Saturday, October 22, 2011

Product Design for Wu Xing Design Co.

I am currently the resident artist at Wu Xing Design Co. in Danshui, near Taipei.  One of my responsibilities is to design a functional ceramic product that will be put into limited production.   We are currently in the third stage of production.  The first stage is of course the concept, which is the most arduous -- this isn't just for college credit anymore, this is for real, involving design company, two different factories, packaging, etc.  And, Wu Xing has two successful products already in circulation, see images below.

Designer 鞏文宜 Kung Wen-Yi, "Tom Fun" soup bowl with person-spoon
  Designer 柯有政 Ko Yu-Cheng, "Perfume Leaf" tree incense burner

My concept was born out of three things. 1. Teaching in a classroom using a whiteboard and dry erase markers everyday for a year. 2. The desire to occasionally leave a handwritten note; Ariel and Times New Roman just don't say "Don't forget to pick up some milk" the same way.  3. To take something old, make it new, and then experience it age. Taiwan has a very unique history of ceramic art as shares its heritage with many different east and southeast Asian countries, the most influential being China.  This Song Dynasty Kuan ware vase provided the perfect basis for the combination of these three things. Go here and read about the artifact:
Song Dynasty Vases with "er duo" originally for a rope to carry the vessel.

My design will function as a vase, but as a new product, will not have the darkened lines of the cracked celedon glaze . . . yet.  The glaze on the new vase will be one that crazes (pottery term for cracking), however, the "ears" of the vase that were originally meant for a rope for carrying, will be open on the side for a dry erase marker to clip into. The more you use the marker to write a note to your loved one(s), or decorate the vase with doodles of your own, the more ink will seep into the cracks in the glaze.  Eventually, your new vase will become a Song Dynasty replica!

Second stage, make a model.  The model took about a week to work out the form, brainstorm and project ergonomics, consider how the mold will be constructed.  About once every 1/2 hour I wish I had a computer hooked up to a 3-D scanner and printer. However, if that was the case, I would definitely be writing the National Palace Museum to see if they'd loan out the original for scanning. Maybe one day . . .
The model has been completed as you can see in two parts for the mold factory.  One is the body of the vase and the other is one form that will become the two "ears" (Learn Chinese!  ěr duo [er- dwo耳朵). 
clay model (leather hard)

clay model, side/bottom view (leather hard)

Third stage, make one mold and a prototype. The mold factory, located in the historic ceramics town of Yingge, is an amazing place no bigger than a typical American two-car garage. But they create molds that could quite possibly be more beautiful than the object that comes out of the mold. 
Mold Factory in Yingge
The owner's son is making some "cases" for molds. The case is the mold used to make multiple molds - a mold of a mold! 

We took the model to the mold factory on Friday, and by the following Tuesday the first mold was ready to be picked up and taken to the production factory.  The factory is Futen Kiln located in Yingge's neighboring town of Sanxia, who will have the first prototype fired, finished and ready for inspection in about a week.  The boss (Learn Chinese! lǎobǎn [laow- bon] = boss 老闆) said "Time is money!" He puts his money where his mouth is by producing a fully finished ceramic prototype in a week.  
The lǎobǎn of Futen Kilns(left) discusses the production terms with 鞏文宜 Kung Wen-Yi, Wu Xing's  laoban(center), and Wu Xing designer 柯有政 Ko Yu-Cheng (far right).

We'll go to inspect the prototype this week . . . can't wait to see my design "in the flesh"!   Next week, I'll keep you posted on the next steps in the process including any modifications to the product and/or giving the "go ahead" for production.