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Accidental Artisan

Mokko Wood Studio’s Lead Craftsman, on his
journey to becoming a woodworking artisan.

“I am also addicted to seeing the joy and
excitement in my customers’ eyes when we
hand over the finished pieces.”
– Alvan Koh

Pictured: Chef Emmanuel Stroobant with artisan Alvan Koh and the wooden box that houses Saint Pierre’s chocolate bon bons.  

How did you get into woodworking?

I was always tinkering with objects from a young age. I loved taking things apart and then putting them back together, though not always successfully. It’s in my nature to want to understand how things work and also how to build things.

It really started when I was looking for a new snooker cue. That got me interested in how cues were made. Then I found myself becoming more interested in how wood was selected. The interest then grew into various branches like types of wood, carpentry tools and techniques, etc. There was no turning back once I stumbled upon Japanese woodcrafting.

What led you to set up Mokko Wood Studio?

When I picked up woodworking as a hobby 10 years ago, YouTube was my frst teacher. After a couple of years spentlearning what I could on the platform, I reached a plateau. I got frustrated by the lack of progress and couldn’t figure out what I was not doing right at the time. This frustration led me to look for guidance on how to improve my craft. Due to the lack of learning opportunities in Singapore, this search led me to Japan.

Japanese carpenters have long been known for their skills and attention to detail. So in 2018, I made the trip to Kyoto to attend a one-month woodworking course. In all honesty, I went on that trip with the only intent of improving my craft. I didn’t even think about being a woodworker as a profession.

It was during the last days of my time in Japan when my sensei asked if I had considered woodworking as my profession. He gave me the affirmation and encouragement that I was good enough and Mokko Wood Studio was born soon after.

What do you enjoy most about your craft?

I love working with wood because of its connection to nature.  There are many different techniques and processes in woodworking but I really enjoy the process of hand crafting wood. After all the major work is done with machines, hand tools like chisels and planes are used to get the wood to their final state. This process requires a lot of concentration and patience and really gets me into the zone. I am also addicted to seeing the joy and excitement in my customers’ eyes when we hand over the finished pieces. That’s one of the main reasons why we always deliver the finished pieces personally.