Photo credit: YOUTHOPIA

Carving his own path: A leather craftsman’s tenacity

Contrary to the fantasy of being self-employed, leather craftsman Xie Hui shares that turning your hobby into a career isn’t always rainbows and butterflies.

Charlotte Chang

You’ll never meet anyone who loves thriller movies more than her.

Published: 8 April 2022, 10:39 AM

As the popular saying goes, “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” However, leather craftsman Xie Hui disagrees. 

The 34-year-old believes pursuing your hobby as your career requires far more sacrifice and discipline than any nine-to-five job. But, despite the struggles, Xie Hui is not regretting his choice to pursue his career as it has brought him fulfilment. 

Xie Hui first picked up leather crafting as a hobby when he was still schooling at LASALLE College of the Arts. 

After classes, he would read up on leather crafting through Japanese magazines at Kinokuniya or camp out at workshops to watch the old-timers do their work. 

He would then create his own products and sell them to retail stores and through online listings.


Back then, Xie Hui did not have much resources to learn from. Today, he hopes to teach aspiring leather craftsmen through his workshops. GIF CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA


Upon completion of his National Service, Xie Hui went into crafting leather full-time and has been at it ever since.

His company Stone For Gold, founded in 2008, specialises in custom-made leather products such as watch straps, key fobs and accessories.

“I put in a lot of different kinds of elements into it to make it special,” he says. “For example, I’ve been doing [something like] a UV-paint effect on the leather itself to give it a special effect.”

Describing his style as “tribal punk” and “not very conventional”, Xie Hui admits that he enjoys adding these little details to his works to make his customers feel special and valued.

✈️🇺🇸Custom patina finished strap for our customer’s Patek Philippe, managed to achieved a satisfying result on end...

Posted by StoneForGold on Tuesday, April 5, 2022

However, as much as he enjoys his craft, he also admits that it’s a line of work that requires a lot more effort than your average deskbound job.

As one of the pioneers of the local leather crafting market, a lot of research and development has to be done to come up with new products. The process would involve many rounds of trial and error. 

But even then, it’s difficult to create a demand for these products, Xie Hui shares. As leather crafting is a very niche market in Singapore, there isn’t exactly a widespread demand for it.


The process of creating the leather products is one that is personalised. Xie Hui would factor in the wishes of his customers while also providing his own recommendations. GIF CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA


Things became especially challenging in 2021 at the height of the pandemic. The regulations and measures would mean that he could not hold any workshops or seminars.

“We didn’t get a lot of corporate or government jobs,” he says. “We had to channel our main focus to selling products and how to serve customers better.

“It required me to pull out the artist part of me to become a more business person.” 

Turning a hobby into a career requires lots of sacrifice and discipline, more so than being a white-collar worker, says Xie Hui.

“I do craft because I don’t want to have a nine to five job,” he shares. “I don’t want to work for other people, I want to work for myself. I want to create something of my own.”

“But over the years, I’ve realised that for you to have a stable job stream, or for you to be a successful business owner, that requires a lot of hours of work and more discipline than [a nine to five job].”

As someone with a career in the local arts scene, and a very niche one at that, Xie Hui cautions aspiring business owners about the rocky road ahead.

“Do not take this as an easy way out,” he says. “There are a lot of things you need to handle when you decide to make your hobby into a business.” 

Xie Hui is not much different from the youth that took the leap of faith to turn leather crafting into a career. He’s just older, wiser and more mature from all that he’s been through.

“Life is about going through ups and downs,” he says. “I would say not [to] give up. That’s what I’m doing right now. I didn’t give up.”

“[This job] brings me different kinds of opportunities… that you definitely don’t get out of a nine-to-five job.”

In spite of all obstacles Xie Hui had to manoeuvre in this journey, he doesn’t regret it one bit, and if anything, embraces his job more because of the struggles he’s been through.

“I feel like if you want to do what you like… you should definitely do it.”

You may like these