China

4 years ago · 7 min read
Wen, Gui Xiang, 45 – carpenter.

“I hate having my picture taken – I get very shy! I love to take pictures though, especially of my grandchildren. My son, his wife and their two kids live here with me. Thankfully, I get on really well with my daughter-in-law. She met my son in Guangdong through matchmakers.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
He, Zhen Jun – joiner.

“I started at the workshop six months ago. I used to work the 700km Guangzhou to Xiamen route as a truck driver. It was exhausting. We did eight-hours-on, eight-hours-off shifts the whole time. The worst part was that I could only come home once a year to visit my wife and son. Now I see […]

4 years ago · 7 min read
Li Wei, 35 – forklift driver.

Li only agreed to having his photo taken if we “made him look handsome”. He has a loud personality and a wide, confident smile. He seemed to enjoy posing.

4 years ago · 7 min read
Zhang Yu Hong, 38 – wood assembler.

“Where I come from in Hebei you can see the Great Wall from my village. It’s 60km away so I never actually went up it that often, but just seeing it there every day, looking down at you, was pretty inspiring. I still remember that view.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Yu, Wei Jin, 41 – finishing expert.

“When I was 13 I started selling ice lollies near my house. I did it every day in the mornings and evenings. I was making Rmb150-200 in profit every month – that was a lot of money then. I used some of the money to help my parents pay for my school fees. With the […]

4 years ago · 7 min read
Sheng, Qun, 43 – wood cutter.

“I’ve got a black dog. He’s a stray breed from the village and is only two-three months old. I call him Baobao, which means baby. It’s pretty appropriate given he basically eats what I eat, and as soon as I’m home he gets all my attention.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Ou, Yi Qing, 44 – wood moisture specialist.

“My wife and I have an agreement that whoever gets home first starts the cooking. I can’t cheat as she works here as well, in the painting department, so she’ll know if I’m just shuffling or detouring on my way home.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Yu, Ren Lin, 57 – carpenter.

“I’ve been a carpenter my whole life. I use to make furniture by hand in my village and people would travel for miles from neighboring villages to put in their requests. Back then, having wooden furniture made was a big event, once in a lifetime for most people, usually when they got married.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Wu, Cong Yan, 39 – Sander.

“I grew up in Guangxi where the air is good and you’re surrounded by mountains. I just loved playing in the mountains. Those kinds of things really inform who you are. We go back to visit once a year.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Luo, Dong Lan, 51 – seamstress.

“I’ve recently become a grandmother. My son is 30 and has an adorable six-month-old daughter. I’m at work all day so his mother-in-law looks after her during the weekdays. Since I only see her on Saturdays and Sundays, I can’t help but spoil her when I do see her.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Xiang, Sheng Qiu, 40 – wood laminator.

“I really admire my eldest daughter. She’s 18 and very studious, especially with science and maths. She doesn’t always get the best results, but she’s calm and patient and she keeps going. I think that’s a great attitude.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Zhu, Ji Hong, 46 – painter.

“I’m happiest when I’m out having fun. I’ve always enjoyed life, and going out with other people more so than staying in. When we go out we do some karaoke, play a bit of mahjong. Do you play mahjong? You should, it’s more fun than cards!”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Shen, Yong Ling, 58 – drawer maker.

“In the past 40 years a lot of things in the world have changed. At the core though, I don’t think I’ve changed very much as a person. I’m still the hard working person I was when I was 18. Work hard – that’s my secret to a good life.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Li, Ya Ping, 28 – treating reclaimed wood.

“I have two men in my life. My six-year-old son is incredibly naughty and just loves to play. And my husband, I nag him a lot. He seems to just deal with it, which is great…for me. What would men do without us?”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Hanh – tracing the Mimi shape.

“My parents were expecting a girl so when I was born, they gave me a girl’s name. I got teased a bit at school because of my name, so I started trying to make everybody laugh. I was as nice to them as possible and it worked – after a few months no-one teased me […]

4 years ago · 7 min read
Hōa, 21 – upholsterer.

