#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
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
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
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 – 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 […]

4 years ago · 7 min read
Chen, Da Qi, 37, carpenter.

“I have a lot of respect for my older brother. My parents couldn’t support us when we were young, so he took charge of the family and held us together. It wasn’t always easy for him.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Qian, Jing, 59, reclaimed wood buyer.

“I fancy myself as a little bit of a historian. I think that’s what led me here. Most of the reclaimed woods used in furniture are 40 years old. Sometimes even a hundred. And every piece has a story behind it.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Tell us about your tattoo.

Nguyen turns his forearm towards himself and looks at the heart being punctured by an arrow. “It’s for love, I think, I can hardly remember. It was done a really long time ago when I was 19 and a soldier.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
How did you meet your wife?

Hong Bo grins. “I come from the local area but my wife grew up in a province far away from here. We were set up by her sister who worked nearby, she invited my wife to stay with her and that’s how we met.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Under the spotlight: the driftwood effect.

Jing Hua appreciates having a workstation beneath the workshop window. “I just like to have that little bit of extra light. With this particular job, it helps if you can see every groove.” The arms for the Karla armchair sit beside Jing Hua, who’s responsible for the oak frame’s weathered texture. He refers to it […]

4 years ago · 7 min read
Do you have any children?

“I have one daughter,” Xing Ping tells us. Then, smiling playfully, he holds up his index finger, making his point clear – “She’s a naughty one!”

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

Piles of neatly stacked planks of oak stand like towers, spreading across the workshop. Artisans weave in and around them as they cross the workshop floor and we do the same. “It’s strong, hardwearing,” our carpenter tells us as he slides a plank out from the pile. Calling over a colleague, together they carry the […]

4 years ago · 7 min read
What are you most proud of?

“The most difficult colour problem I had to solve,” Kou Tian tells us as he paints the frame of our Karla armchair. “I had to create two very specific colours using water-soluble paint when we’d just started using them. They’re both colours we use today and I’m pretty proud of that.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love to watch Kung Fu movies, especially the classic ones.” He narrows his eyes and cocks his head, slightly. “The new ones are good but Li Xiao Long” – he uses the traditional name for the man we know as Bruce Lee – “is still my favourite.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Upcycled style: a burgeoning desire for reclaimed wood.

Furniture makers, decorators, artists and antique dealers come from all over the province of Zhejiang to the wood market in Shangyu, China. It’s like a small wooden town on the edge of the city where twenty vendors, each with their own outdoor area, can sell their wares.

4 years ago · 7 min read
Artisans around the world: China and Vietnam.

Our journey continues. Our blog expedition takes us around the world visiting the workshops where our pieces are made, recognising the skill of the artisans who craft them. From the North of India with its pink mountains and dry terrain, to the tropical South with its palm trees and scenic coastline, we now head easterly […]