Cover Yong works on welding a steel frame for a custom-made chair

Inspired by his family trade in stainless steel fabrication, Matthias Yong of Baremetalco hopes to foster public interest in metalworking through inventive designs and creative collaborations

More commonly associated with surgical tools and kitchen equipment, stainless steel may be a material deemed as being far from glamorous or beautiful. But Baremetalco founder Matthias Yong believes there’s so much more that can be done with this malleable metal.

Having struggled with dyslexia as a child, Yong gradually embraced metalworking as both a creative outlet and his livelihood; the company’s name, Baremetalco, refers to Yong’s admiration for the beauty of metals left deliberately bare, without any extraneous layer of paint.

While the decision to join the family trade was far from instantaneous, it could be said that the passion for material is in his blood. His father, Matthew Yong, start-ed Make Yield, a firm that specialises in stainless steel fabrication in 1992; Yong was often roped in to help out at he factory during his teenage years. His interest in metalwork deepened over time, as he developed a reputation for his skills among his peers while studying mechanical engineering at a local polytechnic, as he would help to fabricate metal structures for their final-year projects. 

In 2017, the young entrepreneur came onboard to re-brand the business and seek new ways to make it more economically viable. The family-run firm began fabricating stainless-steel kitchen equipment in the Nineties, before pivoting to crafting letterboxes as well as artistic commissions in the last decade. Both firms often work on their projects together; these include bespoke sculptures, handrailings for staircases, as well as custom-made furniture that explore novel uses of stainless steel.

What motivated your decision to continue the family trade?

Matthias Yong (MY) My dad was known for taking up unusual jobs like met-al sculptures in the 2010s and these artistic commissions inspired me to do the same. Metalworking is also something I’ve grown to be very passionate about over the years. I wanted to offer a fresh new perspective on metal fabrication in Singapore and discovering the creative possibility of metals along the way.

Most customers will show me a rendering or model of what they want. It’s our job to realise it; I see myself as the bridge between the designer and metal fabricator. We’ll give them a solution and explain how we will produce it. When it comes to stainless steel, it is frequently left bare or with a high reflective finish that amplifies the imperfections like scratches and grinding marks created during the fabrication process.

For steel works, you can coat it in a layer of paint to prevent rusting, you could even do putty works to fix imperfections. Metal fabrication has a long history and there are many techniques that can be applied. Sometimes I use tinsmithing methods in my projects; I enjoy spending my weekends trying new techniques. I also take a lot of inspiration from classic car restorations where craftsmen manually hand-shape and form car panels, like the iconic Jaguar E-Type.

What are the biggest challenges of your chosen vocation?

MY There’s the high operation costs and also metalworking is very skill-dependent, especially with stainless steel, as welding and polishing works require years of experience. The older generations definitely saw the better days of metal fabrication in Singapore, but over the years it has been in decline with some closing down or moving their operations across the causeway. So when I decided to be in this industry, I knew we had to change.

We focus on custom-made projects; we have fabricated tables for retail brands to sustain the business. But in the long run, I hope to start my own range of furniture collections designed and fabricated by us to sell directly to consumers. Focusing solely on metal fabrication is not the way to go, as we don’t often have large orders. While fabrication methods have been pretty much the same across the years, ideas and concepts are always changing and we are trying our best to keep up with contemporary designs with the equipment we have.

Tell us more about your plans for the brand.

MY In order to give back to the community, I hope to convert part of the factory space into a creative hub for designers and students to create and develop their own designs. We’ll be able to provide them with the fabrication capabilities; this is something common overseas but not in Singapore, the makers’ spaces here can only produce small-scale items with laser-cutting and 3D printing. In the future, we hope to do 3D printing in our workspace as well, rather than doing purely metal fabrication.

  • PhotographyDarren Gabriel Leow
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