“I’m an adventurer. I left home at 14 and have moved from city to city ever since. The country is so boring. I love city life. And because I’m friendly and kind, people like me – so I always make friends easily.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Wang, Jian Bing, 33 – wood carver.

“I love playing computer games like Call of Duty. I’m pretty good at it. I play against other people on the Internet but, if I’m being honest, I prefer playing it outside of online competitions – it’s a form of relaxation to me.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Shanghai streets: where life is lived.

In the tranquil quiet of a restaurant between serving times, a chef sits at a table slowly sipping from his flask of tea. He looks out at the crowds under bright lights in a flourishing city. The streets of Shanghai are alive, and it’s on its streets that so much life is lived.

4 years ago · 7 min read
Zheng, Jing Hua, 40 – wood texture specialist.

“I love to watch singing competition shows on TV. I used to play the horn in a band and I enjoy singing traditional Chinese songs. I always like to think I’m musical but I was never very good. I don’t have a great voice and I’m definitely not going to sing for you right now!”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Yang, Weng Qing, 36 – design tracer.

“I have two kids, a son aged 14 and a daughter aged eight. My son lives in Guizhou with my family. He’s pretty introverted and often when we speak on the phone the conversation stops, and he doesn’t want to say anything more. I guess that’s teenagers, but I still find it sad.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
From time to time: longevity in China.

Just watching her, the movement of her arms and her legs, soft and slow, determined and confident, is hypnotic. Bearing cameras and foreign curiosity, we’re at first concerned that we may be disturbing her. We soon realise she hasn’t registered our presence at all. Such is the power of tai chi – a centuries old […]

4 years ago · 7 min read
Buck, Zeng, 43 – head of QC.

“In my spare time I play a lot of basketball. As you can see, I’m pretty tall. I started playing at university and I still play regularly. These days it’s more about keeping fit and messing around with the boys than playing anything really competitive.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Under the spotlight: treating reclaimed wood.

Stepping under the shade of a veranda, we can hear the swishing of water against the walls of the tank in the washing section of the workshop. In China, the wood found in old, irreparable buildings and houses that are set to be demolished is rescued and reused by the artisan furniture industry. Before it […]

4 years ago · 7 min read
Hand-made from start to finish: crafting the Marylebone desk.

Moving her arm back and forth, the back end of a hammer wrapped around an old nail, Fu Jiao yanks the metal out of the wood plank. Sourced from irreparable homes anywhere between 40 and 100 years old, the reclaimed pine used in the making of the Marylebone desk must be washed, dried, and any […]

4 years ago · 7 min read
Ngân, 29 – upholstery artisan.

“Jade is for protection. I took my bracelet to a Buddhist temple and left it overnight with a monk to be blessed. It’s really necessary – there are lots of ghosts in my hometown. I’ve never seen one but I know people who have. If you see a shadow flying around your head, that’s a […]

4 years ago · 7 min read
Satiated in Shanghai: sampling street food.

Food sizzles, steam rises, we can almost taste the chilli in the air as we make our way through the night market. As with every market we come across, it’s the Ma La Tang – hot pot – with its variety of fresh, skewered meats, fish and vegetables, dipped into flavoursome broth that draws the […]

4 years ago · 7 min read
Under the spotlight: hand-carving the Juliette’s legs.

We recognise the entrance to the carving section of the workshop before it’s pointed out to us. Stacks of legs for our Juliette bench sit piled up on either side of the door, giving it away better than any sign could. They arrive turned, ready for our artisans to artfully carve out the details that give […]

4 years ago · 7 min read
Under the spotlight – obtaining the Juliette’s weathered finish.

It’s quiet in the finishing section of the workshop where our artisan runs a thick paintbrush over the oak frame of a Gustavian-style Juliette bench, covering it in a pristine white. It’s the first step in a finishing process that results in one of the defining characteristics of this late 18th century Swedish design movement […]