Xin Min is a designer based in New York, U.S.A. Originally from Zhejiang, China, she moved to New York to study at the the prestigious Parsons School of Design.. A huge admirer of Chinese culture and design, Xin aims to bring awareness to it to the western world. Enthralled by jewellery design, she has gone on to become a product designer, designing and making a variety of different products, all drawing inspiration from her native China. We had the chance to speak to her about her life and work, here’s what she had to say...
Solstice: Could you tell us about your early life in China and how it helped shape your work today?
Xin: I was born in Zhejiang, China. It is a small town near the Changjiang river but has great architecture and culture, which have had an influence on me. You can see many meandering curves that appear like water in my work and evoke a soft, kind, and warm feeling.
Solstice: You’ve lived in China and U.S.A, how do the cultures differ and do you prefer one to another?
Xin: There are many aspects of cultural differences between China and the US. In terms of art, China's artistic expression methods are relatively reserved, while the American’s artistic expression is relatively open and outgoing. Both cultures are unique. They bring a different experience and feeling to my life.
Solstice: How did you get into product design?
Xin: At first, I wanted to apply for a course in Jewellery Design at Parsons School of Design, but unfortunately it was not available, however Product Design was. After doing some research I found out that it involves many of the different themes and techniques used in Jewellery Design, so I opted to that course. After learning the basic skills, you can master them and design new things appealing to consumers. What fascinates me most about product design is that I can use my design to change people's daily lives for the better, designing things to be easier to use or to appeal more to the eye.
Solstice: What is your favourite part of the design/production process?
Xin: My favorite part of the design is in the exploration stage and the thinking stage. This is not only my favorite part but also think it is the most important part of the design. After thinking and exploring then we might come up with better design ideas.
Solstice: What/Where/Who do you draw inspiration from?
Xin: A lot of my inspiration comes from nature. I think nature's physical aspects are a great source of inspiration for artists, as they are always changing creating new and wonderful designs that can spark an idea into life. I also get inspired by ancient China's history and culture. It is truly fascinating and inspires me to express myself and develop artistic designs that praise and communicate aspects linked to the ancient culture.
I am influenced by the aesthetics of the Song Dynasty, a period mired by advancements and technological inventions. I think the aesthetics of the Song Dynasty is the highest point of Chinese aesthetics. Its low-saturation colours and minimalist design style will not be time-consuming, even if it is modern. Besides, the period’s affiliation with the Shan Shui painting style influences me into developing idealistic designs, as witnessed by the Song Dynasty’s landscape artwork.
Solstice: What’s the biggest challenge you have come across so far?
Xin: The most difficult thing in design is how to make yourself reach a higher level. It is not the level of usages of software, but the way of thinking. I think everyone can use software to design after learning, but how to design smart is very difficult.
Solstice: You designed a really cool and functional stool, called the Jellyfish Stool (pictured left). Please could you tell us about how the idea came about and the design process?
Xin: Inspired by the modern minimalist, the jellyfish stool comprises of 15 pieces of delicate wooden cuttings that a person can assemble into the fully formed stool in minutes without. This is without the need of any tools. Everything just fits together perfectly, with no nails or glue needed. The shape is obviously inspired by a Jellyfish, but it does not look out of place in any environment. It all began with a rough sketch, and I then moved on to modelling it with more detail in 3D Modelling software. The most interesting part was transferring the design over to actual tangible product via the CNC machine, it was amazing to see it come together.
Solstice: Could you introduce your graduation project?
Xin: The tableware set, Yee Chu, is inspired by Song’s aesthetics and combines both Chinese and western dinning tradition. Simply changing the setting of the plates, everyone can easily enjoy their local gourmet with our dishes. Yee Chu aims to be promoted globally. Both Western and Eastern dining methods, as well as habits, are considered and integrated into this work. By switching the placement of the dinner plate, Yee Chu can easily handle variant local dining environments in most areas. As the key facts of the design, the size and depth of the cutlery were carefully considered to fulfill the functional requirement of Western and Eastern dining.
In order to reflect the Chinese aesthetics and to meet the dietary needs of various countries. I designed this tableware and hope that users can experience the collision and harmonious coexistence of different cultures.
Solstice: What do you think you’ll venture out into designing next?
Xin: I want to try more new things. Only when I have experienced it myself, then I might have a comprehension of it. In my design, these experiences will also be reflected. Maybe they will help me to be a better designer.
Solstice: What do you hope you'll be doing/where do you hope you'll be working in 5-10 years time?
Xin: I hope to be among the top designers that promote Chinese culture and aesthetics. This would be mainly through my own brand, one that stands for the Chinese culture and complements modernism. I hope to manage and inspire upcoming artists through my designs. My aim of my brand would not be just to make money, but to encourage other upcoming designers and to educate people about Chinese design styles.