Johnson Lam is a KakiDIY through and through.
Many Malaysians have made the country proud in many fields, from sports to business and science. A local name renowned for being inventive when it comes to toys is Cheong Choon Ng, who inadvertently created the Rainbow Loom while playing with his children. However, there’s another inventor in town who deserves just as much recognition – Johnson Lam.
The man behind many do-it-yourself programmes such as KakiDIY and MakerLab, Johnson Lam is well-renowned within the local DIY community and beyond for being a flagbearer for the movement that encourages everyone to be hands on with the devices around them.
A visionary, Johnson Lam has had the inventive spirit in him since young, as many successful people do.
“I come from a small family in a kampong area and I didn’t have a lot of toys and stuff like that while growing up. So I would just pick up whatever I can find and turn them into toys. Other times if I had toys and I came to realise that they are the same as everybody else’s I would immediately start modifying them. Sometimes when my toys or other things failed, I would go and find some other resources to use as a spare part to fix them back.”
“I am also terribly crazy over cars,” he admits with a chuckle. “At one point I started modifying my very old car using industrial junks and shared in detail the process on car forums online. That’s when people started calling me the DIY King. My modifications were quite out there too. One time I took air-conditioning systems that people threw out and attached them to a car, so that the car is cooled down without affecting the horsepower – which can now be fully used to increase the vehicle’s performance. Soon after I was being interviewed by car magazines and they wanted me to write content for them too.”
“That got me thinking, why limit sharing my knowledge just to cars? That’s when I began to work on other aspects of DIY and eventually started KakiDIY. Initially people were apprehensive as they thought it was not ‘cool’ to make or upscale your own things but when we made our own 3D printer and started creating 3D-printed items they came around. “
Now, KakiDIY serves as a platform for makers of various interests to convene and generate ideas, be it of the charitable or entrepreneurial kind. A programme that was generated through the platform is Kaki Repair, which gives everyone the opportunity to fix their own belongings.
“It is a movement where you actually let people teach you how to repair your things. For example, if you have something that is spoilt and you don’t know how to fix it, just bring it in during a Kaki Repair session and there will be community members who will diagnose the problem before repairing it alongside you. The motive of the programme is for you to actually learn to diagnose and repair your own items,” says Johnson.
Even the movement’s physical location at The Garage KL simply screams DIY, as every aspect of the multi-purpose building has been reused, recycled and repurposed, reflecting what the movement stands for.
As for Makerlab, it is an upcycling makerspace created by the local makers’ community to encourage learning, creation, innovation and invention using readily-available resources. Spearheaded by KakiDIY, makers carry out classes and workshops ranging from arts and craft, STEM, Coding, Electronics, Woodcrafts, Pottery, Sewing, 3D Printing and more in MakerLAB. Although various self-sufficient MakerLabs exist, the most prominent edition is located in The School at Jaya One.
These novel ideas are just some of the many events organised by KakiDIY. The platform also works very closely with various multi-national companies to organise team-building activities to help staff members to foster a sense of belonging.
“Honestly, the best thing you can do is make something that is useful in your daily life. So, when people who work in offices for more than half of their life build something by themselves, there is a sense of achievement in that,” explains Johnson. Indeed, the positive outcome of building something on your own has been recognised by various industry heavyweights, including Axiata, Maxis, and Petronas.
“But it is also important to foster this awareness of upcycling and the curiosity to innovate since young. That’s why at KakiDIY we also organise a lot of events for children and we can make it fun to capture their attention,” Johnson reveals further.