There is a secret workshop hidden inside an industrial building in Kwai Fong. I spent an afternoon at Starology, making a lightbox decorated with pictures of a lush forest. Inside the lightbox, which resembles a book, there is a crowd of fireflies, flickering as if they are alive. The fireflies are represented by an array of tiny light bulbs. The light button inside the box is switched on when the box is opened.
It wasn’t too difficult to make the forest but it required creativity. I received a box engraved with golden lettering, and some pieces of translucent film with images of trees. Even for buttons, I had a choice of materials. I connected a battery box to a string of light bulbs, and my fireflies were lit up. However, they were not lively enough. I had to adjust the height of the light bulbs so the fireflies could be scattered all over the forest. After sealing the box with translucent film, I got to design the cover. I drew a horoscope sign on it. A quote printed on the spine sums up my experience at Starology: “The sight of the stars makes me dream!”
I thought that the only time I could catch a star and put it in my pocket is when singing Perry Como’s hit from the ’50s, Catch A Falling Star – that is, until I saw the finished products at the Starology studio. The dozens of “fireflies” hanging in the middle of the books are mesmerising and a joy to look at.
Our instructor, Sushi Fong, explained that we’d be making a sort of book with fireflies and trees inside it. There were many steps involved. For me, the most challenging and exciting part was the arrangement of the fireflies, as well as designing the background for our books.
The fireflies were actually made up of 20 tiny light bulbs. But even though each of us were given the same number of bulbs to work with, there were infinite ways to arrange them. We started off by putting dots on the paper as a blueprint to determine where our light bulbs would end up. Then we tried taping them into place.
Sushi encouraged us to unleash our creativity and try out different patterns. “You can add more depth to your book by taping different areas of your light bulbs,” she said. “If you want a light to stay in the background, you can put some tape directly over it; otherwise, you can tape the wires together, which allows your light bulb to poke out a bit more and appear to be closer to the cover.”
There were many amazing effects we could create with such a small amount of materials, and I realised that the details determine whether we “make it” or “break it” when doing an art project like this.
The layers of transparent paper were crucial, as they are the background of the scene. We were given four sheets of paper, each with different patterns such as trees or animals, and the way we put them together was up to us. I chose not to use all four as I wanted the scene to look more transparent, so that my fireflies will really shine through and light up my bedroom at night.
Shelves in the corners of the Starology studio display art projects which can be made there. Fairy lights are scattered all over the place, creating a beautiful scene when the main lights are dimmed. Lightbox “books” are piled behind the workshop table, which has the basic utensils for the DIY project we worked on.
Our project was a cut-out box designed to look like a book. A beautiful medieval-style border was printed on the front and back covers, as well as a circle in which you can write the initials or the symbol of the person you want to give the book to. Also, the spine of the book displayed a quote – “The sight of the stars makes me dream” – giving a romantic feeling. When somebody opens the finished product, a switch is released, and a beautiful scene is displayed: either a stunning array of stars or a magnificent swarm of blinking fireflies. You can make out the figures you have created and it’s honestly a beautiful sight.