2012 marked Hong Kong’s Design Year and although we have started a new year, that is no reason for design thinking to come to a sudden halt. Design Thinking can apply anywhere and everywhere! (Just take a look at Hong Kong’s recent policy address on how the government plans to cultivate art and culture in Hong Kong.)
Last week I got the chance to have a sit down conversation with two amazing folks in Hong Kong who took risks and started their own businesses out of true passion. Keeping it simple, non-commercial, and with goals to broaden the outlooks of Hong Kong citizens, I introduce Ambrose from LAB – Designer items Collector and Cathy from PubArt Gallery.
Back in December as I was on the search for the perfect Christmas gift for a company gift exchange, Freespace Fest an event testing the boundaries of cultural freedom in public space, and groups such as “Go Beyond The Mall”, led me to LAB – Designer items Collector’s storefront in Kowloon Bay (for a Kalimba – an African thumb piano), a lucky or fateful discovery as they do not rely on commercial marketing.
L.A.B. stands for Leung. Ambrose. Boniface. Leung for Ambrose’s family name & Boniface, a shoutout to his brother (who also owns a camera retail store in Kowloon Bay in the same building!) It’s apparent that family and the idea of home are big. Interior design elements of LAB were done by Ambrose’s father and it’s no surprise that the place is reminiscent of Ambrose’s home. It was very interesting to find details such as the curves of the center table that lead the customer to walk in a certain flow or direction through the store. (I’m not going to lie; I definitely followed the curve of the center table through the store without even realizing!) There is so much to see in this store, Ambrose says at least 6 countries (Japan, Italy, Germany, Spain, UK, and United States) fit comfortably in this 999 square feet space.
Ambrose’s first item that he collected for LAB was Jesús Blasco’s wineskin bottles “Botas de Vino Jesús Blasco” from a little town in Spain called Sigüenza, where UPS only visits once a week!
But really, Ambrose collects more than just items. He collects friendships and the stories behind each of his products are the links between different cultures.
Botas de Vino Jesús Blasco, for example, now probably the most renowned wine bota maker in the world retains a close relationship with Ambrose, sharing about his son, a mountain biker! and even sending a Turrón Yema Tostada all the way from Sigüenza.
There’s also Hidamari Nora Papermade Cats, another family-oriented Father-Daughter business discovered at the Tokyo International Gift Show. Although there are language barriers, they are easily overcome through well-translated emails and memories of the kind-gestured foreigner at the Gift Show.
So what inspires you Ambrose? Looking back, he found much inspiration from the lifestyle stores in Sheffield, U.K. back when he was in school. Although he went straight into media (entertainment news, TVB), the idea of having one of those stores stuck.
He will also always remember the influences of his friends in music and media. With his record collection of music amassed over the last 10 years, every day at LAB he will play what fits the mood. I asked what the past week sounded like (especially with the funky weather, cold with sunshine) and he turns to a recent band known as Spector and the song “Lay Low” in particular.
Every season at the LAB has a new look. Look forward to their new Spring look in April and follow them through the following channels.
From Kowloon Bay MTR Station: Exit A2 > Telford Plaza (Go towards Ruby Tuesday) > Keep going straight until you see a staircase on the left to bring you to street level.
Similar to the LAB, PubArt Gallery located on the cozy street of Chancery Lane may require some discovering, self-exploration to find. Street Directions and Google Maps will get you there, the long way. If you follow the directions at the end of this post, you will be fine.
I was fortunate to come across PubArt Gallery when I attended a wine tasting event hosted by my friends at ENVARY. There I met Cathy (Director) and was really inspired to hear her story.
From a background in philosophy and living the busy Hong Kong lifestyle in the finance/insurance world, Cathy faced multiple epiphanies both in Hong Kong and through travels in Spain encouraging her to take a leap of faith.
“憂患意識”- you waan yi sik, relates to having a sense of readiness as unexpected occurrences are bound to occur at any moment. Cathy relates to this Chinese phrase realizing that “Life is Short!” While Jack Nicolson and Morgan Freeman road tripped to complete their bucket list, Cathy was determined to start her own list and get things done with no regrets. If it was all about capital, Cathy could have well opened up a café or bar (especially being in Central District), but that was not her true calling.
PubArt Gallery is not just any old art gallery. It’s a space for local photographers, painters, musicians, and once even dancers to showcase their work and really show the public who they are because most times young artists have trouble presenting themselves even with a strong portfolio. (Cathy likes the idea of promoting local artists to show to the public – hence the name PubArt, art for the public. Though every once in a while, you may see an international artist showcasing their work. The most recent exhibition featured Christian Milo, a French painter.)
Cathy helps artists with their art direction and presentation working toward spreading the message that art can be expressed through any platform. A shadow on the ground as street art for example. She challenges us with the following questions, “Why is it that people are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a Louis Vuitton handbag, but not as much for an art piece? What is the true value of art?” What are your thoughts? Feel free to leave a comment to share.
You can find more information about PubArt Gallery through the below channels and should definitely follow PubArt Gallery on Facebook to keep up to date with the art industry and development as well as the upcoming exhibitions. (The Hong Kong Policy Address that I mentioned before is featured on their Facebook page with all the art and cultural related points extracted!)
Stay tuned to hear about their next show!
From Central MTR Station: Exit D2 > Lan Kwai Fong > The Centrium (up to the top of the escalators) > Victoria Prison > Marble Steps (to Chancery Lane)