From brewing your own beer to learning leather work: why DIY rocks

There’s a deep satisfaction in doing it yourself. Perhaps it’s the pride that comes with crafting something unique, or the take-it-slow philosophy behind it. Vanessa Yung gets hands on

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2014, 10:42pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2014, 10:42pm

Fungus Workshop
At the Fungus Workshop in Sheung Wan, you can learn to make just about anything by hand, from your baby’s first shoes or a cool hat, to camera cases and backpacks.

Founded by two husband-and-wife duos – Philip Lau Cheuk-lai and Grace Kwok Siuyin, and Baldwin Pui Bing-wang and Fung Hoi-ming – this cosy leather workshop trades off its artistic minds that can help realise any idea you might dream up.

They are comfortable helping draft patterns and discussing ideas. Pui and Kwok are design school graduates and Fung was born into a family of tailors.

Lau is a self-taught craftsman that has worked as an apprentice to a Japanese shoemaker in Wan Chai for the past two years. The skills he obtained on the job with the meticulous master helped formulate the concept behind the shop. “It’s a yearning for details and perfection,” says Lau. “Leather is just one of the mediums. We appreciate all the other handicrafts such as woodwork and handmade confectionaries. It is the mentality that counts.”

“We would like people to respect the craftsmanship and, in our case, the leather, which is a living material that ages with you.”

That’s why the folk at Fungus prefer to work with vegetable-tanned leather, which involves less treatment and better preserves the hide’s texture and natural look. Its colour grows darker and the surface shinier as it ages.

Patience is the key, from cutting the hide to hammering holes for the stitching and applying decoration – there’s no rushing it.

“Whether you’re making it for yourself or as a gift, handmade items inject meaning. And by producing an item from square one, which requires time and effort, you treasure the end product more,” says Pui.

During my visit, Pui and Lau demonstrate how straightforward it is to make a two-tone bowtie. For a feminine look, the same design becomes a cute necklace or a hairpin.

Fungus Workshop, G/F, 4 Po Hing Fong, Sheung Wan, tel: 2779 9003,

Looking for more accessories? Try Littledate, Unit 9B, Viet Shing Factory Building, 145 Wai Yip Street, Kwun Tong, tel: 6532 2173;; and Butcher Lab Leather Class, 5B Easy Package Industrial Building, 140 Wai Yip Street, Kwun Tong, tel: 34210212;


Genic Eyewear
With a jeweller’s saw in one hand and an acetate block in the other, Gobi Chui Tak-yu demonstrates how to carve eyewear from a hard plastic slab to her class of 10. It is a tiring job that will take the group hours to finish but, once they’re done, they’ll take home one-of-a-kind glasses. They don’t seem to mind the hard work.

Founded by Chui and designer Emily Tai Mei-yee, Genic Eyewear offers classes in making your own frames. Tai’s family are eyewear manufacturers and she grew up having learned a lot about glasses. But it was only after she visited a museum in Japan that she appreciated the craftsmanship that goes into handmade eyewear.

“Spectacles have long ceased to be a necessity and have become a fashion item,” says Tai. “But it’s hard to find a pair that has the perfect shape and fit. While designer brands launch chic collections every so often, people without a tall nose, like me, find it hard to get something that fits.

“As for those looking for more quirky shapes, they can only go for tailor-made styles.”

With help from her grandmother, who used to make the frames by hand, Tai took the idea further and started teaching people the craft at a six-hour class at studio she rented in Jordan.

Her team will discuss the features you want and help you devise a sketch. Then, with your measurements and specifications, they fine-tune the proportions and details, before printing a draft of your ideal frames.

At the workshop, you pick the piece of acetate with you choice of colour and pattern, and the sawing and filing begins.

The final touches – including polishing, adding the hinge joints, and attaching the nose bridges, including sizes to fit Asian noses – can be complicated, and are made by the craftsmen at Tai’s mainland factory and delivered two weeks later.

Tai says seats fill up quickly for the workshops scheduled once a fortnight.

“It’s great for those looking to maximise their individuality,” Tai says.

Genic Eyewear, unit 38, 1/F National Court Building, 242 Nathan Road, Jordan;

More tailor-made specs can be found at Avision, Room Q, 24/F, Block 2, Goldfield Industrial Building, 144-150 Tai Lin Pai Road, Kwai Chung, tel: 6096 3766;


Snap HK
The selfie is the cornerstone of social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, but do you remember those Japanese photo sticker booths, where you strike a crazy pose that is printed on a little sheet of stickers?

Carter Lam Chi-wing and his two partners spotted an business opportunity to combine the best of both and start a self-service studio, Snap HK.

