Design Diary

A personal review of design creations.

The Xing Kiln Museum


In the Northen Chinese county of Neiqiu, the Xing Kiln Museum pays tribute to an ancestral craft developed as refined art: white porcelain.

The white wares launched the country’s reputation as a center of porcelain. As hard, dense, and durable as their southern green counterparts, but more immediately appealing due to their sparkling, glossy, clean-looking material, white wares became the envy and aspiration of potters worldwide. Porcelain clays are naturally available in north China, and some rare examples of white wares—made of a pure, white clay, unglazed, but fired at temperatures just high enough to qualify as stonewares—have been discovered at sites of the late Shang dynasty (circa 1600–circa 1050 BCE) at Anyang in Henan province. 


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In 2012, the local government acknowledged this prestigious legacy by opening the Xing Kiln Ruins and decided to build a museum. 


YCA was commissioned to work on the project and their first mission was to separate the site from a busy environment. 


The top of the building acts like an open gallery that surrounds a pool elevated from the ground. Seven pieces of rustic porcelain are floating above the water; below the pool is a continuous space containing the entrance and main exhibition hall; symmetrical but plausible wide steps connect the ring gallery, pool and square on the north side.

The seven bowl-shaped structures offer a picturesque feature in the summer with the ripples of light reflected from the clear water at the bottom of the curved outer wall but also  in the winter when the scenery is turning white of frost.

Porcelain showrooms and corresponding ancillary facilities vary in size. In order to bring them together as a whole, circle-packing algorithm is used in the design as geometric control diagrams.


Xing Porcelain originated in Sui dynasty, and flourished in Tang dynasty. The Great Tang Empire’s vigour and the simplicity of the square and the circle must be related somehow. How to use square and circle in contemporary times? This is our thinking and answer.


Photographs by He Chen

Révélations 2019: The World of Fine Craft in Paris

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Révélations is set to open from May 23rd until 26th at the Grand Palais in Paris. 450 artists from 30 countries will be showcased with new sections and Luxembourg as Guest of Honour.

The fourth edition of the international fine crafts and contemporary creation biennial Révélations is returning to Paris, hosting over 40,000 visitors with an even greater focus on showcasing its international dimension and cultural programme both inside the venue and out, Révélations 2019 is pushing its boundaries and aspirations a little further afield.

Nathalie Massenet Dollfus: 2 Butterflies, handblown glass © Nathalie Massenet Dollfus

Nathalie Massenet Dollfus: 2 Butterflies, handblown glass © Nathalie Massenet Dollfus

Révélations has been run by Ateliers d’Art de France since its inception in 2013, and is attended by an illustrious steadily-growing audience. The scenography by Adrien Gardère offers an equal staging to the 450 creators, removing any hierarchy or gimmicks allowing these exceptional works forge a strong connection between creator and visitor.

L. Andrighetto & J-C MIOT - BUOYS (glass & hemp)

L. Andrighetto & J-C MIOT - BUOYS (glass & hemp)

The Biennal welcomes 33 countries represented, doubling the total of the previous edition. Following on from Chile, Luxembourg is this year’s featured country: a combination of tradition and innovation, the Grand Duchy is home to a myriad of crafts and will be showcasing them in all their glory. The selection of 15 artists has been curated by Jean-Marc Dimanche and the staging is made by Gilles Gardula under the patronage of Their Royal Highnesses Prince Guillaume, the crown Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and Princess Stéphanie, the crown Grand Duchess of Luxembourg.

The artists are Ellen van der Woude (ceramic), Camille Jacobs (master stained glass), Jeitz & Calliste, Sarah Meyers & Laura Fügmann (textile and ceramic), Pascale Seil (master glass-blower), Doris Becker (ceramic), Marie-Isabelle Callier (encaustic painter), Tom Flick (sculpture), Sandy Kahlich (milliner), Ezri Kahn (artisan couturier), Carine Mertes (felt designer), Claude Schmitz (jewellery), Léa Schroeder and Marianne Steinmetzer (ceramic), and Kim-Jung Vu (jewellery).

Artists below are Wouter van der Vlugt & Roxanne Flick + Michael Nätscher.

As for the backbone of the event, the ‘Le Banquet' international exhibition will continue its world tour, inviting nine other countries (Thailand, Romania, India, Iran, Cameroon, South Africa, Spain, Chile, Luxembourg,  to stand alongside France and the featured country. In doing so, the biennial puts its international dimension firmly in the spotlight, supported even further by the number of European and international visitors in attendance. Here are some creations from:

South Africa: Artists featured below: Marisa Fick Jordan (Ukhamba Zulu basket; 2018; Telephone wire) & Chuma Maweni (Painted Ceramic; 2018)

Cameroon: Artists featured below: Beya Gille Gacha (Orant; 2017; pearls embellisched sculpture) & Edith Tialeu (Nubie: 2018; Ceramic)

Iran: Artists featured below: Kourosh Arish (Threshold; 2018; Ceramic, earthenware, alkaline glaze, hand painting) & Behzad Ajdari (Passing; 2018; Ceramic & metal)

India: Artists featured below: Om Prakash Galav (Kagzi pottery; 2018) & Prithviraj Singh Deo (Kangan; 2013; Ceramic)

Finally, the Norwegian designer, Hanne Friis created a piece that embodies the identity of Révélations 2019. ‘Nuances in Blue and Black’ (pictures courtesy of Oystein Thorvaldsen) is a huge sculpture made from blue and black jeans, and is the result of tremendous sewing effort transforming loose fabrics into a compact mass.

