After dissecting the inspirations theme and exploring the work of next edition’s designer of the year, Sebastian Herkner, it’s time to see who were the six emerging designers picked for Maison et Objet’s rising talents award. This time around, M&O went to China to select half a dozen of the country’s most skilled and brightest designers. This year, the rising talents will be presented by Designchain and the ones chosen were Frank Chou, Chen Furong, Mario Tsai, Hongjie Yang, Ximi Li and Bentu. Originally Published on 10-12-2019
The skilled designers bring innovation and energy to their work, creating creative pieces that have emotional depth. Some prefer a China-centric approach, others have absorbed multicultural influences by studying, working and living abroad. Nevertheless, all of these designers are committed to introducing a new Chinese language of design.
“With the rapid growth of the Chinese economy and the need for a cultural expression of its own, we see a large number of emerging designers that have started to create their own voice that deals with issue of heritage and identity,” explains jury member Lyndon Neri, one of the principals of the renowned architecture and design practice, Neri&Hu.
After graduating from Beijing Forest University, where he majored in Materials Science and Engineering, with a focus on wood science and technology, he travelled between China and Europe, accumulating international industry experience in furniture design, engineering and trade work. It was in 2012 that he set up his own design studio where he creates elegant and functional pieces that best represent contemporary Chinese thinking yet balance the needs of modern and future Oriental lifestyles.
His latest collections portray an increased refinement in design thinking. A minimal yet comfortable Middle chair, inspired by the traditional Chinese bamboo chair; a modular Combo sofa which draws on handmade upholstering processes, bought up-to-date by witty combinations of leather, wool and fabrics; and a geometric Stack table, with its mottled brass colored finishing, which fuses architecture and artistry.
“The design ideas and inspirations originate from deep-seated thoughts about modern and future Oriental lifestyles” – Frank Chou
Furong is the founder of WUU, a brand specialised in offering lighting, furniture and accessories. The brand offers timeless designs and research-driven collections that blend handcrafted techniques with a modernist vision. Furong studied at the Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts and majored in Integrated Design. In 2014, he founded his Xiamen-based studio and often works closely with local craft artists.
WUU’s collections include the streamlined Touchable Light lamps with interlocking components to allow self-adjustment, and beautifully minimal aluminium Morandi vases, inspired by the still life paintings of Italian painter George Morandi. Furniture pieces include the solid yet refined Axis table, processed using a whole piece of aluminium, and the large 2.1m x 1m Blueprint table with its transparent surface and solid aluminium legs.
“The ideal design combines functionality, form, aesthetics and user experience.” – Chen Furong
Mario Tsai graduated from the Beijing Forest University in Furniture Design and Manufacturing. The designer travelled around China and Nepal in order to experience different lifestyles and in 2014, he opened up his own studio. Since then, he has worked with clients from China and Europe as well as participating in international furniture fairs.
With a focus on research and sustainability, Mario’s tactile collections offer a clean, modern aesthetic. Sustainability and material research are key; he is committed to reducing excess material usage and improving both society and the environment through his works which include the aluminium tube-inspired Pig Side Table and the thoughtful, efficient Pure Desk.
“Our designs represent the new design power of contemporary China.” – Mario Tsai
Born and raised in China, Yang studied at the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands, receiving a Master’s Degree in Contextual Design. His powerful works, which explore the divide between nature and culture, the born and the made, have been widely exhibited including in the USA, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and China.
Hongjie’s exquisite pieces appear naturally-formed, but closer inspection shows that technology has also played a role in their creation. His works pair sharp lines with a rubble-like texture that appears to fall away, like a relic from another planet. His aluminum Synthesis Monolith Mirror, Coffee Table and Bench are at once organic and machined; portraying an evolutionary arc starting from a primitive historical context and moving towards a smoother, elegant future.
“Many of my works search for a new class of aesthetics which transcends the divide between the power of human and nature.” – Hongjie Yang
Ximi Li has a Bachelor of Industrial Design from the China Academy of Art and a Master’s Degree in Furniture Design from the Polytechnic University of Milan. He has worked with some of the greatest designers in Italy, including Andrea Branzi and Luca Trazzi, and when he returned to Shanghai, he went on to work with Neri & Hu for six years. It was in 2016 that he launched his own design studio and furniture brand, URBANCRAFT. Ximi Li’s designs are regarded as timeless and often integrate East and West elements.
URBANCRAFT’s product lines include the award-winning stainless steel, leather and oak Jiazhuang (‘dowry’) dressing table inspired by the traditional Chinese jewellery box; the simple yet elegant stainless steel, walnut and mirror Yuan (‘circle’) collection; and the interlocking terrazzo, glass and marble By 3 TV cabinet/ coffee table system.
“My works are influenced by my experiences in different countries and regions, my understanding and feelings towards different cultures, as well as my imagination.” – Ximi Li
Bentu Design was founded by design director Chen Xingyu, Xu Gang, Peng Zeng and Chen XIngguang back in 2011. The studio often works with materials that offer deemed as waste, such as coal cinder, construction waste and bone ash to create incredible furniture, lighting and accessories. The studio is perhaps best knwon for fusion environmentally-firnedly materials with commercial appeal. They have also won a series of awards, including the 2017 Red Dot Design Award.
Bentu’s latest Terrazzo Collection recycles ceramic waste and also offers hope for a sustainable furniture industry in the city of Foshan, the world’s largest ceramic industry hub. The collection looks to the original texture of terrazzo, and uses concrete, leftover stone aggregate and ceramic waste to make items like the Yuan Plantpot and the Tu and Planet Pendant Lamps. Part of the same collection, Bentu’s porcelain aggregate Table offers three sizes of tabletop and five leg heights, in multiple combinations.
“The purpose of design is to discover the important problems existing in human society and to provide solutions.” – Chen Xingyu
This year, the jury will be comprised by experts in the fields of art, design and architecture who are quite knowledgeable about contemporary Chinese design, including Liu Xu (Chairman of China National Interior Decoration Association); Xing Tong He (Former Chief Architect of Shanghai Xian Dai Architectural Design Co. Ltd); Qu Guangci (founder and artistic director of design brand, X+Q Art); Tom Dixon (London-based industrial designer whose global presence is rather strong); Lyndon Neri & Rossana Hu (founders of inter-disciplinary architecture and design practice, Neri&Hu) and Luca Nichetto (Italian industrial designer that operates both in the international and Chinese marketplaces)
As a whole, the six designers are keen on setting new standards of design and living while balancing creativity with commercial demands.
Source: Maison et Objet