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A Legacy Shaped by Hands
There are but a handful of local craftsmen like 71-year old Mr Chong, who still practise their craft on a daily basis.
Recalling those heady days in the late 60s, the young man had quickly developed a practical sensibility and applied his passion for learning to everything he worked on.
"I was originally trained as an office manager", he recalls. "But commercial printing was a major industry back then, and I made a career switch when opportunity struck."
Hired as a sales and production manager 30 years ago, he threw himself into learning the ins and outs of the bookbinding process, and grew to be familiar with the operation and maintenance of the machinery. He credits his hands-on aptitude to his kampung days, when children learned to make their own toys. A key inspiration was Mr Chong's father, who turned scrap bicycle wheel spokes into sewing needles during the Japanese occupation. "I learned from him to never give up," sad Mr Chong, "To me, anything is possible. That's the attitude you need to have."
"I've seen things come and go. Our old letterpress was underused and sold for scrap. Now it is back in fashion! I guess the most important things are passion and patience. Never do things halfway - always do the best that you can."
Mr Chong Beng Cheng,
Master Craftsman, Bynd Artisan
Even as he adapted, the company discovered his flair for designing and prototyping new products. No client’s request was insurmountable, and he devised ways and means to make the item or product that was desired. Along the way, he gained the requisite knowledge of paper quality, letterpressing, stitching and binding, while European customers opened the door to working with fine fabrics and leathers for coverings.
How does he view the opportunity to share his craft with a new generation of customers fascinated by the authenticity of handcrafted goods? “I’ve seen things come and go. Our old letterpress was underused and sold for scrap. Now it is back in fashion!” says Mr Chong with a laugh. “I guess the most important things are passion and patience. Never do things halfway – always do the best that you can.”