Formerly a creative director, Ho wanted to enrich his life with new experiences. So he put his career in advertising on hold to devote himself to his hobby, knife design.
It’s been three years since he set up JHO Knives but Ho still relishes every opportunity to craft a knife that’s both fine-looking and functional. When not sharpening a blade, he sharpens his creativity by trawling through the Internet for ideas.
You design knives for a living. How cool!
I’ve never felt that what I do is cool. But it’s satisfying being able to build a brand, create products and share with others what I’ve learnt. For instance, when I started using social media to promote my business, I watched it like a hawk. The first time one of my videos had 100,000 views, I couldn’t stop saying to my wife, “My video went viral, people are sharing!” It was awesome!
What about designing and producing knives inspires you?
I love the entire process — designing, prototyping, and working with manufacturers and craftsmen. I resist the urge to over-design while trying to avoid what everyone else is doing, so it’s a very fine line to walk. I never know how well the knives are received until they are launched. But challenges like these inspire me to keep pursuing my craft.
Why are you so fascinated with knives?
A pocket knife is the quintessential tool. It offers so many possibilities in terms of design; I can over-engineer it, put in ceramic bearings, include a complicated locking mechanism, or make it really basic. Always carry a knife, just in case you want to share some cheesecake, but never threaten anyone with it.
Your favourite from the JHO catalogue?
GS2, a pocket flip knife that’s so understated and minimalist. It has zero curves — almost inconceivable in knife design. Yet it feels great in the hand, and looks modern and badass at the same time. It is inspired by straight razors, Art Deco and Brutalism.
As a kid, you enjoyed playing with knives. Would you allow your one-year-old son to play with them?
I remember cutting up fruits and hurting myself a few times. The most important thing about handling knives is control. Knives are tools; the more practice you get, the more control you have over them. So, as soon as my boy develops muscles and coordination, I will teach him knife skills.
You shared in an interview that truly creative people often have opposing thoughts in their head. Is that a good thing?
Yes, because opposing thoughts often inspire different solutions to the same problem. It’s taught me that nobody has the absolute answer to anything, and that it’s okay to share my thoughts with others.
Read more about Singapore’s other creative minds here.
This story first appeared in the September issue of A.