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Disabled making a fashion statement

November 05, 2017

Arts able

Arts able:  Chan Chi-kong's disabilities do not hinder his drawing talent.

Commuter chic

Commuter chic:  Polytechnic University students Jason Chan and Nicole Chan have turned one of Chi-kong's bus drawings into a stylish fashion design.

Proud dad

Proud dad:  Chi-kong's father Danny Chan says he is happy his son has an opportunity to show his drawing talent.

Inspired determination

Inspired determination:  Sae Lao Boonma has cerebral palsy, but can still draw with his feet.

In vogue

In vogue:  Boonma's instructor Helen Tang is delighted his talent is being recognised by others.

A la mode

A la mode:  Boonma's drawings of orchids, parrots and a cartoon self-portrait have been used to create these vibrant garments.

While disabled people may have difficulty doing some tasks, there are no limits to their potential to create.


Discovering this, fashion design students are using the creations of disabled artists to make vibrant, stylish clothing.


Sae Lao Boonma cannot move his hands. He suffers from cerebral palsy. But the condition has not stopped the 42-year-old from pursuing his love for art.


He started drawing with his feet 17 years ago. It takes him up to two months to complete a picture. He is particularly good at drawing flowers and animals.


A design student from the Polytechnic University Institute of Textiles & Clothing took three of Boonma's drawings of orchids, parrots and a cartoon self-portrait, and turned them into fashion prints for clothes.


Artistic achievement

Helen Tang, Trade Instructor for rehabilitation organisation SAHK, has helped Boonma hone his artistic talent for 24 years. She said she was delighted to see his talent recognised by others.


"Boonma and the student have never met each other before. But their collaborative work shows his best qualities. He draws with his feet. What he has attained is very good. I was very happy on the day I saw his masterpieces."


To give disabled artists more opportunities to showcase their talent, the institute has held the MerryPrint event for the past two years. It allows students to make fashion designs from artwork created by the disabled.


For Boonma, the experience has been a confidence booster. Ms Tang said the programme has given him more motivation to draw.


She said his cautious personality has helped craft his precise drawing skills.


"I asked him to draw Mount Huangshan. He studied photos of all the mountains in China as well as all the rocks and peaks on Mount Huangshan. His research took a whole week."


Creative expression

Boonma said he has thought of giving up his art many times. However, with Ms Tang's encouragement, he eventually overcame his obstacles and found meaning in life through drawing.


Ms Tang said: "He used to tell me he did not know how to draw and could just copy the work of others. But I told him that was not true and only printing machines copy.


"I explained to him where his talent lies. He first looks at a picture, draws it in his own way using his feet, and expresses his thoughts through another medium. Not everybody can do that."


Another beneficiary of the MerryPrint project is 32-year-old Chan Chi-kong who has autism and a moderate intellectual disability. He seldom speaks but he likes drawing, especially buses.


His father Danny Chan said he is happy drawing allows his son to show his talent.


"I never thought his picture of a bus could be printed on clothes."


Art therapy

Danny Chan said his son can be stubborn, but drawing helps focus his concentration and cool his temperament.


He added his son's passion for drawing buses comes from his commutes to school as a child.


"His school provided a bus service, but he often threw tantrums and refused to get on the bus. His classmates boarded the bus but he just sat on the ground. I had to pick him up and take public buses with him instead. He loved looking out of the buses and seeing other vehicles pass by."


One of Chi-kong's bus drawings caught the attention of two Polytechnic University students. They used it to make drafts for fashion prints for him to choose from. But communication was not easy.


One of the students, Jason Chan, said: "The first time we went to the centre to meet Chi-kong, we found that it was very difficult to talk to him. We didn't get any response from him. We tried for (up) to one hour to keep asking him some questions.


"Finally he tried to respond to us, like 'ah ah ah', which means 'this is good'. If (there's) something he didn't think is good, he just pushed it away."


The other student, Nicole Chan, said she was surprised by Chi-kong's talent. His work was eventually used on a dress the students designed.


Jason Chan said: "What Chi-kong draws (is) very colourful. I think he would never think that the picture he draws can (be) turned into a beautiful garment.


"I think this is a good way to let (disabled artists) know, all the things they do are meaningful and also can be turned into a very beautiful thing."


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