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Redefining the bridge

In response to an earlier article focussing on Dutch design in China, Design.nl asked Judith Wehmeyer of studio BoomWehmeyer to write a guest feature on the subject. Thanks to her experience working in close relation to the Chinese culture, Wehmeyer presents her unique view.

By No author / 08-11-2012

A generation of young designers and craftsmen with qualities, skills and dreams is exploding into a world full of information, needs and languages. These young creatives can inspire and create bridges for the future in which they can make a difference, if they hold the right tools in hand.

The bond between the Netherlands and China has been there for generations. Creatives and industry travel between the two countries and their conversations turn into collaborations. A shift in context is currently taking place from ‘Made by’ and ‘Created by’ to a more open-knowledge network called ‘Cradle’.
You begin to wonder whether the metaphorical bridge is still a correct term as we define new approaches. How can we question cross-cultural design if we don’t look at the constant flow of ideas between these two nations? It’s time to analyze whether the meaning of ‘Cradle’ holds a new definition for the future design generation.

This is one of the many questions and processes that studio BoomWehmeyer has explored within design programmes in China and the Netherlands. Over the past seven years, the studio has been in a dialogue about learning to craft and design within a context of making and thinking. Studio BoomWehmeyer is a design studio involved in design education and has been engaged in product design and urban work in China. It previously held a studio in Shanghai. The start of many projects are grounded in BoomWehmeyer’s belief and commitment to embed education in the creation of emerging design practices as a core ingredient.
So how can the generation of young designers transform this dialogue by turning ‘Made’ and ‘Created’ into ‘Cradle’ practices? What seeds do we need to plant into a creative landscape so cross-cultural design education can slowly grow and position its definition of local before deciding what stream of products to send into the world? What design products or new ways of working could we imagine?

As product designers we can say we set out to create a new impulse through design, one that connects touch with meaning, mentality with mindfulness and the extraordinary with everyone, working to connect crafts to our human needs.

In China more and more young designers are working with both international knowledge and local craftsmanship. They can access a world of information similar to that of young Dutch designers. Although they each have different roots and imaginations they both touch upon comparable questions.  
During a series of interviews in Jingdezhen, BoomWehmeyer connected with young Chinese students at the Education centre of the Pottery Workshop.

The Pottery Workshop – an institute in Jingdezhen – builds on teaching their upcoming Chinese creative generation about the wide field of arts and crafts through one material: ceramics.
They focus on learning by doing, from the first steps of clay into a world of international perspectives.

BoomWehmeyer found out that in reality both Chinese and Dutch students focus on similar questions such as how to build a practice, who and what is a source of income, how to reach into different fields or what can design and crafts mean for the future?

During the one-year programme ‘Made.Create.Cradle’ that is currently being activated by BoomWehmeyer, these questions are the main topic to guide young Chinese and Dutch designers in a process centered around the meaning of co-design, collaboration and design consciousness between the Netherlands and China.

The Cradle project developed from a small workshop in Jingdezhen to an engaging programme which cultivates new futures for graduates and young professionals in China and the Netherlands. The project is a hands-on learning and research program, combining different facets, developing through different phases and partners in China and the Netherlands. A small Chinese and Dutch team is working from Arnhem as well as in China where workshops and relations are being set up for this programme.

The programme is based on the theory of ‘resource by experience’ and gives young creatives the tools needed to build local, authentic and creative businesses. They also start to define their own value from a knowledge, skills, sensorial or emotional point of view, thus defining a creative bond.
The programme aims to move designers from making and creating into a place that nourishes (cradles) and builds a new future through design practices.

Main image: Chinese young designer Neri at work with his product

Other images: 1. experiment porcelain firing in soil at Pottery Workshop Jingdezhen 2. lecture in Jingdezhen by BW 3. Rewire book by Dutch student in China 4. Street in JIngdezhen with leftover plates

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