Claire Yates is the founder of The Lion Rock Press, a stationery specialist that prints greeting cards, gift wrapping paper, and trinkets that are very much inspired by the sights and sounds of Hong Kong. She tells us about life in the SAR, from her Point of View.
A Family Affair
My Chinese Great-Grandfather started our paper business more than 100 years ago. He started by printing import and export documents for shipping merchants from his Pottinger Street shop, which was, of course, the waterfront in those days. His sons, my 88-year-old grandfather and his brothers, still work every day in the office, and we are all inspired by the lessons they teach us about hard work and commitment. I wasn’t involved in the family business until I moved back to Hong Kong in my thirties to have a family.
The Good Ol’ Days
I grew up here, but I was sent to boarding school in England at 12 years old. My Grandparents lived on Price Edward Road. I used to love to play on the roof of their building and see the airplanes come in to land at Kai Tak. You could actually see people in the windows, it would get so close — it was always such a thrill. On that same rooftop, there were always ducks hanging up to dry.
I loved to ride my little trike around. Our family driver had a myna bird in a cage, and he would let us feed it live crickets. He was also chief rat catcher… nobody was so bothered about health and safety back then. We felt very free, and we were able to travel independently from a young age.
For Better or Worse
My 88-year-old grandma came to Hong Kong in the early 50s on a Cunard boat, and she’s seen dramatic change here, both good and bad. She laments the loss of independent shops in favor of malls and supermarkets, but marvels at the public transport system — especially the MTR. In the 80s, she would sell Christmas cards for the Samaritans, so she’s very adept at folding and packing cards. She seems to have lost very little of her energy, and she helped me pack 40,000 cards in a couple of weeks at the beginning of this season, despite having rheumatoid arthritis in both hands. My biggest critic, she will always let me know if she doesn’t like a design. I enjoy it when she has to fold another few hundred of a design that she didn’t like, because it sells out! Ha!
Fast and Furious
Hong Kong amazes me every day, and I never tire of the energy and dynamism that the city has: it’s a landscape that is constantly changing. It is not a city for people who like a quiet life, with no change! Speaking of dynamism, I particularly love watching the bamboo scaffoldings go up, and I appreciate the philosophy behind using that method.
Another thing I find cool is that we’re basically living on a mountain of pristine jungle — there are millions of us living in high-rises on the mountainside. I love that I can walk to work in the city in 10 minutes, and a 10-minute walk in the other direction brings me to nature. Last week I saw a pair of porcupines, a wild boar and a snake! You don’t get that in London.
Live and Learn
I love to speak to the elderly who take on menial jobs like street sweeping or recycling collection – they are always cheerful and hardworking. One of my favorite people is an octogenarian who walks around my area singing a little chant asking people to bring their knives out for sharpening. I go out and give him my knives once a month, whether they need sharpening or not. I’m in awe of his work ethic.
Big City Problems
Hong Kong suffers from the same issues as every other big city: overcrowding, pollution and traffic. But honestly, I can’t complain because I think that the positives of living here so vastly outweigh the negatives. For example, it is very safe here. That is of utmost importance to me.
Some Things Never Change
I’m very fond of the Star Ferry, which is one of the only things that has remained completely unchanged for as long as I can remember. As soon as I board, the smell and the feel of the ferry are overwhelmingly nostalgic. A cross-harbor trip on the Star Ferry will never get old. I used its image for the first greeting card I ever produced, which is still the top seller four years on.