More on Li Naihan

On June 21, 2012 by Design China

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Unique fur­ni­ture designer, Li Nai­han, first appeared on Design China in Octo­ber 2011 with her Crates series. We caught up with her this month to find out what she has been con­coct­ing more recently.

What are you work­ing on right now?

I am jug­gling a few things: I am con­tin­u­ing to develop my Crates and Fold series (the lat­ter was released ear­lier this year) by exper­i­ment­ing with dif­fer­ent mate­ri­als and col­lab­o­rat­ing with other design­ers such as Nick Wu.

I have a num­ber of ideas for new projects too; for exam­ple, devel­op­ing a dig­i­tal fur­ni­ture col­lec­tion that inter­acts with both the user and its envi­ron­ment. I also want to explore an old Chi­nese con­cept that involves shrink­ing iconic archi­tec­ture into fur­ni­ture and, sub­se­quently, explor­ing the idea of own­ing some­thing iconic. The process will be quite exper­i­men­tal whilst the result­ing fur­ni­ture will be moulded to fit the buy­ers’ ego.

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I’ve also recently estab­lished an inno­va­tion lab with fel­low cre­ative, Ben­jamin Bacon. Finally, Caochangdi (where I am based) is also an offi­cial hotspot for Bei­jing Design Week (BJDW) this year, so we are putting together a really excit­ing pro­gramme for it.

Migra­tion is a huge topic in China. How have peo­ple reacted to your Crates and Fold series, which deal with related issues?

It’s funny because I cre­ated these lines as a response to my own migra­tory expe­ri­ences. Oth­ers, how­ever, have man­aged to find new and alter­na­tive mean­ings in the works. In a sense, I have adopted quite an artis­tic approach to work­ing: throw my idea out there, wait for peo­ple to react, and then develop a new prod­uct in response. On the whole, it has been very positive.

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How does your back­ground in archi­tec­ture influ­ence what you do now?

I think I am more open to exper­i­ment­ing. The con­cept and lan­guage of archi­tec­ture is very broad now and every­thing has become a tool for expres­sion. Work­ing in the prac­ti­cal world of archi­tec­ture is really bor­ing and not cre­ative at all; on the other hand, my processes are all about learn­ing. I per­ceive fur­ni­ture as small-scale architecture.

How do you feel about star­chi­tects and the archi­tec­ture world in gen­eral?

Both star­chi­tects and build­ings are needed. You need to be an ego­ma­niac in order to be an archi­tect and you have to invest in your­self in order to become famous. But every­one ben­e­fits from this pyra­mid: star­chi­tects pro­mote the dis­ci­pline to a wider audi­ence, which assists the younger gen­er­a­tion since pro­mot­ing the indus­try as a whole gen­er­ates a path.

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You grew up in a very unique atmos­phere. Can you tell us more about this?
Both of my par­ents were cre­ative in one way or another: my father was a com­poser, and my mother was a dancer. Many cre­ative peo­ple (poets, artists, musi­cians etc) con­gre­gated in Bei­jing, so I was exposed to this envi­ron­ment from a very young age. I was also prob­a­bly the only kid brought up in a film stu­dio. Grow­ing up in a stage set­ting meant that I made up my own world and became quite the exhibitionist!

You pre­vi­ously men­tioned that Caochangdi will play a large part in BJDW this year. How do you feel about pre­vi­ous BJDW events?
Last year was chaotic — but it was also great. With­out gov­ern­ment sup­port, no one pays atten­tion to any­thing here. How­ever, I see more and more young peo­ple tak­ing part in the local design indus­try now, and design edu­ca­tion is chang­ing. Those from an inter­na­tional back­ground are help­ing to inject into the design scene here, and Chi­nese youths that are edu­cated abroad are now com­ing back to search for oppor­tu­nity. Right now, we have the right envi­ron­ment and the right peo­ple – it’s the right moment for every­thing to happen!

For more infor­ma­tion, please visit Li Naihan’s offi­cial web­site.

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