Thesis Weekly Blog Post #2

Old thesis intention from last year: my thesis will explore how historical and cultural objects that inspire an emotional response through furniture.

Week 2:

Warm-up question:

What are some of the questions you ask yourself as you work?

·      Design has to be balanced, elegant, attractive.

·      Manage my time efficiently.

·      Pay attention to details on both design and fabrication.

·      Each step is correct, finish it in a fastest way.

Think of your work as a question. What does it ask? What does the work do?

·      How much is it? What information does it transmit? What style of design is it? Who made it? How it was made? How long it takes? What kind of quality does it have? The work should answer my identity as a Chinese furniture designer and maker who is influenced by western culture, and present the work in my design perspective and fabrication quality.

What is the question most posed by others about your work?

·      Interesting, beautiful, creative, contemporary, attention to detail, quality.

From the week 2 workshop, by proposing and answering questions, the instructor has helped me to narrow down some key words from my last year thesis proposal: culture (tradition, Chinese), emotion (feeling, personal, autobiographical, memory, experience), heirloom (timeless, passed along, quality) and nostalgia (journey, narrative).

IMG_20180926_213632 (1).jpg

I drew connections between these words, and came up the idea about the emotion response to the traditional Chinese cultural heritage in the contemporary culture and further developed into “To explore the future of traditional Chinese cultural heritage in contemporary culture”. From my perspective, there is an emotional bond to preserve heirloom tradition in cultural aspect. I believe the spectrum of the cultural heritage is narrower than historical object, and it is easier to pick and develop to furniture, because they are still existing and contain very rich history.

Concept Container


Create a vessel which is a physical representation of either your aesthetic, theoretical framework or an aspect of your thesis.


Students will be asked to create a physical concept of a container which will relate to either their design aesthetic, a specific theory, or an aspect of their thesis. The object must be rendered in physical materials to showcase the conceptual theories behind its form and materialities. Personal design aesthetic must be addressed in the presentation of your object. This is an exercise in time management and understanding successful deliverables within a specific timeframe. While the fabrication of the containers will be considered in the marking breakdown, it is more important to focus on choosing the appropriate materials to have a 3D example of the concept to present to the class the following week.

The concept containers will be considered for overall form and aesthetics in regard to your practice and/or thesis.

几(ji)Box. Thesis design challenge 1... "Ji" in Chinese means furniture, this design uses the simple line to represent the character 几, furniture. Material choice blackened oak and inlayed with brass.

Week 3:

Over the week, I debated between the context of Chinese traditional cultural heritage and intangible cultural heritage ( Later, I wrote my thesis intention on to explore the future of traditional Chinese intangible cultural heritage (ICH)in contemporary culture through furniture.


My concept section will be focusing on using examples to discuss the important value of ICH within Chinese culture and to answer the question of how we legally preserve these precious cultures in the contemporary world. ICHs are the forms of heirloom, as it is a Chinese tradition, how do we ensure to pass them along to the next generations. From the generation to generation, a strong emotion bond fuels the heirloom tradition, and it have made us who we are (identity). Moreover, I am going to address my perspective about the relationships between the traditional heritage craft and the contemporary craft, contrast them in the micro and macro levels. In the past decades, China have been known as the world factory, what does the Made in China mean to the ICH? I am going to illustrate and explain the relationship and differences between the ICH craft and the contemporary manufactory. As a Chinese designer and furniture maker who both educated and lived in eastern and western culture for very long time, it is very interesting for me to talk about the meaning of ICH to me and what does is affect my design. More importantly, I think culture is always changing, so does the ICH, we need to find a creative and innovative path that could keep ICH alive and change accordingly, at the same time, increase its public awareness and attractiveness within the cultural globalizing world. Finally, I will draw inspiration from iconic and interesting details of the Chinese intangible cultural heritages and incorporate them to my works, to present a set of furniture and to convey my perspective of the future of the Chinese ICH to the public.

