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Talkshop 14: Baconroll Handmade

Baconroll Handmade is run by husband and wife team CJ Gan and Julia Taslim who upcycle broken junk into functioning furniture. Like taking an old luggage bag and turning it into a chair. Which is exactly what Baconroll did.

I met with CJ at their home where he does some of the lighter wood work in the porch. He was trying to figure out how to turn an old broken kids’ car into a tank for his daughter, and decided to put it on hold for awhile to chat.

After he showed off some of his early sketches and explained how he dreamt of upcycling an abandon building into a self-sustaining living quarters, I realised Baconroll Handmade is really a means for CJ to materialise his insanity…

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How did you guys get started with Baconroll Handmade?

It started almost a year and a half ago. It’s me and my wife. We go online and we’d see cool stuff on Pinterest and realised that we could do it ourselves. Then there was the time when we were just driving around and we saw that people dump furniture that just had minor damages. We figured why not just take it home, sand it down and we could fix it ourselves. That’s how it started.

The first project was a small bench for us to sit on while we got started on the actual project of sanding down that old furniture. It was made out of an old bed frame.

We found this luggage bag on the side of the road one day. It was in perfect condition, we couldn’t figure out why people would throw it out. We took it home, and stacked it on top of an old wooden stool when we thought ‘hey, this looks like a chair.’ From then on we kept doing research and looking for research and moved forward.

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Did you guys have a background in building stuff before Baconroll?

Not really. I built miniature models, and that was as far as I went before starting this whole thing. The fun part about upcycling is that it’s just mixing things. It’s a lot of playing around of combining things and finding something that’s functional.

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What is your process like when you design new furniture?

Whenever ideas come to me I just sketch it out. It’s easier to work when I actually have the material with me first though, so that I can work out the measurements but I try not to limit myself to what’s at hand.

For the luggage chair, I only had the bag at first. And I couldn’t figure out how to make the legs until I found this antique chair by the side of the road. I just combine it together, but there’s no structural integrity to it [laughs].

But it’s also our most asked about item, so we’re in the middle of creating a more structurally sound version that we can actually sell.

Do you guys take custom orders?

For now most of the stuff we create are our own designs but we do take custom jobs. Jaya One was one of our first major custom jobs. We built 4 benches for them out of old wood from kampung houses.

How do people react to the fact that they’re all used items?

People respond to it really well, actually. They like that it’s upcycling, but when they see the price they think twice. The rationale behind it is they think it should be cheap because we get the material for free.

There’s actually a long process behind it that people don’t seem to understand. We have to make sure the structure is sound and it has to go through treatment. A lot of time is spent into making sure it’s usable and functional.

It’s all really to remind people that they don’t necessarily have to throw things out just because it’s broken. We should be aware of our consumption.

Are all your items 100% upcycled?

Certain things have to be new. Like the plastic crate, it would be gross if you were to upcycle plastic crates you find at restaurants because they use it to carry produce and meat. But we do try to make it as close to a hundred percent as possible.

Do you have any dream item that you’ve always wanted to upcycle?

I’m actually looking for a bath tub. Not those built-in ceramic bath tub, but like those carbon fiber stand-alone ones. But those are hard to find in Malaysia. I want to saw it in half and make a sofa out of it.

How did you guys get into upcycling in the first place?

We’re into upcycling, but we’re also into DIY stuff. Even our wedding party was almost fully DIY. Upcycling just because we feel that people like to waste. We always see people throwing out things with minor damage.

It’s not only about being creative. It’s about lifestyle. A family doesn’t need 3 iPads. You don’t have to change your furniture every couple of years. I think people are generally getting sick of mass production shit and are turning to smaller refined stores where people do one thing, but they do that one thing well.

Is it a full-time thing for you guys?

My wife and I have full-time jobs so we only work on weekends and when we’re free. It’s crazy lah, because the night before we participate in bazaars we won’t sleep. Or the entire month we’ll be stressed out gila babas, working till late at night working on building this stuff.

Last but not least, why the name Baconroll?

It’s the best food in the world, man. That’s basically how we came up with the name. My wife was making prawn bacon rolls and I was like ‘yeaaaah… Baconroll, man!” But people keep getting confused, thinking we sell food.

Baconroll Handmade is currently participating at Pop by Jaya One where they have a booth for the next three months. You can find out more about Baconroll Handmade on their official Facebook page.