving school visits and holding woodworking workshops.
Even though the fate of his factory is uncertain (he hopes being relocated to some suitable site), Wong is delighted it has been drawing a lot buzz.
“These are typically crafts and livelihoods worth preserving,” he says. “We need to consider a society’s sustainability; placing buildings can only require thus far.
“When I’m too busy to keep workshops and the like, I share my knowledge on our Facebook page which my daughter set up for me personally. I discuss everything, from what different types of wood are perfect for to the way you use different tools along with the wisdom behind techniques for example mortise and tenon joints [when a cavity is cut into some timber to slot in another using a protruding ‘tongue’]. The page has become quite popular.”
However, artist Wong Tin-yan attributes the fascination with Chi Kee and its particular owner the maximum amount of to a revival in woodworking among younger Hongkongers as opposition on the government’s development plan and support for small enterprises.
An art form graduate from Chinese University, Wong Tin-yan credits outfits including street art collective Start From Zero and SiFu Wood Works well with promoting craftsmanship and curiosity about woodworking, especially among young people.
Lung Man-chuen of Mr Lung’s Wood Workshop is actually a pioneer with this movement. The 83-year-old master craftsman started running classes with help from St James’ Settlement, and it has since rekindled many people’s appreciation of traditional wood crafts. Now, Lung’s new workshop into Kwa Wan teems with students keen to discover how to make basic furniture pieces, say for example a rustic, nail-free bench. Among 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 curiosity about working together with 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 use of lots of discarded planks and pallets. The piles of rejects reminded him of animal skeletons, Wong says, and he has since created various installations to the Hong Kong Art Biennial, malls, museums and art galleries.
They are crafts and livelihoods worth preserving. We must consider a society’s sustainability; putting up buildings can only help you get so far.
“Also i create a point to 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 create is really a human instinct and there’s lots of enjoyment available from this. Consumers are so bored through the homogeneity [of what’s available] they crave something different. They need something unique and creating your personal is among the ways. And creating is additionally one of the best approaches to challenge society’s existing or mainstream value.”
For the past a couple of years, Wong Tin-yan has been contributing to a fortnightly column on woodworking for Ming Pao Sunday, introducing different artisanal brands and crafts folks Hong Kong and Taiwan, where there is also a surging desire for 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 help make Dining table Hong Kong to order using recycled wood, may be the nearest to achieving a sustainable business structure.
“Of course, we can’t get back to making everything manually as a consequence of labour cost and efficiency, but mass-produced products from international brands are certainly not always durable and seldom takes into consideration the tiny homes and humidity in Hong Kong,” Wong Tin-yan says. “A good thing would be to have choices from both worlds so that each person’s preference can be met by using a relevant choice. And yes it doesn’t matter everything you choose, but knowing the distinction between them and why there’s this type of difference inside the asking price is vital.”
Start From Zero is never 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. Throughout the years, the crew, including artist Katol Lo, makes a reputation for his or her stencil art, cool T-shirt designs and guerilla stickers.
And merely since he became hooked on street art, Chan fell obsessed about wood after he started collecting junk wood and making use of it in the work.
“Probably the most appealing thing about woodworking is that whatever I do believe of I could construct it immediately. It’s this kind of versatile material and there are many methods for you to handle it,” he says.
As his skills improved, Chan started receiving orders to help make furniture and make installations at events including 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 create a normal schedule for short- or long-term projects, making anything from a straightforward clothes hanger to coffee tables, mirror frames and stools in their studio space in the Ngau Tau Kok industrial building.
Chan says he would not really surprised if woodworking ended up being a passing fad – lots of people just subscribe to one class, viewing it as being an exciting gathering with friends with dexopky64 bonus of a cool piece of Office chairs Hong Kong for taking home. But Chan believes that may be not necessarily bad.
“From 10 people that were intrigued enough to adopt up street art, at least two have kept carrying it out. I’ve been at it for the past 20 years and I’m more excited about it than ever.”
As for his obsession with woodworking, Chan suspects it can remain with him for about ten years. It’s the medium he or she is spending almost all of his time on. And the man is confident once people try their hand at their particular wood project, they will likely be enticed by the beauty and deeper meaning behind each item.
“After the last Clockenflap we had to dismantle this wooden house we developed for the big event but we saved the wood for other uses. One of those particular doors now hangs during my room in your own home. In addition, i created a stool personally after the event – so this stool is much like it provides experienced the first 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 one bought from Ikea, which will you discard first?”
Advocates of a more laid-back lifestyle, the organisers offer a variety of urban farming and craft workshops, including sessions on wood carving and turning, to create forks, spoons and rings.