「港」情懷系列(四):李炎記花店 | Crafting Hong Kong’s Heritage: Episode 4 – Lee Yim Kee Flower Shop


Thanks to destiny combined with my wish to preserve this special craft, I stepped into the business and now am the third successor of Lee Yim Kee Flower Shop. In these past 4 years, I switched my career from building bamboo scaffolding to becoming a craftsman in making flower plaques. I’ve been learning from my boss, Sis Lang, who instilled in me two core values – “Practice makes perfect” and “perseverance is the key”. Making flower plaques is time-consuming. There are many steps involved; including design and layout, cage assembling, calligraphing, floral paper plastering, adding decorations, retouching, lightbulb mounting and finally putting the entire piece onto the scaffolding. Every step requires expertise. The text on a basic plaque is made according to traditions. First, we write the texts with glue, then adhere the cotton on top and finally spray on the paint. When the paint dries, we ‘bold’ the texts by creating a outline in white. If we are making a larger plaque, we have to increase the text size by 5 feet. Although there are numerous steps required, we are committed in following the traditional steps as it makes the text look outstanding. However, making the “text with cotton” takes time, and the supply of materials is rather limited, so a lot of flower plaque shops nowadays have changed to using enamel handwriting or computer printing. Usually the plaques are made up of a phoenix head, dragon pillars, horizontal arrays, beams, “bodice” and horns. The top of the plaques is mostly decorated with peacock patterns. When the plaque is dismantled, we will replace the paper and re-colour. The dragon pillars represent the dragon patterns in the left and right sides. The dragon scales are drawn by our artisans, and the dragon head and horns are finished and added to give a sense of three-dimension. The entire design combines both mythical creatures, meaning “prosperity brought by the dragon and the phoenix”. Another core element of the plaque is of course flowers. The flowers on the old plaque were often made with plain paper, making them susceptible to damage from the weather. Therefore, the plaque shops todays usually use their own specialised foil paper flowers. They will be stapled onto the plaque by the artisans with care, to make the plaque more festive and colourful. The plaque and light bulbs shine at night. However, the supply of incandescent light bulbs is shrinking, Therefore, shops are required to place custom orders from designated mills and companies or to completely switch to the safer and more efficient option – LED bulbs. When the festival is over, the plaque is returned to the warehouse where it’s taken apart by the artisans. Repairs are made to the damaged parts and decorations, such as the texts and flowers, will be stripped. When this process is done, the inner cage structure can be reused. Many people say the flower plaque business is fading. Yet in many villages in the New Territories during Chinese New Year, the Festival of Gods, the Appointment of Village Heads and weddings. flower plaques are still the most eye-catching. Even though the plaques are shining, the fact is that this trade’s future is bleak. Both Sis Lang and I, as well as a number of craftsmen, are committed to continuing the business We hope to reach out to other parts of Hong Kong so that more people can help pass on this cultural tradition.

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