The Machinist is made up of Wendy Chua, Xin Xiaochang and Yuki Mitsuyasu. The three met as fellow lecturers in the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. From an earlier project, Wendy came to know the last machinist in the auto- repair district of Jalan Besar, Mr Yee Chin Hoon. Fearing his skills would be lost when he retires, she relayed his plight to Yuki and Xiaochang.
In June 2015, spurred by the urgency of chronicling his story and drawn to the precision art of metal lathing, the three designers collaborated with Mr Yee in a two-week design workshop to create jewellery pieces from his vintage stock. This culminated in an exhibition that brought the public into the small factory in a rare experience that melded art and industry. The jewellery—turned treasure from trash— articulated the value of the machinist’s skills.
In the subsequent two years, they endeavoured to document the stories of the community through the lens of design, seeking to shed light on how these industrial craftsmen and tradesmen come to dedicate their entire lives to mastering a skill and questioning the meaning of craft in a rapidly changing urban context.