WOODWORKING K im C hoy, c raf tsman and founde r of S hibui Furniture C ollec tive
“You can say I’m a woodworker, or more specifically, a furniture craftsman,” says Kim Choy, founder of Shibui Furniture Collective. Either way, these are two occupations that you probably don’t hear much about these days. It was only by taking a leap of faith that Kim, who currently operates singlehandedly out of his home studio, turned his woodworking hobby into a career. “Back in 2011, I was actually a web developer, writing code for a living. So instead of constantly facing the computer, I thought why not do something with my hands?” he recalls. Then living with his parents in a HDB flat in Jurong, he started picking up woodworking, practicing at a spacious corner of the common corridor. He shares: “During weekends at around 8am, I would set up my shop and bring out my tools and wood, working till evening.” It was with this simple start that Kim embarked on something new. He read up about tools and how they work, as well as furniture joinery, and one thing led to another. Over time, it was clear to him that he could work with wood. He says: “I enjoyed the learning so much that I decided to change my career, since I previously also turned my programming hobby into a full-time job.” For Kim, doing things by hand is very important, and he will stand by it. “When I learn something, I want to do so with a good foundation. When you learn it manually, you can’t cover up a mistake
– so it’s more punishing in a way that you need to do it right.” But besides this, it’s also about having the pieces he creates turn out with full authenticity of how it was done in the past. Kim uses traditional Japanese hand tools and never relies on hardware or fasteners. He’s even made his own shaving pony and human-powered lathe. He emphasises: “The biggest way to improve the sustainability issue, when it comes to furniture, is to make each piece properly so it lasts and people won’t have a chance to throw it away. So I pay a lot of attention to construction techniques – for example, joints that will hold together for very long, and reversible joints that can be undone so a piece can be repaired if it breaks.” Now in his home studio, the selftaught furniture craftsman can make a piece from start to finish. Kim’s home is peppered with his own creations, such as a dining table, credenza, bench and shoe rack. Right now, he works with hardwood mainly from the US, including oak, maple, walnut, cherry and ash – coming a long way from working with scraps from lumberyards seven years ago in his makeshift workshop!
Find some of Kim’s unique creations at his official stockist Pomelo, www.pomelo.com.sg. He is also currently working on his first retail collection to be launched soon. www.shibuifurniture.co
“To call yourself a craftsman, the only things that can hone your craft are time and practice.” 70 | LOOKBOXLIVING.COM.SG