As part of interview week on EightSix, we will be speaking to a range of Chinese designers about their motivations, their aspirations and why they design in China. Thanks to Diana Tsai of Bundshop.com for her substantial contribution to these interviews.
“Chinese aesthetics is a poetic romance.” – Heinrich Wang, Master Designer and Founder of NewChi
Heinrich Wang – NewChi porcelain
At first glance, NewChi’s porcelain pieces seem to defy gravity. From the pirouetting Ballet collection to the levitating Imperial Memories teapot, every piece designed by Heinrich Wang seems to be designed from an alternate universe.
And this was exactly his intent: to transform the age-old craft of porcelain-making, and revolutionise a process iterated millions of times throughout history.
Searching for the Chinese Aesthetic
Heinrich Wang started as a movie director, but felt too much disregard of Chinese culture in the film industry. So in 1994 he founded a glass company, Tittot, that led the world to dub him “the father of Chinese modern glass art.” In 2003, he was ready for a new challenge. “Porcelain has lost its dynamism since the Ming and Qing dynasty. Porcelain in China today is stuck in a rut of copying old designs, there’s been no evolution,” explains Heinrich.
So the master glass-maker’s mission shifted to porcelain. “I wanted to introduce something completely new to the world, but rooted in Chinese culture. A new style,” says Heinrich. But this journey was to be long and difficult. He was about to come across many unexpected challenges in executing his vision of innovative production methods on an ancient craft steeped in traditions.
1 Perfect Piece out of 100 Produced
His first step was to seek production for his designs in the workshops of famous pottery villages across China. “I already had a glass factory, and I did not want to open another one for porcelain. It’s a lot of work,” he explained. But during his search, he encountered only traditional methodology and close-mindedness. “Everyone told me it would be impossible to create such complex shapes and angles out of porcelain,” says Heinrich.
But he was fixated on his vision for a new porcelain never before seen by the world. So he resolved to build his own factory. “I spent 8 years perfecting the technique and testing. There were so many failures along the way. We had only a 1% success rate to begin with, meaning we had to create 100 pieces to get a single, perfect result,” Heinrich reflects.
Using the Silhouette teacup as an example, Heinrich explains the intricate details and extreme expertise required to produce the perfection of his products. “The small handle [a perfect square shape with square hole] will shrink in the kiln at a different rate to the rest of the tea cup. We know that most parts will shrink around 15 percent, but the handle may shrink faster than the cup and therefore crack.”
NewChi now has research and manufacturing facilities in Taiwan and mainland China, where Heinrich and his team experiment freely with revolutionary new practices. Through their research, they have managed to increase their success rate to 10 percent of products crafted.
When asked about his products’ high failure rate, Heinrich says it never bothers him. “I accepted it would happen, but I knew that I would be adding something new to the world,” Heinrich adds, “My decision to create NewChi stemmed from my spiritual belief. I have no regrets in this journey to express my own perspective of the world aesthetically and creatively.” This positivity, enthusiasm and determination led to the realisation of NewChi’s first collection a decade after Heinrich first envisioned the company. Today, Heinrich and his team continue to improve on their processes as they seek to show the world the high quality of production China can achieve with experimental research and development.
You can see more of NewChi here.