Every once in a while, EightSix comes across a designer with a refreshing way of thinking about design, but whilst keeping their roots with China. A great example of this is Qiyun Deng from Foshan, who currently resides in Switzerland. We caught up with Qiyun to talk about her work and Chinese design.
Hello Qiyun, where have you come from and how did you end up in Lausanne, Switzerland?
I was born and raised in Foshan. My only interest since I was young was art and I was lucky enough to go to The Affiliated High School of Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts at the age of 16, where I had a great time drawing and painting constantly. But then I realised I was more interested in applied arts and designing objects – this seemed a lot more fun to me, so later I joined the Industrial Design department at the same academy.
Having graduated this summer, are you currently working in a studio or freelancing?
I graduated in July and now I’m a freelance designer in Lausanne. But it’s hard to predict where I’m going to continue my design work at the moment although I’m thinking going back to China.
You studied in Switzerland for your masters – why was this? Was China not an option?
Studying at ECAL (University of Art and Design Lausanne) was refreshing for me. The masters course pushes you to be an independent professional. We started collaborations which were ready to go commercial with big names such as Cassina, Vitra and Baccarat.
I think going overseas to learn design is definitely an efficient way of studying in terms of systematical theories and the established design platform they have, but knowing how design interacts with industry in China is also important because it’s different to the outside world.
People typically say that Chinese education from a young age does not allow you to be creative – is this true? How are you creative?
It’s true that exam-orientated education limits our creative potency. But that’s not the whole story; maybe it’s more related to family education or the experiences one has been through. For me the situation was easier because I didn’t have much pressure at school and my parents are democratic, I was encouraged to do things that truly interested me.
Who inspires you – any Chinese designers or international designers?
I felt anxious about the status of female designers so I have always been keeping an eye on them. For example – Front – the design group from Sweden are very brave and avant-garde; Hella Jongerius always inspires me by her unique perspective; but Inga Sempé is my favorite because of the balance of poetry and commercialisation in her works.
Where do you hope to be in 10 years time?
I hope to have an atelier in China and be capable of working with clients both domestic and overseas. I also wish to participate in social activities to magnify the value of design. For instance, in rural areas now, there are architects building low-cost houses and engineers helping with educational programmes.
Graft is a series of disposable tableware made of bioplastic PLA revealing its source materials – the plants. Each utensil and bowl is a reminder that these parts of nature are full of texture and form can be utilised for another purpose – a celery stem works as the handle for a fork, petals from an artichoke become a spoon. By waking both visual and haptic sensations it asks the question: Will you throw them away so easily?
Vendôme is a teamwork project with my classmate Joséphine Choquet collaborating with French crystal boutique Baccarat to conceive a “low cost” range of lamps highlighting their know-how and aesthetics. We took the name from Paris’ haute couture jewelry district. Vendôme is a modular series consisting of a table lamp, a wall lamp and a pendant lamp. It gives users the freedom to sculpt light according to their mood.
Soft Pack is a collaboration with Italian brand Cassina to renovate a new sofa based on an existing structure. My inspiration comes from the eastern method of fabric packaging, like Zong-zi, which uses only a piece of cloth to cover the whole surface. The high armrest is a feature formed by way of folding and builds up into the corner like a nest. In early 2012 Soft Pack was selected for exhibition and now is under development in their office.
Finger Play is a project collaborating with Swiss brand Maison Cailler. A cutter and tweezers were developed for tasting chocolates and refer to finger gestures and delicate objects like musical instruments and jewellery. They invite you to play with and celebrate the joy of eating chocolate.