“It combines the privacy of using a photo booth and the quality of a traditional studio shot. There won’t be a photographer or staff staring at you,” says Lam.

“You can take over one of our four themed studios to go wild and be yourself, but we’ve got full-frame digital cameras and lighting mounted on the wall for nice images.

We also provide props, costumes and different in-house designed backgrounds which can all be switched to your heart’s content without any additional cost.”

The real-time image will be shown on one screen, while the last photo taken appears on the other. There’s no limit to how many images you take. They can all be downloaded from the studio’s computer to a USB memory stick and taken home.

Snap HK opened in Causeway Bay last November, and expanded to a new branch in Tsim Sha Tsui last month. The studio in Cameron Road has six rooms with themes such as wedding, graduation and K-pop.

Lam says the business has plans to launch a printing service soon so customers can modify their belongings or create a magazine from the images.

For shutterbugs eager to impress with a one-off smartphone or tablet case made from their selfies, it is not difficult to find stalls in the pedestrianised section of Sai Yeung Choi Street South in Mong Kok.

Snap HK, 4/F, 28 Russell Street, Causeway Bay, tel: 2668 6658; 3-4/F, 6A Cameron Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 5502 9096;

Satisfy selfie syndrome at: FreePho, 13/F, Good Hope Building, 5 Sai Yeung Choi Street, Mong Kok, tel: 2789 2321;; and at Phocus, 2D, Wing Wah Building, 24 Sai Yeung Choi Street, Mong Kok, tel: 3486 9690;


HK Brewcraft
If the Beertopia festival (March 13-15) at West Kowloon Promenade is not enough to quench your thirst for craft beer, making your own tipple could be one solution.

HK Brewcraft co-founders Chris Wong and Angus Ip claim to be the first group in Hong Kong to offer a crash course in home brewing. The pair brought the idea back from San Francisco.

The three-hour workshop at their location in Central, which also sells homebrew necessities and a selection of craft beers, lets you try your hand at making beer from scratch. Participants get hands-on with the first four of brewing’s six steps – preparation, mashing, boiling and sparging.

The final two stages, fermentation and bottling, can be done at home. Fermentation takes a few weeks.

The end product is unpasturised and develops more flavour as it sits inside its little bottle, says Ip. “The yeast is alive up until the point you drink it. So we recommend that you drink it within three months, at most six,” he says.

In between all the stirring and boiling, your instructor makes use of any spare time to pass on useful knowledge, about the history of beer, its ingredients, and craft beer appreciation – which, inevitably, involves sampling.

“Brewing is fun. You get a lot more flavours than you could practically buy in Hong Kong. During brewing we can add ingredients such as chocolate, herbs or even nuts. So there are unlimited variations,” says Ip.

“But my tip for beginners is to follow the instructions and pay attention to details.

Every step we ask you to follow, every temperature we tell you to set, there’s a reason behind it.

“Fermentation is a chemical reaction, and it only happens given certain conditions.

If you don’t follow certain steps, you can end up not having any beer or having a very weird taste. So try to understand the science behind how it works, before you explore further with your creativity.”

HK Brewcraft, 4/F Kwok Lun Commercial House, 15 Cochrane Street, Central, tel: 5925 2739;

For more brewing alternatives try: Young Master Ales, Units 407-9, Oceanic Industrial Centre, 2 Lee Lok Street, Ap Lei Chau;


Where to get your DIY fix

Design and craft a sleek, futuristic lamp (left) from copper pipe.
6B Tai Ping Shan Street, Sheung Wan, tel: 9677 7815;

Sealing Stone DIY Studio
Try your hand at traditional Chinese handicraft by carving your own seal or etching. Room 32, 11/F Sing Win Industrial Building, 15-17 Sing Yip Street, Kwun Tong, tel: 3990 9589;

Sesame Kitchen
Make miso, raw chocolate and fermented grains for baking with founder and chef Shima Shimizu.
Unit 1503, 44-46 Bonham Strand West, Bonham Commercial Centre, Sheung Wan, tel: 6771 3343;

Start From Zero
A stack of sweet wooden stools (right) will brighten any corner of your home.
4/F Far East Factory Building, 334-336 Kwun Tong Road, Ngau Tau Kok;; e-mail:

So Soap!
Learn to make your own chemical-free soap, hand cream and lip balm from vegetable and essential oils. tel: 2621 3060

A Pair & A Spare Studio
DIY guru Geneva Vanderzeil will show you how to make a mason jar light (left) or knit a macramé planter for a warmer interior.
2F, 16 Sutherland Street, Sheung Wan;