Breathing Life Back Into Design

Taiwanese artist uses traditional Bamboo to create contemporary designs

Cheng-Tsung Feng is an international award winning designer from Taiwan. Delivering emotional messages through his work of his life experiences and observations, Feng focuses on using traditional Taiwanese materials, creating a striking yet deliberate contrast between old and new. “[I do this] on purpose. My designs are contemporary, so it’s like bringing an old great soul across time into today. It has to change a little bit to fit modern life, but you still know where it came from.” he remarks. Cheng Tsung Feng’s use of materials shows a respect for the beautiful craft of bamboo design, whilst the structure and curves of his pieces breathe new life into an otherwise traditional design.

A standout piece of Cheng Tsung Feng’s work is the King, a contemporary chair constructed from bamboo locally sourced in Taiwan. As Cheng Tsung Feng says, using a natural material like bamboo helps to represent the atmospheric forces of nature, “for me, bamboo is a living material, [it represents] the wind blowing, the river flowing, the birds flying and the clouds moving etc. I want my work to be “alive” which is why I use this material.” On his fascination for the material, Feng feels that although “bamboo craft is lesser than before in our life, it acts as a kind of container for me that [encapsulates] many people, stories, and histories. I want to represent it’s beauty to people today.”

We caught up with the Taiwanese designer to find out more about his work.

The Plus: What was the inspiration for the King chair (the shape is very distinctive)?
Cheng Tsung Feng:
I combine two different kinds of bamboo materials together, the bamboo tube and the bamboo slice. I also combine to different kinds of bamboo craft skills together, the bamboo tube furniture structure and the heating transform methrod. I try to sketch several prototypes to make these things contrast and yet come together in harmony.

TP: Can you talk to us about the collaboration with Bertrand Pellissier? What were your separate roles etc?
We met for the first time in Bangkok when I was invited for an Asian talent exhibition. Betrand is a French architect and also a lacquer craft artist. He really loves bamboo and liked my work, which is when we started about collaborating through incorporating bamboo and lacquer. It’s interesting because they are two different kinds of traditional crafts, and we are totally different artists; myself just 27 and Asian, and he being in his 70s from Europe. We’re making a few different pieces of bamboo-lacquer works, which are still being made.

As for our roles, we usually share and discuss our research by email. Sometimes we get the chance to meet in Paris, Bangkok or Taiwan, which is where we share sketches.

TP: How would you summarise the style of the chair?
It’s like a clever old soul living through the vitality of a young face or body.

TP: What new designs will you be working on?
Currently, a Bamboo x Lacquer stool, some small bamboo containers, and more bamboo sculptures. I like to make sculptures and try things out to discover new possibilities of bamboo, and this for me is further introspection into my personal identity. I’m also doing a project that’s inspired by a traditional bamboo steamer.