When I first started coming to Singapore about 10 years ago, my initial impression of the city was probably typical of what most tourists saw: gleaming office towers, bustling malls, and a thoroughly modern city built on international finance and trade. Other than the delicious food from the hawkers, it never occurred to me that anything is produced locally. Whether it’s fresh produce, designer clothes, or outrageously expensive cars, everything appeared to be imported.
But having lived here for three years now, I have come to recognize that despite the modern veneer, there is a small, but thriving community of craftsmen in Singapore—men and women who are driven by their passion to make a living by doing what they love. As someone who is not particularly handy, I respect their craftsmanship. But even more so, I admire the dedication that they have to their craft.
Rafie Chua is one such individual. He runs Plane & Bevel, a furniture studio known for custom pieces, mostly handcrafted out of natural wood, for commercial and residential clients. Not yet thirty years of age, Rafie has been running his own business practically since he graduated from university. He was soft spoken during our conversation. But if you listen carefully, I do think there are ideas that speak volumes about happiness and success—perhaps lessons for you and me.