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, otherwise the only real, people still carrying it out in Hong Kong,” he tells visitors.
It had been a thrill to view Wong at the office and tour his ten thousand 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 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 and then its current site in 1982.
But the timber business in Hong Kong has steadily declined in recent decades as cheap, Furniture shop in Hong Kong became readily accessible and manufacturing moved to mainland China. Chi Kee is really a rare survivor in the twilight industry.
This has given Wong more hours for his personal pursuit of sculpture and carpentry. However, he is a huge lot busier these days after his business got to public attention as among the first slated being cleared for your controversial North East New Territories Development Plan.
Intrigued artists and design students started 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.
Even though the fate of his factory is uncertain (he hopes being relocated into a suitable site), Wong is delighted it really has been drawing so much buzz.
“These are typically crafts and livelihoods worth preserving,” he says. “We need to think about a society’s sustainability; adding buildings can only help you get up to now.
“When I’m too busy to hold workshops etc, I share my knowledge on our Facebook page which my daughter setup in my opinion. I focus on everything, from what different kinds of wood are fantastic for to how to use different tools as well as the wisdom behind techniques such as mortise and tenon joints [when a cavity is cut into a bit of timber to slot in another using a protruding ‘tongue’]. The page has grown to be quite popular.”
However, artist Wong Tin-yan attributes the interest in Chi Kee and its particular owner as much to some revival in woodworking among younger Hongkongers as opposition for the government’s development plan and support for smaller businesses.
A form of art finish Chinese University, Wong Tin-yan credits outfits such as street art collective Start From Zero and SiFu Wood Works well with promoting craftsmanship and desire for woodworking, especially among younger 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 the help of 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 wanting to figure out how to make basic pieces of furniture, say for example a rustic, nail-free bench. Amongst 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 fascination with dealing 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 usage of lots of discarded planks and pallets. The piles of rejects reminded him of animal skeletons, Wong says, and that he has since created various installations for that Hong Kong Art Biennial, malls, museums and art galleries.
These are crafts and livelihoods worth preserving. We must consider a society’s sustainability; placing buildings could only require so far.
“In addition, i make a point out host [woodworking] workshops at schools. I want students to feel for themselves specially in this materialistic world what it’s love to make one’s own furniture,” he says. “To create is actually a human instinct and there’s lots of enjoyment to be had from this. Individuals are so bored with the homogeneity [of what’s available] that they crave something different. They desire something unique and creating your personal is probably 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 specifically bringing about 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 interest in wood.
Unlike Taiwan, however, Hong Kong lacks a wholesome 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 to achieving a sustainable business design.
“Of course, we can’t resume making everything manually because of labour cost and efficiency, but mass-produced products from international brands will not be always durable and seldom takes into account the small homes and humidity in Hong Kong,” Wong Tin-yan says. “The greatest thing is usually to have choices from both worlds to ensure each person’s preference may be met by using a relevant choice. And it doesn’t matter what you choose, but understanding the distinction between them and why there’s this type of difference in the price tag is vital.”
Start From Zero is rarely 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. Through the years, the crew, including artist Katol Lo, has made a reputation for his or her stencil art, cool T-shirt designs and guerilla stickers.
And merely while he became totally hooked on street art, Chan fell deeply in love with wood after he started getting junk wood and taking advantage of it in their work.
“One of the most appealing thing about woodworking is the fact whatever I believe of I could construct it immediately. It’s this kind of versatile material and there are so many ways for you to handle it,” he says.
As his skills improved, Chan started receiving orders to create furniture and make installations at events including 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 recently setup a normal agenda for short- or long-term projects, making anything from an easy clothes hanger to coffee tables, mirror frames and stools in their studio space inside a Ngau Tau Kok industrial building.
Chan says he would not be surprised if woodworking turned out to be a passing fad – many people just join one class, viewing it as an exciting gathering with friends with dexopky64 bonus of the cool piece of bar stool HK to consider home. But Chan believes that is not really bad.
“Away from 10 individuals who were intrigued enough for taking up street art, no less than two have kept doing the work. I’ve been at it in the past fifteen years and I’m more enthusiastic about it than ever before.”
In terms of his obsession with woodworking, Chan suspects it can remain with him for a minimum of 10 years. It’s the medium he is spending the majority of his time on. And then he is confident once people try their hand at their very own wood project, they will fall for the wonder and deeper meaning behind each item.
“Right after the last Clockenflap we had to dismantle this wooden house we built for the case but we saved the wood for other uses. One of those particular doors now hangs inside my room in your house. Also i crafted a stool personally right after the event – which means this stool is like it provides experienced the first and second world wars before arriving during my flat. It provides a lot of stories behind it,” he says. “It’s like, between a piece you made with your personal hands and something purchased from Ikea, which will you dispose of first?”
Advocates of a more laid-back lifestyle, the organisers offer a selection of urban farming and craft workshops, including sessions on wood carving and turning, to produce forks, spoons and rings.