Beijing Design Week is upon us, bringing aesthetics, creativity and originality to the city. Dashilar, ground zero for BJDW, contains a scattering of tiny pop-up design exhibitions and miniature showcases of fresh new work from all over the world. Part of the pleasure is the interweaving of ancient neighbourhoods with cutting-edge art talent, historic looks with avant-garde poses, where the biggest ideas communicate in the most discreet whispers.
Check out some of the exhibits that caught our own eye below.
Body Memory Customised Pop Up Shop
Nipple on a ring? Tooth on a string? Artist Yi Zhou’s ‘Body Memory’ collection takes beautiful chalky white casts of body parts, embellished with delicate gold and intense colour, and transforms them into subtly striking jewellery. Elsewhere in the four month old design collective’s space you can find pristine ceramic flower pendants, handmade and suspended on gold chains (89RMB for a small dangly and 139RMB for a big swinger statement piece) and embroidered textile collars whose elegance and fragility make them worth the price: 659RMB for a traditional flat collar and 459RMB for a stand-up collar. 49 Yangmeizhu Lu
The Ubi Gallery
Run by impeccably stylish founder and director Machtelt Shelling, two-year-old Ubi Gallery boasts an exquisite selection of everything needed for a tastefully unique fashion and homewares lifestyle where it’s all thriller, no filler. Schelling’s great talent is to source the most original talent from the mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea and put them together so they unify a space – and adorn the human body – but never clash. From delicate monochrome and grey ceramics to quirky cast-rubber wobbly bowls, delicate jewellery in precious metals to smart and fun animal brooches by JiaYinLi, the Ubi Gallery has everything for the discerning style stepper. 62 Yangmeizhu St
The Bactagon collective of artists, lead by Zandie Brockett, have opened their own Sanctuary for Print called The Bibliorium. It’s an airy, almost greenhouse-like thinking, reading and listening space which boasts tree trunks carved roughly into display cases for magazines – slotted with Bactagon’s own new rag BaJia as well as copies of China’s established art magazine Leap – with space left over for speaking events, a library and reading room, an eerily brilliant video installation by Yang Yuan Yuan called Tracing (Chasing) Shadows Within The Present Past and a special screening room featuring black and white short films. The Bibliorium will be hosting talks, readings and performances throughout the week, featuring the more-than-30 Chinese and international artists who’ve collaborated on making the literary and visual magic happen. 3 Chae’er Hutong
Line Eins and Mentz Design
Hidden away in a rickety hutong space is some of the slickest design you’ll see anywhere in Beijing Design Week, a sleek fusion of form, fashion and function brought to you by Line Eins and Mentz Design: a German-made metal cube floor light with slatted panels that give off crisp slices of shadow, a low-slung metal-framed chair with padded back and seat that you won’t want to leave during a 12 hours DVD box set marathon, an angular armchair that makes a statement without dominating (and subtly recalls the captain’s chair on the Star Trek enterprise) and a long, low cabinet by a master maker. Prices and names of pieces are still being decided, but orders can be put in – we particularly want the low-slung den chair with a soft leather seat-pad. As you decide, pop next door where the fashion designer Vega Zaishi Wang has some of her magisterial, architectural pieces on display, alongside an angular clutch bag and briefcase she created in collaboration with her industrial design buddies. The perfect cross-pollination.
The Joy Luck Pie Club
Bringing style to the ubiquitous Beijing sight of communal, al fresco eating, two-year Beijing resident, designer Henny Van Nistelrooy, has combined tasty pies with even tastier stools – yup, the woven seated fold-out mini street stool has been given a makeover. Van Nistelrooy’s come in a rainbow range of colours and no two weaves are the same. We particularly like the one that looked like frothing green algae. You can place an order on the Studio Van Nistelrooy web site (www.studiohvn.com). If browsing stools has made you hungry, the back end of the showroom can help. The pop up pie shop offers a short but (literally) sweet list of dodgily titled pies. Nosh on the Be Fruitful and Multiply Pie (apple and raising), the No. 1 Scholar Pie (pear and dried longan berry) or the Fortune and Long Life Pie (peach and dried hawthorn) to fuel you up for the rest of your design walk as you spot our last few gems...
Mighty Jaxx is a Singapore based brand that makes cool rubber toys for brands, rock band and companies worldwide. Take a look at their punky style and look out for guys hanging out outside their pop-up, offering kissy-lip stickers. Go inside and you can stick your sticker anywhere, on the walls, the ceiling, the white plastic (love) bomb in the middle of the room… or the naked shop mannequins posing outside.
German designer Max Gerthel has created one of the most magical-looking spaces, stringing an entire Pantone range of ribbons across the roof of his pop-up and making us feel like we’re in a beauty grotto. His pert, wooden ‘Untitled’ chair comes in 34 colours and is made to order (choose one to match your eyes). The seat and back support are made from exquisitely colour-matched straps usually used for bags… the same straps fluttering overhead so prettily in the pop-up.
We adored the curved, delicate yet industrial looking stackable chipboard corner cabinets by interior and graphic designers ODD – Okamoto Deguchi Design – but got confused by the signs which referred to them as cats’ houses, and the fact that some of them were displayed lying in the groves of the traditional curved black slate rows of the hutong roof. And the way the team laughed at us when we went out to look.
Finally, if you’ve had it up to the eyes with visual art, check out the Echo Inc Sound Booth and stock up on big style vinyl albums. Imported, well chosen, legit and immaculate, from Carl Orff classical to New Order electro and everything in between.
And if you want to commemorate the experience, the Lomography pop-up shop’s right next door. We don’t have any images for that – you’ll have to make your own and Instagram them to us, #WeLoveBeijing and #BeijingDesignWeek2014 or just #makeupyourowntag – that’s what design creativity’s all about.