Colourful neon lights had once been a glowing display of Hong Kong's prosperity while hand-painted Guangzhou colour porcelain ware was a bestselling export to Europe and the United States in the 1980s and 1990s.

As time went by, traditional handicraft industries gradually faded into oblivion, but their decline has not gone unnoticed.

A group of students studying Integrated Communication Management at School of Communication worked with Eldage, a social enterprise, to comb the city for local craftsmen dispersed across the territory and turned their stories into short films that depict their craftsmanship. These ten short films struck a chord: within a few months of being posted on Facebook, they generated over 10,000 likes.

"Usually we get assignments to do theory-based case study analyses. This is our very first time going out into different neighbourhoods to meet veteran craftsmen and implementing a whole marketing plan." Ada Luk and her teammates interviewed Master Kwok, a woodcarver with over 40 years of experience. With a pair of skillful hands and a box of carving knives, Master Kwok has produced a variety of works ranging from ancestral tablets for households to giant dragon and phoenix sculptures for Chinese restaurants. Information collection, interviews and marketing reports were all done by the students, who then presented the master's craftsmanship through a film they shot and edited. Throughout the entire process, they applied what they had learned in marketing.

Bringing traditional crafts into the modern day

"Producing short films was only one of the means. This assignment also required students to apply marketing theories to the design of different workshops, which aim at exploring ways to upgrade and transform traditional handicrafts. For example, through workshops where craftsmen teach participants how to carve wooden smartphone cases, they hope to attract interested parties to inherit and pass on the skills." Lecturer of the School of Communication Mr Lennon Tsang, who led students to take part in the project, says all the participants were highly committed to making the project a success. In fact, their works were highly commended by Eldage, and the then Under Secretary for Home Affairs Ms Florence Hui, who happened upon this meaningful collaborative project, wrote a newspaper article on it. 

When a millennial sits down with an old craftsman, what qualities would they rub off one another? In this project, about 70 students worked together to seek out 10 craftsmen - some produced handmade copperware while others were engaged in wood chiseling and making sugar-blown toys. After watching a neon light master heat up a neon light tube and skillfully bend it into different shapes by hand, Kelsey Tsui and her teammates expressed their wish for such "artworks", which were in the past found everywhere in the city, to remain a visible part of Hong Kong's streets and that they would not all be replaced by LED signboards. "If we manage to get more people to appreciate neon signs and cherish their existence, this meaningful project would have achieved its goal."

The older generation used to learn a skill to make a living, whereas today the new generation applies their knowledge to pass on a heritage. What connects these different generations is their dedication to preserve the unique traditional skills that have been in existence in Hong Kong for over half a century.