We are happy to share our conversation with Ximi Li, designer based in China, and one of the winners of Maison&Objet Rising Talent Award 2019.
Can you tell us about what you studied? How did your career evolved until now?
I am graduated from China Academy of Art. This school is based in Hangzhou and Shanghai. I studied in the Shanghai Campus. After I learnt some Italian and went to Milano Politecnico to study furniture design. I worked with different designers such as Andrea Branzi and Luca Trazzi. After that I was thinking that I have to choose between Milan and Shanghai. Which city I need to choose? Then I started to work for neri&hu, which is based in Shanghai. They have architects, interior designers and also product designers on their team. In there I designed for some Italian brands like LEMA and Poltrona Frau, some German brands like ClassiCon and some Spanish brands such as Parachilna. After six years I thought it was the time for me to establish my own furniture brand. Because I really wanted to design something that has detail. For example I customize some screws. But when you work for a Chinese brand, they sometimes think the cost is too high for these kind of things. So you are not able to do it. That’s why I decided to create my own brand and show my design ideas through it. It’s a furniture design studio, but we also do some interior design projects. It’s the third year of our studio and I think it’s a good time to come to Europe, since we already have experience working for different European countries. It’s a very good opportunity.
What are you exhibiting here?
We brought Jiazhuang, a dressing table. There is this culture in China that when their daughters is married the parents give her a jewelry box to wish her a good future. We used this culture to design our product. We also used the language of Art Deco. It’s a very classic design, after thirty, forty years later you would still think it’s new. The second collection is Yuan. In this collection the language is very simple, with some lines and curves, with very basic functioning. You can put it in every environment. Lastly, we brought a third collection which we call BY3 because it is combined of three parts. You can combine them in different shapes. It can be a three piece or two piece or one piece furniture. We have three materials: terrazzo, glass, and marble. We also use metal pieces.
What do you think is the Chinese touch in design the design scene nowadays?
Actually now we are talking about the Chinese furniture and character but it wasn’t this easy ten years ago. Because 200-300 years ago in Chinese furniture you could see the character. It is very strong. You know it comes from China. And now we still have some design studios with “new Chinese furniture” but you can see the history from 200-300 years ago. But now, the new generation, designers who are in their 20s and 30s go abroad, see and experience a lot. So now we are trying to balance while using the international language, we maybe bring a texture or maybe a story or attitude from Chinese culture. Like Japanese design. 200 years ago the Japanese design was completely different. I think the Chinese design is in the same situation. We try to use the international language but the story comes from our culture.
What do you follow? Where do you get your inspiration from? Do you follow certain publications or do you try to get out of the design scene to find inspiration?
I have different ways. Sometimes it comes from texture, sometimes from a feeling or a story. Sometimes when you wake up there is an idea or when your are traveling, in an airport. Actually we have a collection called Iceland. Because the country gives you a feeling of cold and something elegant and pure. I designed a collection with these feelings. It’s super simple, you can see the lines and curves. I also wanted this collection to not be heavy. First I used stainless steel and marble, then I changed the material to aluminium. Because I wanted it to be cold, thin and light. Like snow, you feel cold but it’s very light.
What are the interesting topics for you in the global design scene right now? What is the topic that excites you?
Actually we have two directions. First one is craft. Craft for me is like attitude. You find some new ways to use the material. We also want to do more researches on material in the future. For example we want to work on carpets. We want to do some research maybe in Africa or Turkey. We want to see the different weaving techniques and colours. We want to put more craft on it. We will also be having a new collection OVERCRAFT Art. We want to design art pieces using our URBANCRAFT methods. So there are two directions: craft and art. It’s just the start for us, our brand is very young. It’s only 2 years old now. In four or five years I think the will see the direction more clear.
Do you want to continue with your brand or do collaborations with bigger brands? What are your future plans?
We want to have design stores in different countries in the future. We also want to design for more international brands, not focusing on just the Chinese market. We want to show our design in other countries too.
What do you think about Maison&Objet? How was your experience till now?
I think from this show you can feel the French passion. You can find many different and interesting things. I also think it’s a very good platform for young designers. They need a platform to show their ideas, designs. I think Maison&Objet is doing a very good job on this.