Creative arts involve hard work
Whenever I visited a handicraft market, I always wondered why hand-made leather wallets and bags were so expensive - most of them are more than HK$700 each. Now, after making a leather passport holder for myself, I know they're worth much more than what we pay.
When we entered artist Melodi Wan's cosy studio, three sets of leather pieces were neatly laid out on the table, along with all the necessary equipment. I realised that there were a lot more steps that went into a hand-made product than I had first thought.
Every step, from designing and cutting, to lubricating and stitching, must be done just right. So we ended up sitting in the studio for six hours.
With Hong Kong's high rents, it's hard to run a creative business that makes a lot of money. Even though there is support from the government, the subsidies and income barely cover the costs. Artists like Melodi work hard to attract customers by promoting their products on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. Sometimes, they sell their hand-made products in weekend flea markets.
Melodi, a university student, faces many challenges trying to balance study and business. Sometimes, she may even skip lessons to deliver products to customers.
It is encouraging to see a lot of young people who are willing to promote the creative arts. There face many hurdles, but I hope they will continue to pursue their passion.
Making a leather passport holder is more complicated than I imagined.
We were there for six hours! Six Hours! Just for a little passport holder. I appreciate that Melodi Wan, our teacher and the owner of the L for Leather Workshop, pre-measured and cut all the leather pieces for us - and that she was very patient while teaching us.
Cutting out all the sharp corners with a semicircular metal cutter was the first and the simplest thing we did. Easy, right? More to come!Then Melodi taught us how to use the diamond chisel (which looks like a fork) to make holes on the leather pieces, followed by (almost endless but still fun) sewing.
The threads we sewed with were really cool. It was special thread just for leather, so it was waxed. This way, when we finished sewing, we just cut away the remaining thread and melted the wax with a lighter. It gave the stitching a really finished look.
Finally, we got to engrave our choice of words on it!
Making leather products is a very sophisticated form of handicraft. No wonder Melodi, together with an increasing number of young people in Hong Kong, are fascinated by this artistic trend. It is still a relatively new form of business, marked by a lot of competition and small-class workshops.
Melodi is a final-year university student, and it is hard for her to balance work and studies. Handicrafts may not bring huge profits, but the industry is all about keeping the arts alive!