A young entrepreneur draws out the natural aesthetics hidden within pieces of wood to create unique furniture and décor pieces. Pursuing one’s passion can be a risky venture, but it’s worked out fine so far for Jeffrey Yang Pik Han.
As a boy, the Johorian loved most things art-related. But he eventually studied electronic engineering and graduated from Britain’s University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) with a Bachelor’s degree in 1999.
Then he worked for a consultancy firm in Singapore for seven years before deciding that he needed to do something he felt strongly about. Because discus fish had always fascinated Yang, he began to breed them for sale. Not one to do anything by halves, he entered the Discus World Championship competition in Duisburg, Germany in 2008 and snatched the top three positions in the red fish category.
He started to export the colourful tropical fish species to Europe, the US and within Asia. But in meeting with people in the industry, Yang picked up on another trend – a demand for driftwood art and furniture. “People wanted more of the back-to-nature feel,” says the 36-year-old entrepreneur.
So, Yang began to dabble in driftwood export business and that led to his newest passion – transforming rain tree and other types of wood into artistic furniture and interior décor pieces. “There’s a growing demand for more artistic, natural wood pieces. In cities like Kuala Lumpur and in Japan, people don’t get to see natural elements any more,” explains Yang, whose business partner is his wife Joey Woo.
In March, the Art Of Tree showroom opened in Shah Alam’s Kampung Baru Subang, next to Yang’s discus fish shop.
“The key lies in the cut. Almost all timber loggers cut their wood into long blocks or planks. This conventional way of cutting only showcases the wood grain within,” Yang explains. “I place more emphasis on the natural shape and irregularities of the whole piece of wood itself. I believe if one is able to capture the essence of these irregularities, the wood can be transformed into a truly one-of-a-kind masterpiece. I have always viewed my collection of wood as art pieces.”
Yang started building his wood collection in mid-2013. It consists mainly of rain tree, angsana and acacia, plus some mahogany, merbau and cengal. He obtains the wood locally, working with various sawmills around Malaysia. The majority of the wood is derived from trees in and around city areas which have fallen down, usually after a heavy downpour.
Yang has them cut into smaller slabs and pieces, or at a certain angle, ensuring that he retains the original shapes. Each slab or block, or a combination of them, is then used to make furniture items like coffee or dining tables, or turned into décor creations like wall art.