Tastemaker interView: Caroline Cheng
Words by: Caroline Cheng
Photo credit: Caroline Cheng
Caroline Cheng, the founder of Yi Design Group, shares insights on conscious design.
Caroline Cheng is a curator and artist, working with clay for over 35 years. In addition to being the founder of the Yi Design Group, a movement of conscious architects and designers working with ceramic waste as a new material, she is also the owner of The Pottery Workshop. She would like to retire, but the importance of resolving the ceramic waste has become her new mission.
As an artist, Caroline has held solo exhibitions in Sotheby’s Hong Kong (2013) and New York (2015). Her work has been collected by the British Museum, Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, San Francisco Asian Art Museum and the Boston Museum of Fine Art. Cheng has received prizes for her work in the Keramiak Museum in Westerwald, Germany (2010), Clay and Glass Film Festival in Montpellier France (2010), Mino International Ceramic Award 2017 and also received the “Outstanding Achievement Award” from the American National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) in 2014 and the Japan Good Design Award for Community Development in 2020.
The feature wall for the new COS store located in Shishihui Square, Pudong New District, Shanghai flaunts the handmade YiBrick, a revolutionary product by the Yi Design Group.
What inspired the creation of the Yi Design Group? Can you tell us a little bit about the group’s mission?
Yi Design offers a circular recycled product for the interior and architecture industry, transforming industrial ceramic waste into decorative, structural, and customizable tiles and bricks, art and product design.
As designer and artist, Karl Yin and I have seen so much ceramic waste dumped in Jingdezhen. We decided to start a company to research a method to make this material a circular product.
What Asian philosophies or teachings inspire your own practice as an artist?
I consider myself a world citizen more than just Asian or Chinese. What we do in the world needs to change if we want to survive as human beings. Everyone should be a responsible World Citizen, and it is very satisfying and exciting to see what we have done in Yi Design; to help the world make better use of a waste and turning it into something beautiful and precious.
The “Regenerated Tree”, a collaborative sculpture by the Yi Design Group and renowned Italian architect/designer Aldo Cibic at Design China – Beijing.
You have been dedicated to achieving sustainability with some of your recent projects. Could you share some key learnings from your journey?
I realized that any shortcomings or challenges to me are learning curves. It doesn’t matter when we make mistakes or hit a wall. The “making of” is very interesting and meaningful, and we just keep going. Since I have been a successful artist and my other company “The Pottery Workshop” has changed the whole city of Jingdezhen (porcelain capitol of the world), I believe what we do at Yi Design is just going to be as successful if not even better.
Shop Caroline's Vermillion favorites below.