Old is New Again

Upcycling is the process of converting old or discarded materials into something useful and often beautiful. Ipoh Echo had an exclusive one-on-one with Ipoh-born Tan Kai Lek, the Managing Director of Bukit Merah Wood Products Sdn Bhd to learn more about his work and vision.

“As the Chinese saying goes, “jiu di qu cai” (to draw on local resources using materials at hand). As an artist, I always bear that in mind, using any materials from wood, stone, glass, plastic, straw, metal and others. There is no limitation,” 50-year-old Tan explained.

It all began 20 years ago, when Tan saw a lumberjack chopping off a particular tree which had been there throughout his childhood. He turned the few pieces of wood that he requested from the logger into a table. From there, his passion was ignited. Having majored in civil engineering, it fuels him to repurpose things and give them new life. He obtains his inspiration from his readings and visits to exhibitions.

Established in 1990, Bukit Merah Wood Products Sdn Bhd won the first prize for bare space booth presentation at the Malaysian International Furniture Fair 2012. Tan and his team craft furniture, sculpture, carving and commissioned pieces out of discarded wood and other recycled materials by hand. Among the pieces which exudes old charm and character are the unique three-legged chairs which remain the all-time favourite.

“My objective is to pass down the knowledge of upcycling especially to the younger generation,” the recycled art crafter added.

Hence, his factory’s showroom is open to the public for educational visits. Besides running two quaint boutique hotels called Happy 8 at Old Town, Kuala Sepetang in Taiping and a homestay in Pasir Puteh, he has a one-of-its-kind factory stay at his factory for any artist looking for inspiration. Begun in 2014, factory stay offers them accommodation free-of-charge!

Staying true to his aim, Tan gifted me a piece of wood to kick off my own artistic journey at the end of our enlightening interview.

Do take note that advance reservation is a must for visits to the showroom. Tan hosts educational visits from schools for free. For others, the rate would be RM10 per adult and RM5 per child. Readers are also welcome to join Tan’s team and take advantage of his factory stay.

Address: Lot 59241, Bukit Merah Industrial Estate, Batu 4½, Jalan Lahat, 31500 Lahat, Perak.
Operating hours: 8.30am – 4.30pm
Contact: 05 323 1388


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