In the interest of showcasing young and emerging local designers, Messe Frankfurt has seen fit to include a 'Talents' section at the Interior Lifestyle shows in Tokyo and China. Of course, the organization's modest-sized Asian tradeshows are duly less ambitious than their flagship show in February, which boasts upwards of 60 talents compared to dozen young designers at last week's Shanghai exhibition.
More interesting still is the decision to include several non-Chinese designers: half of the talents hailed from Japan and Europe, all of whom had participated as Talents at prior shows in their home regions. (Given the Frankfurt-based company's penchant for providing international exposure at little to no cost to the designers, it's well worth applying to be a 'Talent' at Ambiente in February.) The lucky few were handpicked to complement the Chinese designers, as well as for their potential to succeed in the Chinese market. Far be it for me to speak on behalf of the nation's buyers, but my personal favorite (among the non-Chinese designers) was work from Kai Linke.
The Frankfurt-based designer presented just a couple small tabletop objects as well as a sample of a bespoke wall treatment that he has developed. As in the "Engrain" keyboard, Linke takes advantage of the fact that the grain of wood expresses differences in density, such that a controlled sandblasting process reveals the grain in three dimensions. After he creates a vector graphic to a client's specifications, Linke masks the area on a panel of spruce, which is sandblasted to reveal an image in relief. Although he exhibited just a handful of the panels—in the interest of easy transportation from Germany—the overall effect is quite striking. (The panels can be quite large, or they can be cut into a few standard sizes for easy transport and visual variation; this particular wall can be viewed in full here.)
I could see the "Pi" mirror, a round looking glass 'set' in a block of marble, as a fixture in a high-end restaurant or hotel here in Shanghai or, frankly, any major city.
However, I was more interested in the "Blasted" vases, which Linke debuted at Interior Lifestyle China, a truly clever twist on the sandblasting technique: the molds are cast from short logs that have been blasted into a semi-conical shape.
I didn't have a chance to catch up with Kai on the fourth day of the show, when it opened to the public, but he seemed to be in high spirits for his first trip to Shanghai. As for whether the Chinese audience takes to his understated work, only time will tell: he noted that "you never know what happens after a fair. We will see."