Hero picture: Somdulyawat Chalermkiat (Thailand) Bua; 2016; Metal flower pot

The ‘Ocean’ pendant light

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Taiwan is not only the world’s leader in plastic production, it embraces, supports and creates products from traditional crafts.

I like projects that support local craftsmanship and traditions. Here is Kamaro’an whose name originates from Pangcah, an indigenous language in Taiwan, meaning ‘the place to live’.

Launched during Taiwan Designers’Week in 2015, directed by Ben Chiu, Kamaro’an was awarded ‘Rising Asian Talent’ by Maison & Objet in 2017.

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The brand is inspired by Taiwanese indigenous culture, using natural materials and employing indigenous weavers. They devoted to provide culturally-related employments in Hualien to welcome youths to come home. Kamaro’an has also opened a space in the capital last year. Located in Huashan 1914 Creative Park, it showcases their creations with various materials such as banana fabrics, betel nut, driftwood and more.

The ‘Riyar’ pendant light (or ocean in the Pangcah language) is part of the Umbrella Sedge Series. The sedge takes 4 to 6 months to harvest and it grows in crystal-clear water. By separating the skin from the inner fibers, craftsman Sumi Dongi avoids mildew problems, and makes the mats more delicate in nature.

The next step is the weaving of the umbrella sedge on structural metal frames to create lightings with a contemporary shape. This enables the craft to produce in a small but scaled system.

Each Riyar pendant light looks unique in every angle. Dimensions: 58 x 58 x 60 (cm). 

Summer Design Diary - "The limits of Custom Made Design" by david/nicolas

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Summer Design Diary is a series I started few years ago asking designers to write short stories on design or design experiences they had during one Summer. Here is a text by Lebanese designers david/nicolas, produced in 2015.

Limited editions, custom made pieces and one-offs have never been so demanded. In the last decade, we can clearly see a much bigger aspiration to own something “rare”, something “tailor made”. It is, without any doubt, a reaction to globalisation, whether you are in Beirut, New York, Paris or Tokyo, you can always see the same brands, same restaurants, same objects, etc.. . Today people tend to have something different in order to stand out of the crowd, something not really “labeled” but certainly hard to get or find. We all look at the authenticity of an object, we like to feel that it was not completely machine-made, and that somehow a person was actually working this piece with his hands. The Polder Sofa by Hella Jongerius for Vitra in 2005 is a perfect example to illustrate that, the designer insisted on having the buttons that look “hand stitched” on the cushions in order to give some life to the object.

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This is also visible in the Gallery world, where we can see each year new proposals of pieces that are Limited Editions, that showcases either a knowhow or a vision. However, with the increase of demand, we are kind of going into a globalization of “limited editions” as well, in the sense that, we can easily start finding pieces that are handmade and/or crafty, but this is where a good Gallery stands out, and a bad one fails, it is not about selling anything to anyone, it is about knowing what you showcase and believing in the authenticity of the work and, of course, the designer.

So can we actually say that everything that is custom made is valuable? Of course not.

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Something we noticed in Beirut, and that most people fail to see is the importance of having IKEA. Unfortunately we don’t have IKEA in Lebanon, and we have been hearing over and over that its good we don’t have it here because it will take away lots of jobs from artisans. We don’t believe its true. Lacking IKEA in Lebanon created something else: Custom made furniture for everyone. In a sense it could sound cool, but the problem here is that people go to a woodworker to create a table, a stool, closets or even a kitchen because it is cheaper than buying one from a store. 

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There is a negative side to all of this that we started noticing and will notice even more in a couple of years. With all the work these carpenters have (none of which is really challenging because they happen to be the cheaper option) they will loose slowly their skills (because people started to get used to “good enough” in order to pay less) and they will become more “business oriented” instead of carpenters, it is much easier for them to make 12 closets than 2 rocking chairs and will probably get them more income with less mind stress. What we are trying to say is that it is true we need to preserve our artisanal work, but it is not by giving them more things to do that we will do so, it is by challenging them to always do better.

If we take the example of Italy, Portugal, Germany and Scandinavia, they all have IKEA and they are all very famous for their amazing artisans and craftsmanship.

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Maybe we should reconsider the importance of ready made, IKEA will certainly not kill our craftsmen, it will liberate them from doing the basic things everyone need and give them the chance to focus on their skills and they will surely find their way in the expanding Limited Edition world where craftsman and designer work together on making extraordinary things.


All our best,