I was exploring in the Jalan Besar area and came across this hardware shop called Hup Yick Engineering Works, owned by Mr Yee. He crafted the automobile parts in the shop and every part was made individually by hand using his machines. He has been working there for decades.
We had a nice chat and he told me about his craft and how in the good ol’ days there were many orders from big companies. I was drawn by the glow of the metals and the rustic feel of the shop. It had cool posters hung up in the front, and tools and equipment lining the shop around. Smaller fabricated parts were stored in large rectangular biscuit tins, a practice started by Mr Yee’s father. Stepping into his shop felt like I was being transported to a different era.
I wanted to customise some tools for my ceramics work and his said with surprise, “Why customise? It will be too costly?” He told that he went to Johor Bahru and got a quote for less that $20 bucks. He questioned how makers would survive at those prices. Even with Mr Yee’s experience as an auto parts machinist for more than 50 years, it is a real struggle to keep up with the cost and lack of demand for handcrafted metal items.
There are so many stories held within this cosy shop Hup Yick. I was so intrigued by all the machines, metal scraps and metalworking tools and containers. Everything tells you a story, and has been part of his journey and keeps him going till today.
I also found out that he had collaborated with designers and writers to produce a book. He was happy to share his works and proud of the hard work behind it, as craftsmen are. The designers had tapped into Mr Yee’s skills and turned them into beautiful jewellery pieces. That’s the power of collaboration.
For more about the book featuring Hup Yick Engineering Works, you can go to :