Hong Kong Faces

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 December, 2007, 12:00am

Designer Wong Hoi-to is proud of his most recent masterpiece - a Christmas tree that floats and swings and is made up of 800 wires that hold together nearly 20,000 ornaments in the shape of a tree in the oval atrium at the IFC Mall.

In the oval atrium of the IFC Mall, designer Wong Hoi-to looks at his latest 'masterpiece', a 12-metre dangling wire Christmas tree, with a smile of contentment. After all, it is the fruit of a year's tremendous effort, and it is different.

The Christmas tree - it floats and swings in mid-air - is made up 800 wires that hold together nearly 20,000 ornaments and form the shape of a tree.

'I wanted to attempt something unconventional, and add personal twists to the decor,' Wong says.

He and his design team were inspired by the shopping mall itself. 'The mall always holds art exhibitions. And you can often find pieces of art hanging in the mall. It creates a great artistic atmosphere. So we decided to see if we could blend festive decorations into art.'

The entire project, from concept, design, research and development to installation, took a year to complete. It was the first time the team spent so long on a project. There were several technical problems it had to overcome before the concept could become reality, said Wong. The length and thickness of each wire had to be calculated precisely. The team made a model which was two-thirds the size of the actual artwork to test the strength of the wires.

Even though 'the process was painful', it was rewarding in the end, says Wong. 'Whenever I see shoppers or people attracted by my tree, and from the compliments I received from them - it can offset everything.'

As Wong spoke, some tourists came over to compliment him on the tree after learning that he was the designer. Wong said he was very touched when his work was unveiled in the opening ceremony last month. 'The moment they removed the curtain, I was moved and felt very relieved. It's like witnessing the birth of a baby,' he says.

Although he has designed numerous Christmas trees, Wong sees his latest work as a breakthrough.

'It is a breakthrough, as I haven't used the dangling wire concept before in my work,' he says. 'In the beginning we are not sure if we could apply such a concept to a huge tree. We went through numerous trials, and when it finally worked out, my team and I were stuck for words.'

Wong worked as a graphic designer and an advertising and exhibition designer for more than three decades before moving into the decorative arts business in 2003. His past work experience and the skills he acquired have helped him a lot with his present business, he says.

'For example as a 3-D graphic designer, you need to pay close attention to details, while as an advertising designer, you may be focused more on creativity. But for the decorative arts business, it requires a bit of both,' he says.

Wong has always dreamed of entering the decorative arts business.

'My dad is a carpenter, and I've always thought it would be ideal if I could integrate design and carpentry in my job. I feel very happy with what I am doing now.'

But standing out in this field isn't easy, he says.

'It is challenging as you may be bound by some traditional elements every year. For example, for festive seasons like Christmas, Christmas trees are inevitable in the decorations. So making the shopping mall and the decorations stand out is a big challenge,' he says. 'But it'll be fun when you can come up with interesting ideas.'

He believes the trend in decorative arts business will be the blending of seasonal decorations into the shopping atmosphere. 'I think shoppers nowadays pay attention to the shopping mall atmosphere. Each mall has its own background and characteristics. It would be awkward if the decorations don't fit in.'

Having decorated numerous shopping malls, Wong admits he spends less time decorating his home. 'I may put tremendous effort into my designing work, but for my home, I will not spend much time. I don't care too much about the design as long as it is comfortable.'