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Interview with Nicolas ChengMonday 15 December 2014
Nicolas Cheng who was born in Hong Kong in 1982 but lives and works in Stockholm nowadays. Graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven in 2006 before receiving his master’s degree in Jewelry & Corpus at Konstfack in 2010. Nicolas has an interdiscplinary background ranging from interior architecture to product design to contemporary art jewelry. Walking on the edges of art, craft and design, he is interested to cross boundaries, merge different knowledge, skills and tools in order to create hybrid languages. In 2007, he was artist in residence at FABRICA, the Communication Beseech Center of Benetton Group in Treviso in Italy. Since 2000 his work has been shown internationally at Milan Salone del Mobil, Design Miami/Basel, PAD Paris/London, Dutch Design Week, London Design Festival, Sanit-Etienne Design Biennale and Schmuck(Munich).
Read our interview where he reveals a bit more about him-self.
A · Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am an artist and designer based in Stockholm.
I am originally from Hong Kong; I moved to Europe to pursue my studies and have been living in London, Eindhoven and Treviso, before finally setting up my practice in Sweden.
At the moment my practice focuses on design and art jewelry. I work both on individual projects and collaborative ones, like the ongoing research Conversation Piece, which I initiated together with my partner Beatrice Brovia in 2011, where we sound out the potential of contemporary craft in relation to other fields too, like the design and art field. I’ m interested in crossing boundaries, merging knowledge and skills, creating hybrid languages.
B · What’s your favourite part of the design process?
I often like to start from what I don’ t know, challenge myself with unexpected materials and techniques.
I like to take care and confront myself with every aspect of the design process: from the physical making of the try-outs and prototypes, to the communication of the project through publications and website, to the presentation in space. It is a holistic approach: every aspect is equally important, carefully thought out. The thinking and the making have to go hand in hand and have equal value.
I enjoy to work hands on, producing unique pieces or limited series. I consider myself a designer and craftsman at once. By controlling the process thoroughly, I can be sure the quality, the details and the evocative power of the design stays intact and true. I am inspired from the past when things and their making-process were more simple and sustainable: local materials, resources, methods were used and the craftsman was designer, artist and producer all at once. I tend to produce all I can by myself and my process is really material-driven: I experiment a lot with materials and allow them to surprise me. At the same time, if some projects require working side-by side with others, like craftsmen who can offer deeper insights and expertise, I’m very happy to start a dialogue, sharing knowledge and ideas, finding new solutions.
C · Please tell us more about your art and design background and what made you become an artist and designer?
Perspective and line, pencil drawings were my first fascination, what prompted me to study interior architecture when I was still in high school.
I remember the pleasure in setting up the desk with my drawing tools, a small ritual before the process started. Learning how to build and read a space, line after line, always relying on my tools.
I first went to London to study interior architecture and subsequently enrolled for a Bachelor in product design at the Design Academy Eindhoven. I then spent a year as artist in residence at Fabrica, Italy, before taking my Master degree in Jewellery and Corpus from Konstfack University in Stockholm, in 2010.
Throughout my education, I have been working across scales and dimensions and this flexibility is something really important to me, when I approach new projects.
D · Where do you get inspiration?
I am most inspired by the everyday, the banality of objects we often take too for granted. Most of my inspiration comes from conversations I share with those close to me. I like to visit quite a few antique and flea markets in Stockholm, together with huge hardware stores…
E · What was the movie or book that impressed you the most?
Adolf Loos, Ornament and Crime and the latest book by Glenn Adamson, The invention of craft.
F · Can you describe your style, how has that style developed over the years?
I don ‘t think there is a certain style. I’ d rather say it is a sensibility that has evolved and sharpened. When I started working, functionality would define the course of a project. Today the emotional aspect in my work is much more valuable to me.
G · What are you working on at the moment?
A few collaborative projects developed for Galerie Caroline Van Hoek from Brussels. Some of these projects will be presented in Basel in June at Design Miami/Basel.
H · For you what makes a product rare?
Material sensibility, technology as well as the emotional value that the maker or the owner invest in the piece. It is never about the actual material value.
I · What would people be surprised to learn about you?
That I might be a chef one day.
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