It Changed My Life

It Changed My Life: From gangster to potter who helps at-risk youth

Once a violent gangster and a ketamine user and peddler, Kim Whye Kee, 39, was imprisoned three times. But after his father died, he turned over a new leaf and is now an acclaimed potter.
Mr Kim with his mother Foo Sai Fang in 2008. Though his parents divorced when he was 11, his mum did not fight for the flat so her kids would have a permanent roof over their heads. But that was not to be. Mr Kim Whye Kee, 39, in his pottery studio.
Mr Kim Whye Kee, 39, in his pottery studio. It all started with a three-month basic pottery course before he was released from prison in 2008. Last month, he staged his first solo exhibition - Tea, Pottery, Temenggong. He has helped start two outreach programmes to assist at-risk boys and those from difficult family backgrounds in Taman Jurong.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES
Mr Kim with his mother Foo Sai Fang in 2008. Though his parents divorced when he was 11, his mum did not fight for the flat so her kids would have a permanent roof over their heads. But that was not to be. Mr Kim Whye Kee, 39, in his pottery studio.
Mr Kim with his mother Foo Sai Fang in 2008. Though his parents divorced when he was 11, his mum did not fight for the flat so her kids would have a permanent roof over their heads. But that was not to be. PHOTO: COURTESY OF KIM WHYE KEE
Mr Kim receiving a Taman Jurong commendation award for community service in 2009 from Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who also signed this picture for him.
Mr Kim receiving a Taman Jurong commendation award for community service in 2009 from Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who also signed this picture for him.PHOTO: COURTESY OF KIM WHYE KEE

He helps at-risk youth and has own pottery studio after he turns his life around with clay

Kim Whye Kee's voice becomes increasingly animated when he talks about the intricacies of brewing gongfu tea, which originated in Chaozhou in eastern Guangdong, China.

He speaks authoritatively on different blends, pots and cups, water temperature and brewing time.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 12, 2018, with the headline 'Ex-gang leader moulds a new future'. Print Edition | Subscribe