Creative evolution: Learn woodworking from Hong Kong’s ST/ART collective – Interview

Dom Chan from Start From Zero, the city’s original urban art collective, discusses street art and his passion for woodworking with UrbanDNA.



As trailblazers in Hong Kong’s street art and fashion scenes, Start From Zero is the city’s original old school urban art collective. Led by Dom Chan, this creative house embodies the fierce and adaptable spirit necessary for artists to survive and make art in the SAR. UrbanDNA catches up with Dom to discuss his street art works and current focus on woodworking, and he shares the technique for his early stencil works– PowerPoint! Dom will lead woodworking workshops with House of Vans on October 17 and 18– even the most novice woodcrafter can learn to create a handmade stool from Hong Kong’s urban art legend. Build your skills with Dom at House of Vans or the impressive, fully outfitted Start From Zero woodcrafting workshop in Kwun Tong.

‘House of Vans’ Skatedeck Chair Workshop

Pier 4, Central, Hong Kong

Oct 17 & 18, 3-5pm

Register online here

Street art in Kwun Tong by Start From Zero. Author’s photo.


:::::Dom Chan, founder of Start From Zero & UrbanDNA | Interview October 6th, 2015:::::


When was Start From Zero established? Can you tell me about the background of the collective?

Around sixteen years ago we started doing street art in Hong Kong. We did stickers, wheatpaste, stencil, paints, and posters in Hong Kong. Around 8 years later we started doing streetwear, and about four years ago we opened a shop… we closed the shop last year. The shop sold clothing and hosted underground artists’ exhibitions. We started doing woodwork about four years ago.

How many people are in Start From Zero?

In the beginning just me, and I have a partner called Katol… [He] knows how to draw the design and together we did the clothing. We also do woodworking together.

Does Start From Zero have a mission or philosophy?

For everyone to be happy and survive in Hong Kong. With graffiti and skating, it’s difficult to survive here… Don’t think too much, just start to do what you want and what you like.

Dom Chan, SFZ founder, in his workshop. Author’s photo.

How did you become interested in woodworking?

We were doing a lot of exhibitions but always [worked] on canvas, so boring! We got some wood and tried [working] on the wood. Because wood has different textures, each piece is different. We bought more machines, and I love woodworking because everyday I can build some installation.

We had an exhibition a few years ago, deTour, in the area of PMQ– at the time it was still the old police station heritage area in Central. We made a [mini] house, a table and chairs– and then lots of people found us to build houses. Then we started doing more woodwork and became professional.

What street art inspires you?

Shepard Fairey. When I was in school I saw a poster outside, and I didn’t know what it was about. It wasn’t a promotion, it wasn’t from the government– oh, it’s a street art stencil. I searched online and found ‘’– this was a long time ago, it was Australian. They had a forum that taught how to [make] stencils. It’s very easy. The first stencil I did by PowerPoint. I just plugged a photo into PowerPoint and made it black and white, then printed it out and used the correct pen… And made the outline more sharp… Then photocopied and made it bigger… Then printed it out and cut it. Yea, my first big stencil was made from old school stuff!

… Shepard Fairey inspired me because he was arrested a lot but kept doing street art– and he does street clothing also. [I wondered] why Hong Kong doesn’t have any street clothing? Then, I tried to do. Now I know why– because Hong Kong is difficult.

Mixed media work by Start From Zero. Author’s photo. 

Have you ever been arrested before while making street art?

Yea, in Taiwan and Shanghai. But not in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is very safe…

What are your feelings on the graffiti scene now in Hong Kong?

It is better than some time ago, there are more people doing it, but I don’t know how long they can do it, because it’s very difficult. But it’s better than a long time ago… It’s different… I don’t see it as street art or art, legal or illegal…

Skate deck chair created in the Vans workshop.

What can workshop participants with House of Vans expect at the woodworking workshop?

We built the skate wall, and will teach people to make a stool, and have silkscreening too– live printing. You can take a blank t-shirt, bring your own pieces or pick up a tote bag or anything and bring it to House of Vans– they’ll print the logo and event identity image onto your piece!

How often do you offer these workshops?

Three days a week we teach woodworking workshops [in the Kwun Tong studio]. For House of Vans we’ll also help with the silkscreen, because we used to do street wear and we always do silkscreening on wood. And we always wear Vans!

The Start From Zero workshop in Kwun Tong. Author’s photo.


For more on Start From Zero’s woodcrafting workshop, check out their Kwun Tong workshop schedule here.

Erin Wooters Yip


Related Posts:

HKwalls 2015: Promising growth for Hong Kong’s street art festival – Photofeast – April 2015

Lost art: Without street policy, history will repeat – January 2015

‘HKwalls’ street art festival coming soon to Sheung Wan – Interview May 2014



Follow @Urban_DNA on Instagram for a running feed of Hong Kong street art