Sio Kai Tong is founder of Hyle Design Macau, an art studio producing high-quality pieces working with the unique properties of wood. Recently, a crowd-funded digital lomo camera designed by Sio won the 2017 Design Intelligence Award. How did he connect with wood inside a concrete jungle? We were lucky to talk with Sio and explore his shop.
How and when did you start the studio?
I used to study product design in Taiwan. After I graduated and returned to Macau, I find that there isn’t much to do within the product design industry here. I’d like to create something special for my hometown, and therefore I started my own brand in 2014 to create quality woodwork design.
What kind of design do you produce in this studio?
We started with stationery design in the first year, then jewelry in the following year and finally a digital lomo camera this year. It was a big jump into the design for the CROZ camera as the main project for this year. The design was supported by Kickstarter funders and it is my favorite product so far. The camera came with parts that can be DIY, giving the user a special taste of making their own camera.
What do you want to express through your design?
I like my design to be playful and sustainable, hence why we came out with the design of a DIY camera. I feel like wood is a very special material, it is natural and every piece has its own texture. I find it really sad to see so much wood being wasted during the process of furniture making, some of it is very precious wood, too. So I hope that through re-designing, we can give the wood pieces a second life. Besides this, I’d also like to bring out the old feeling of Macau where it is comfortable and relaxing. Take the camera as an example, even though it is a digital camera you cannot see the finished photo immediately. People often move fast nowadays and I hope that by this design, we can learn to slow down the pace and enjoy the time of photography, instead of simply focusing on the final product.
What would be your next step of creation?
I’ve always liked to design furniture. Previously, I designed a dining table and chair set using a pair of old window frames picked up from a waste station near Patane. I hope to do more of these as well as spreading the idea of woodwork through holding various workshops.
What’s involved in the workshop and who can join it?
Anyone can join the workshop, even if you are a tourist or a beginner to woodwork. The courses usually last for a week and I will spend the first one or two days teaching students about the basic techniques. After that, I like to let ideas float so that each student can design their own product. Also, the techniques I teach can be applied even outside of the studio as they don’t require any machinery, it is all made by hand.
What else do you do besides design?
Many people might not know, but I used to box and did Chinese painting, too. They might not have strong connections to my current design work, but I feel like these hobbies have helped to develop my attitude and helped me to think clearly and creatively. Inside my studio, I like to decorate it with antiques and old stuff that I’ve collected. I also have hamsters and guinea pigs to keep me accompanied.