'The Craft for Perfection' Exhibition in Singapore on Traditional Keysmithing - A Vanishing Trade in Singapore, To Be Remembered
Locksmithing is an old and noble trade. Locksmiths are the masters of the lock-and-key, fixing bolts and safes and making keys with expert precision. Locksmiths are involved in all aspects of lock design and repair. From large bank vaults to back-door deadbolts, a trained locksmith can install, remove, repair, or modify any lock or locking device. That includes cutting new keys and resetting combinations.
Absolut Vodka introduces along with the launch of its premium small batch vodka, Absolut Elyx, a look at some of the fading crafts in Singapore, one of which is the art of keymaking. The vodka label spotlights one of Singapore's many disappearing icon: The keysmith. Absolut Elyx established an exhibition to demonstrate along with the craft of small batch vodka creation, the history of key and keymaking to keep alive a vanishing trade in Singapore.
It is the Swedish vodka-maker's philosophy that it is not merely the age‐old tools and quality materials that make the difference but the heritage and skills passed down through the generations, the human touch and their unwavering dedication to their craft for perfection that define the spirit of pure craftsmanship.
I visited the exhibition yesterday and it turned out to be truly a well-staged one with what i had expected to see at the exhibition. Not only the public can get to learn the history of keys and locks, they will also get to see some old artefacts and antiques related to key making.
'The Craft for Perfection' exhibition is being held at No. 47 Tessensohn Road in Singapore, a conservation shophouse and open to the public daily from 29th March through 5th April 2013.
Mr Chow who is aged 66, runs a little key‐making store called Handy Service in the heart of Chinatown. He has been working with locks and keys for 45 years already! He first started out as a apprentice by learning the craft from his father in the early 1960s, when he was still a teenager.
During the hey days, Mr Chow was engaged by local and foreign banks as the keysmith for their lock security systems.
Mr Chow is also a certified master locksmith and is a member of the Associated Locksmith of America (ALOA). The ALOA is the primary trade organization for professional locksmiths that conveys professionalism to potential customers and require considerable vocational education to earn.
Mr Chow's life has been spent in the pursuit of monotonous but honest work and the skill he displays in his handicraft, are all qualities which afford a pleasing and forcible contrast to the characteristics of the great majority of persons who earned their living during those old days.
The way Mr Chow did it was to pick the key and then use a flashlight to look into the keyway and estimate the cuts by looking at the wafers. With the import of many machinery tools from the neighboring countries, the tradition of using such equipment, however, declined over the years. This art might slowly disappear in the years to come.
Old trade methods, the treasures of our national history, were somehow forgotten because of the lack in demand from the society and also because the craftsmen did not pass on their knowledge. In this way, the highly important traditional fields lost their old prestige, though we know quite well that the vanishing and the still existing crafts are still very united in their own handicraft. They are a testimony of a time that disappeared in the process of universal modernization and globalization of everyday life. Mr Chow dedicated himself completely to his craft. While chatting with Mr Chow at the exhibition, i also gave praises to him for continuing this old trade.
I must also compliment thumbs up to Absolut Vodka for implementing this campaign that aims to capture and revitalise the importance and significance of craftsmanship, exemplified in certain artisanal trade and professions in Singapore that may have been overlooked overtime. It is actually crucial to highlight this vanishing trade as many of our younger generations are unaware of such informal services. This exhibition has indeed helped to recognize and pay tribute to a group of artisans in Singapore by showcasing their experience, the characters that defined their craftsmanship and the ways which these craftsmen learnt and honed their craft over the decades.
There are more reasons to head to the Keysmithing exhibition where we are all under one roof, no matter which age group or profession you belong to. We all have the same passion - To learn, share and enjoy this beautiful old craft! :-)
A freelance Singapore-based travel photographer / photojournalist. I seek the extraordinary, but finds beauty in the everyday. Life is interesting, capture it.
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