KUALA LUMPUR, March 26 — The stools and side tables are retro chic: weather-aged hardwood tops paired with smart-looking black metal legs.
What is astounding is that barely half a century ago, these had a former life as railway sleepers used in the Malayan Rail system. And before that, the wood came from hardy Chengal trees deep in our rainforests.
This is the wondrous cyclical nature of life that Heartpatrick (real name: Patrick Teow) hopes to imbue every item in Heartifacts with; a line of one-of-a-kind furniture and decorative items made from abandoned material such as railway sleepers. (Heartifacts, of course, is a witty amalgamation of his name and “artifacts”; the latter a nod to how his creations are made with materials that are recovered and rescued.)
An engineer by qualification, Heartpatrick currently has a full-time job in the IT industry though he is transitioning to become a full-time photographer.
Given how strong his Heartpatrick brand is, especially in the Malaysian photography world, it’s revealing to discover its origins.
He explains, “Back when I was searching for a unique online identity for myself, the word ‘heart’ popped up. I wanted a reminder for myself to always dive into my emotions and not allow boring, conventional logical thinking to take centrestage all the time. Seeing my brand name on a daily basis now has helped my artistic side to flourish.”
The same artistic side is seen in the design sensibility of his Heartifacts pieces: minimalist, raw and infused with a subtle sense of history.
According to Heartpatrick, he had re-purposed some railway sleepers not as furniture but as cover for his courtyard during renovation work on his home three years ago.
“However, I had to remove them as they got dirty when it rained,” he says. “I decided not to waste them since they were so beautiful.
“At that time, I was exposed to the café culture that was starting up. I saw how the décor affected the ambience and experience of café goers. It struck me that I could turn my railway sleepers into furniture that would complement my home but that would also evoke the atmosphere of a café.”
The pieces in the Heartifacts collections — two thus far, 2015 and 2016 — wouldn’t look out of place in either a fashionable home or a café, that’s for sure.
Priced from RM200 onwards, Heartpatrick also creates bespoke items for customers depending on the availability of material. He designs the furniture and works with a carpenter to produce the finished pieces.
A strong following on social media, thanks to his popular Heartpatrick brand, has helped him market his creations via word of mouth.
From simple bedside tables to stools made from round chopping boards, every item reminds you of something before. There is a sense of a prior life. Aside from the recycled hardwood, mill steel is used to form the legs before a coat of black paint adds a classy finish.
This nostalgic sensibility is thanks, in part, to a childhood spent in the capital before it became gentrified. A lifelong appreciation for relics and memories ensued.
Heartpatrick recalls, “I grew up in a kampung in the city centre, right where Quill City Mall is now. The area wasn’t as developed back then, of course. We had floods, we shared public toilets, but we also had a great time spent mostly outdoors. I guess my attachment to vintage stuff is me missing my carefree childhood days.”
Little wonder then that exploring junkyards to look for raw materials is a source of joy: “These places are so full of memories of yesteryear. A broken window pane with a child’s doodles. Pre-war bicycles with Japanese scribbling. Then there is the staff who now know the true price of these treasures.
“We used to be able to get them at a bargain price. Once we were busy shifting through a pile of sleepers when we were shooed away by the owner! Apparently we aren’t allowed to pick and choose the better ones anymore.”
This new challenge means that Heartpatrick has to make more visits to various junkyards in his search, moving further and further, from Sungai Buloh when he first began all the way to Ijok now.
The fresh sets of constraints mean that he has to continue being innovative: right now this means trying out different approaches such as all-metal furniture or using young woods instead of older stock.
In fact, the greatest risk Heartpatrick has had to face isn’t a dwindling supply of raw materials but taking the leap from a “safe” career in IT to become a full-time photographer and all-round creative.
While photography remains his main passion and pursuit, Heartifacts is another way for him to express himself and to branch out.
“I always regarded my biggest ‘failure’ in life was not having had the courage to venture beyond my IT consulting work, which is rather stable and rewarding financially.
“In fact, I thought I could practise my freelance passion while holding onto my IT job; I realise now this was the one thing holding me back from going further.”
There are no certainties in life but where there are passion and perseverance — and Heartpatrick has both in spades — then the odds are doubtlessly better. Fortune favours the bold. Whatever happens, he remains optimistic: “There will be some exciting years ahead, I’m sure.”
Heartifacts by Heartpatrick
Visit http://heartpatrick.com/heartifacts.html or email email@example.com for enquiries. For Heartpatrick’s photography work, follow him at www.instagram.com/heartpatrick and www.facebook.com/heartpatrickphotography.