Ng operates out of his home studio

Ng’s story begins in Japan, where he’d picked up the skill of leatherworking. He’d chanced upon the craft when pondering which skill he should pick up. At the time, it was a battle between these vocations: woodworking, jewellery, clay, and leather.

In the end, leatherworking won because woodworking was too messy, jewellery costly, and clay not his cup of tea. Leather presented a perfect balance – a world of creativity, practicality, and endless possibilities.

Upon returning home from Japan, he set out to further develop his skills through books and videos. He also learned quickly that investing in high-quality tools was a must. 

“Cheap tools make things harder, and wastes your time from all the extra effort required. It’s also costlier because you have to keep replacing them,“ he says. With a keen eye and the right equipment, he began creating an array of products, mostly focusing on belts, wallets, accessories, and bags. 

Getting quality tools is important for Ng

But having good tools doesn’t guarantee success. And one of the challenges that commonly presents itself is the fine precision involved. A difference in millimetres can mean the difference between a perfect product and one that doesn’t align at the seams or buttons. And being careless can be a huge problem because sometimes the products won’t be salvageable, resulting in the waste of expensive material.

This requirement in meticulousness has been a blessing for Ng, however. He’s found that the patience required for the craft has extended to other areas of his life, such as enduring traffic jams or dealing with the daily stresses of his corporate job.

Despite a demanding schedule, he remains committed to his art. Balancing a day job and caring for a child, he still manages to find a few hours each day to practise his craft, a reminder that pursuing one’s passion is always possible with determination and discipline.

Hand stitching provides for a more durable finish compared to machine stitching

And today that discipline is bearing fruit. He now gets corporate orders for his products, with an invoice for hundreds of bags at one go. As Ng’s products are all handmade, the orders sometimes extend beyond his working capacity. That’s when he employs the help of his students, whom he oversees tightly to ensure top-quality work. 

Looking to the future, Ng dreams of opening a leatherworking store where he can pass on his skills to the younger generation, with an attached café on the side. The space would not only serve as a hub for leather enthusiasts but also a place for the community to come together and share their love for the craft.

Ng works out of the studio in his own home, and to other home artisans, he offers these words of encouragement: “You should definitely continue to chase your passions, even if it’s small at first. It won’t be an easy journey, but if you stick to it, you’ll definitely attain something with your efforts.”

written by.

Stuart Danker

Malaysian writer specialising in the no-niche niche. Trad-published author of the novel Tinhead City KL. Resident hobby-collector of AugustMan Malaysia.
Analogue Crafts 3/6: Alvin Ng and Leatherworking

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