Turning car parts into jewellery

Turning car parts into jewellery
The designers (from far left) Yuki Mitsuyasu, Wendy Chua and Xin Xiao Chang spent three weeks in Mr Yee Chin Hoon’s workshop to come up with their creations.

Three designers have taken obsolete hardware parts and turned them into beautiful jewellery pieces.

The small metal parts came from Hup Yick Engineering Works, a hardware shop established in the 1940s by the late Mr Yee Sun Yin in Jalan Besar. It is now helmed by his son, Mr Yee Chin Hoon.

The family business specialises in manufacturing metal hardware for the auto after-sales market.

Mr Yee creates and finds parts such as nuts for automobiles that were designed from the 1950s, an artisanal trade that is disappearing.

The store is nestled in Horne Road, where one's assumptions of grime and grittiness are easily dispelled after stepping through the door. Inside, the store is deceptively expansive, neatly organised and fitted with a skylight, allowing natural light to enter the nostalgic space.

Jalan Besar, once a zone known for its industrial hardware stores on the city outskirts, is getting gentrified as indie cafes and boutique hotels increasingly displace the traditional establishments.

Mr Yee, 67, a machinist and co-owner of Hup Yick, concurs.

"A lot of shops in our trade have either closed down or moved to industrial areas such as Jurong. There are about 10 similar shops left in Jalan Besar,'' he says.

"And as for specialised machineering and engineering shops in this vicinity, I would guess that Hup Yick might be the only one left."

The impending possibility of the craft's disappearance led three like- minded part-time lecturers from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa) to band together to create an installation titled He Yi: A Rare Installation In A Workshop.

He Yi is an amalgamation of two words that mean togetherness and benefits - when placed alongside each other, they refer to the advantages of working together in a close-knit, harmonious community.

Ms Wendy Chua, 31, a product designer, together with jewellery designer Yuki Mitsuyasu, 32, and installation artist Xin Xiao Chang, 32, spent three weeks in Mr Yee's workshop, merging their creative intuition with his artisanal skills.

Together, the lecturers encompass the exact philosophy of the company - Hup Yick, or He Yi in Mandarin, refers to the virtues of disparate elements working in harmony as a team.

On why they decided to create the installation, one reason given was the inherent juxtaposition between the nature of spare parts, which are hidden in automobiles, and jewellery, which is often explicitly displayed.

Hoping that people will appreciate the implicit beauty of this craft, they decided to turn the parts into jewellery.

Similarly, Ms Chua hopes that this exhibition will raise awareness of the dying trade, saying: "It seems such a pity that not many people know about the history of this place."

Another reason would be the idea of sentimentality which jewellery connotes.

Ms Mitsuyasu says: "It's something you can keep physically close to your heart."

The intricate, almost ephemeral pieces of jewellery created by the trio retain the essence and material of the hardware.

One original piece is the M8-0.75 brass double-pitched stud, which Ms Xiao says is a personal favourite.

Made of studs that were used in automobiles such as the Austin A60 Cambridge sedan, the trio redesigned it as a pendant, allowing for its dual threads to imbue a metallic quality to the stud.

Mr Yee customised the material for this piece.

There are 12 pieces on show, with product designs ranging from necklaces to pendants and rings, and a chess set.

All three designers agreed on the chess set as a group favourite. All the chess pieces were derived from original hardware parts, and the fact that most of them unintentionally resembled chess pieces inspired its creation.

For instance, a hexagonal steel castlenut was re-imagined as a rook on the chessboard, given that its roof was reminiscent of the crenellation at the top of a castle tower.

Some pieces were fully polished by the designers, or given a matte finish, while others were retained in their original states.

Beyond aesthetics, Ms Chua says the auto parts "represent the legacy Mr Yee is leaving behind".

Indeed, Mr Yee has expressed regret that he will have to retire soon and shared his yearning for an interested successor.

Speaking in Mandarin, he says: "I appreciate their creativity in transforming mundane simple parts into such beautiful jewellery."

The pieces will be on show at Mr Yee's shop at 84 Horne Road till tomorrow. Admission is free.

Prices of the jewellery start from $40 for a brass and silver single-side short earring. The proceeds will fund a publication to document Mr Yee's story.



This article was first published on June 13, 2015.
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