Central Saint Martins, MA Industrial Design, 2013
Born and raised in Beijing, Yi Zhou is an artist and independent designer. After completing her MA in Industrial Design at CSM, Yi moved back to Beijing and worked as a junior designer for SANS Practice before founding her own design studio, LittleE Studio. Most of Yi’s projects are drawn from sociological angles, and focusing primarily on the interrelation between human relations and behaviour. She takes inspiration from the mundane and transfers those insights and analysis into a playful artistic manifestations.
Find out about Yi’s experience at UAL and some of her interesting and interactive projects including the Hutong eraser and the BodyMemory project, which have caught the attention of international audiences…
What is your background and how did you find yourself interested in fashion accessories?
After having graduated with a degree in Economic Commerce and International Relations, I started working in the field of European Union policy, which ended up a decade-long career. As a side project, in my free time, I was also volunteering at a European online magazine as a journalist and team leader. However, when I was home with my first child, I realized I needed a new challenge; something that makes people happy but also recharges me. With all the energy I received as a mom, I felt I could do anything – I could change the world!
What is your fondest memory of your time at CSM?
Probably the time working in the studio with colleagues until the last minute when the school closed. I still remember the security guard starting to clear out all the rooms and people walked out from the main entrance as a group in the late night. The studio and workshops are like our battlefield and we are literally the last fighters. Everyone at CSM is so talented, yet still work so.
What do you think was the most important thing CSM taught you?
Critical thinking, the ability of doing research and team work. Those are the three key factors that help with all design processes in practice.
Tell us more about the BodyMemory Project? BodyMemory is based on the hypothesis that the body itself is capable of storing memories, not just the brain. Based on this theory, I created a series of duplicated cast models of human body parts that were transformed into accessories. This is especially meaningful for anyone who has special memories associated with that particular body part. This has been really successful and we have held over twenty ‘surgeries’ over the past year, ‘treating’ over 170 patients in New York, Taiwan, Hong Kong and across China. It also has been featured in several leading press outlets such as Timeout Beijing, Cool Hunting, Crane.tv and Huffington Post. It is also a regular project at Beijing Design Week since 2014 as well as featured as part of NYCxDesign 2015.
What have you been most proud of so far?
The BodyMemory project has been alive for nearly two years! At the beginning I didn’t expect the project to last this long. I am proud of myself for keeping it going, developing it and showcasing it at several exhibitions, loads of pop up events, and now to the U.S.
What do you most love about Beijing?
I grew up in Beijing, so there are lots of memories for me here. After I graduated and returned to my hometown, I actually find new things that I never thought about before. It is like rediscovering my city and that excites me.
Whats next for you?
Currently I am in New York for a three month artist in residency program at Flux Factory. It is an opportunity to learn and feel something different from my home country. Also we started a crowdfunding campaign called ‘Sharing the Spirit of Beijing with New York Through BodyMemory’(http://rkthb.co/61846) to support my residency in LIC. We will see how people react in Big Apple about my crazy ideas