I’ve been on their mailing list for quite some time now, and have met the folks from enovate a couple of times. So when I received an email from them saying they’d be hosting a youth connection event, which they called 街头会, on May 7 (today), I made it a point to attend, even at the expense of the MIDI Festival. I will head out to that one tomorrow. Yeah, this is a weekend full of youthful action!
So today, my good friend Lynnette, a Singaporean designer who is based here in Shanghai striking out on her own as rénnovate, and I headed out to Yuyintang Livehouse 育音堂 for enovate’s 街头会. They had invited four speakers, or shall I say, youth entrepreneurs / designers, who are themselves post-80s children (80后) and have been somewhat iconic among China’s youth (both 80后 and 90后) with their individual crafts.
Ting 卓丹婷: She is a super cool tattoo artist from Harbin. She has tattoos all over her body, beautiful ones, mind you. When asked if she ever got tired of the pictures she put on her skin, she simply replied, “I can always change it. I have so much skin!” What she really meant was, she would cover every inch of her skin with tattoo, and after she runs out of unused skin, she’d draw over existing ones, evolving the pictures into new masterpieces.
Xixi 能猫喜喜: He is an independent artist and entrepreneur who takes inspiration from his childhood to create a retro line of apparel and accessories in a style that evokes memories in today’s 20- and 30-somethings, of a China before her current steely gleaming skylines, but one where kids ran freely in narrow zigzagged lanes and families lived in close-knit communities. A highly individualistic designer, he dropped out of a promising career in advertising to take care of his self-made brand of clothing.
Alien Wang 王心磊: He is the Creative Director at frog design in Shanghai by day, and a toy designer by night. Hailing from Beijing, Alien is a very articulate young man and no doubt, a man of many talents in spite of a handicapped right hand. Asked how he got into toy design, he said, “I couldn’t find any out there which fully satisfied me, so I made my own.” He conceded that Beijing’s more relaxed environment enabled artists to focus on their work with little pressure, but Shanghai’s highly cosmopolitan environment gives artists and designers more exposure, higher commercial value and better chances of actually making a living out of their works. Well, if they are willing to work their butts off.
Dannie Zhang 张黛妮: She is an event planner, as well as Art Director and curator, who works closely with artists in planning corporate events for her clients. This way, she believes, artists can get the exposure they deserve without having to worry about managing the commercial side of things. They can, thus, fully focus on working their creative juices to produce outstanding works which will in turn, give the Chinese art scene and artists another push onto the international stage.
Overall, what I gathered from these post-80s designers were :
1) Go after your dream. Like there is no tomorrow. Persevere. If it’s not your day job, have another job. If it’s your day job, you are one blessed bastard.
2) Explore, experiment, enrich. Never just do one thing. Have a variety of interests. Take interest in everything. Somehow or other, everything connects in the end to benefit your end goal – your dream.
3) Being different is a birth right. If you give everyone in the room the same tools and get them to draw an apple, every apple will definitely turn out differently. However imperfect, it is you coming through, and that is an art in itself. Don’t copy or chase trends.
4) Be true to yourself and your dream. Ditch the sidelong glances people cast on you because you’re not like them. Believe in yourself, care not what others think is right or wrong, you know better because it’s not theirs, it’s your dream.
5) The power to transform. Have your own standards. If you cannot find anything that live up to your standards, make one yourself. Fix it. The power is in your own hands to change the awful things out there to make life so much better, and needless to say, much more beautiful.
Boy, is it not wonderful to be young and dream away! I leave you with my favorite quote:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain