If you've never heard of Wenzhou before, consider yourself educated: Sothing, easily my personal favorite among the talents at the Interior Lifestyle China show last week, hails from the Southern Chinese city of three million residents. The design consultancy provides fully-integrated product design solutions for clients such as Intel, Lenovo and Philips, among others, as well as a collection of independently-produced design objects. Several of these items were on display at the Shanghai Exhibition Center, and each and every one stood out as a noteworthy product.
The "Branches" lamp would tip over if not for the presence of the rock—any sufficiently heavy object will suffice—a simple metaphor for finding stability in everyday life. Meanwhile, the gold-peaked "Mountain" plate beneath it represents a perpetual sunrise.
As with the plate, the teapot refers to the mountains around the Wenzhou region; less obvious is the fact that the cups are shaped like the region's bodies of water.
Sothing Design Director Xiangfei Ran eagerly shared his insights and, with just a little prodding, some ideation sketches from his notebook.
The "Chair" ring is based on a pun: in Chinese, to 'depend' (yikao) is closely homophonous with 'leaning on a chair.' The wearable miniature is something like an elegant upgrade from a friendship bracelet.
Sothing's clear acrylic incense holders are treated with a carefully-applied pigment that deepens as smoke slowly escapes the enclosure.
So too does the table lamp allude to the landscape, though Ran acknowledged that it is also (ironically) designed to look like a cigarette.
The "Mountain" incense holder (above left) is a bit more subtle, striking a nice balance between art and design, or illusion and allusion: the tray is designed so that the ash falls on the mountain peaks below, a sort of quasi-functional snowglobe.
The "Pane" incense holder can be set on any of its eight sides—the stick is held in place by friction when inverted—for a bit of variation in the redolent ritual.
Lastly, the "Seek" ring is made from sterling silver and bamboo with distinctive spots and whorls.