Art and culture

Tribes of Hong Kong:
The DIYers

Meet the artisans who've turned their hobbies into vocations. Words by ANSHEL MA, photography by CALVIN SIT

Why DIY‭? ‬When you‭ ‬think of something you want, you don’t have to get someone to make it or go out and buy it,’ says Dominic Chan, co-founder of Start From Zero, a woodworking workshop that’s the go-to place for hipsters to make a table or bench at the weekend. ‘If you make something with your own hands, you won’t throw it away, or even if you do you’ll hesitate. If you made it yourself, there’s a story behind it.’

To many, crafts are but childhood pursuits or old-lady hobbies. But a hip DIY scene has grown in Hong Kong in recent years among the younger generation. Classes abound to provide the materials and instruction for making unique goods. And some have even turned their hobbies into careers.

Take Mariane Chan, who quit her job as a fashion editor two years ago to make ceramics full time. ‘I became bored with my job,’ she says. ‘With my ceramics, I’m able to show people how tableware can enhance a dining experience. It plays an important role; there’s a long history in places like Japan of appreciating tableware.’ She says some Hong Kong ceramicists even use local clay and woods to create completely made-in-Hong Kong items.

Leather workshops have also cropped up across the city, filled with crafters looking to make their own customised wallets and bags. But you don’t even need to take classes to get started. ‘It’s easy to get into leather working; novices can learn from books and with tools bought from Taobao,’ says Clement Ip, who got into leather crafting six years ago while working in the tanning industry and went on to open an online store, Intelleather Property, to sell his wares.

‘DIY is trendy right now, and people take up different crafts based on whatever’s big at the moment – but there’s nothing wrong with that,’ says Dominic Chan. ‘If 10 people take up leather crafting because of its popularity, for instance, and one of them decides to keep at it, that’s a great thing.

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