Project Goal:

To design and create a collection of furniture that includes a lounge chair, a side table and a console table/cabinet or a screen. (The last piece may alter base on the time frame.)  I would like to explore the steam bending technique on this project and may incorporate some meta practices as well.


I aware about it was difficult to define intangible cultural heritage, and it is even harder to present it on a piece of furniture. I had a discussion with my mentor from outside of the program. First, we thought the idea of tangible vs. intangible is interesting to apply to the development of culture. Each of heritage object is an individual evidence of embedment of knowledge, made by individual craft person who carries intangible cultural heritage skill. Second, the skills they master was passed along by generations, and these skills are not only required psychological understanding, also physical technique practices. It is called imaginative knowledge. More importantly, the knowledge transfer is a Chinese tradition and is socially constructed by education, community, re-imagination, technology, global interaction, innovation and believe, etc. Tradition preserves and encourage the ongoing development of culture. Our conversation was effective, and I think the information he offers was very interesting. During the Thursday class, I have presented the idea of imaginative knowledge to both instructors; they suggested me some articles to research ('Making and Thinking' by Andrew Harrison, 'A theory of Craft' by Howard Risatti, and any text by Tim Ingold) and the idea of the skilled object. But my question about the argument still remain: how can I use the intangible thoughts, memory and knowledge and translating it into a physical entity?

‘the skilled object’
By this I mean
-talking about all of the histories of making that the maker must understand to be able to produce a ‘thing’
-by using the intangible thoughts, memory and knowledge and translating it into a physical entity, the craftsperson uses ‘thinking through making’ to create their designs
I feel this can hold all of the ideas that you are talking about, but it is only a suggestion..
I encourage you to research ‘thinking through making’ texts and/or ‘design as research’ which are similar methodologies in design and craft.
Some texts are:
’Making and Thinking’ by Andrew Harrison
’A theory of Craft’ by Howard Risatti
And any text by Tim Ingold
— Feedback from the instructor
This is good advice.
If Culture, Chinese culture in particular is still an important element to your thesis -I invite you to consider just the definition of Culture:
• the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group: Caribbean culture | people from many different cultures.
• [ with modifier ] the attitudes and behavior characteristic of a particular social group: the emerging drug culture.
— Feedback from the instructor

Interesting key words for the week:

Flow of skill, imaginative knowledge, reflective furniture, folks furniture, skilled objects, culture for space.

Week 4:

I told myself to step back and re-evaluate my own identity as a Chinese furniture designer; if I was going to make something I like, what would that look like. I realized that I was going for a furniture style, my aesthetic, my taste; the image dairy was a perfect example. It is very important to keep in mind to research archetypes and symbols from Chinese culture. Then, I rewrote a list of forms of Chinese culture that I like to explore: calligraphy, Beijing opera, oil paper umbrella; I collected some important characteristics been a Chinese: traditional, united/undivided, culture, patriotic, advocate peace, harmonious, interactive, history, craft, heirloom/heritage.

Interesting words for:

·      Chinese calligraphy: consistency, integrity, balance, correspondence, spacing and rhythm, skill, heritage.

·      Beijing opera: theatre, costume, technique, clothing, actor/actress, spirit, music, prop, stylist, dream landscape, skill, heritage.

·      Oil paper umbrella: poetic beauty, ritual (wedding, death), symbolic meaning (harmony), help ward off bad luck, romance, beauty, literature, endurable, handcrafted, skill, heritage.

I concluded my ideas to “meaningful objects”. The object is considered as an agent; it can transmit maker/designer’s agency and change people’s perception. Design is end result of education; because through education, we as designers unconsciously or consciously apply our own funnel theory (our own taste, aesthetic, filter) to our design. On the one hand, we as the designers/makers, share the experience and taste through the object and embodiment of search for meaning and search for beauty. On the another hand, viewers interpret design in their different ways; however, the energy embody within the object could be transferred. Overall, there is an intangible function within a functional tangible object.

I drew inspiration from heritage item such as umbrella, Guqin( ancient Chinese music instrument ), calligraphy, and Beijing opera. Here are some interesting ideas from ideation sketches: