Ankie Fok is an artist.
She is a visual artist who designs and creates modern wood sculptures. Her work has been exhibited multiple times in her home city, Hong Kong, as well as in Macau and Taiwan. She was a finalist of the New Art Wave International Artist Award in 2015 – an award that celebrates emerging artists.
Ankie managed to achieve all this through learning the technical craft on her own for the majority of her career— or at the very least, the beginning of it. It would not be an understatement to say that Ankie’s wood crafting career started from humble beginnings.
It was 2010 when Ankie began her journey as a wood sculptor simply out of her strong sense of connection with, well, wood.
“It’s a straightforward and simple kind of passion,” she tells us. It is simply the texture of wood itself that draws Ankie to the material.
“To me, the beauty of wood grains is simply irresistible. [Wood] contains warmth when you touch it. It’s enduring yet it is in harmony with our human body temperature. Just like human beings, every type of wood possesses its own unique set of temper and characteristic. While some are harder, with darker colours and have a nice and natural aroma, others are lighter in weight and in colour and they are more porous. You simply can’t just treat nor use all kinds of wood in the same manner. Therefore, for each time before you start creating any works, you have to judge and consider what to use and how to use it first, which is a process I enjoy very much and which keeps me motivated in gaining more knowledge in this area.”
So Ankie got to work. She bought herself some simple hand tools, a few wooden blocks and laid them out on the dining table of her home, where she spent hours … bleeding her fingers out and making a mess of her home with wood scraps and dust. Ankie then realised it was probably better to educate herself about the craft with books. Shortly after, in 2011, Ankie started her own studio One Fine Day Productions and finally decided to join wood classes and learn from experienced veterans.
If self-teaching the craft of wood sculpting through blood and dust doesn’t show you Ankie’s dedication to her work, then investing in a studio after only a year of starting out in the craft may. Opening her own studio was a decision that was merely practical to Ankie at the beginning: the sound, the dust and the dirt that woodworking creates were simply unbearable for the cramped living environment of Hong Kong. It was in fact what Ankie, who is also a cultural worker, describes to be the “number one challenge” for local artists in Hong Kong, if not for every other resident.
“[The] crazy high rent and high economic pressure in Hong Kong [means that] quite a large number of artists here need to spend a great proportion of their time doing different kinds of day jobs and [only] immerse themselves into the world of arts during spare time, so as to earn the necessary amount of money to sustain their studios and/ or their daily lives. In other words, not too many local artists can have the luxury to be full-time ones, which in turn reduces the time that many of them can spend on focusing on their art practices.”
Tracing back the creative roots
In a speech given by acclaimed American public radio personality/ storyteller, Ira Glass, on honing one’s craft and overcoming frustrations of creators starting out, he said, “All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste.”
Ankie’s taste as an artist (and her commitment to art itself) can be proved or at the very least endorsed by her bachelor’s degree in comparative literature at the University of Hong Kong, as well as her further studies in Art Direction in Film before becoming an artist herself. She accredits her education in these areas as crucial to the development of her as a human being to begin with and in terms of forming the core values underlying her wood art.
An artist’s observations towards life, rather than the material he/she uses, be it wood, stainless steel or ceramic are what Ankie considers the ultimate asset to his/her art. As an artist, it is important to Ankie to safeguard “sensitivity, curiosity and innocence as an artist, towards the surroundings that I’m living in or I’ve noticed” – qualities which were enhanced throughout her university years in the Faculty of Arts, during which her belief that an open heart and an open mind as the essential mindset for an artist was reinforced.
Ankie’s further studies in Art Direction in Film, where she learned how to design and create movie sets, props and costumes for actors, delivered her from the scholarly side of art appreciation and critique to the creative side of making tangible art. “That period was helpful for me in getting familiar with the practice of creating physical objects step by step from mere concepts in my mind in early stages.”
As she continues to establish herself as a visual artist in modern wood sculpting, Ankie, is not one to merely stay on one side of the island of the art industry. Once stood on sidelines, appreciating and observing; now an artist, creating—Ankie also wants to invite people to the island as well, to appreciate and observe and to create.
“I would like to be involved in more art projects or create more artworks that promote social good and social equality… I want to spend more time on arts education in the coming future. For example, I’ll be co-presenting a wood class with another experienced sculptor from May to June 2016.”