Zhilong Zheng: call back the soul of the wood

Furniture / 1 Aug 2018 / Estela Ruan

Zhilong Zheng's design story dates back to 13 years ago when he headed south to Guangzhou, over 400 miles away from his home, to study architecture and environmental art. He had never touched upon the carpentry before. At that time, the college town of Guangzhou was just built, the demolished derelict houses were everywhere and various old wooden components scattered. By coincidence, one of Zheng’s courses required him to find some objects to depict, during the search he saw the woods being thrown to trunks after exposed to the sun for a time, he was shocked, full of pity, and therefore started to collect similar old wood. At graduation, he owned a collection of approximately 5 tons of old wood. In 2017, Zheng was one of the finalists for the prestigious LOEWE Craft Prize.

Zhilong Zheng

Seeing that the wood piling up, Zheng pondered how to deal with them, and his studio Shimuji was born at the right moment. In 2013, Shimuji was founded out of the plan, branded with a clear personal mark. This studio, which focuses on the design and customization of log furniture, insists on picking back things that people have forgotten and abandoned and bringing them back to life. If the wood has a soul, Zheng hopes to help it find itself, gain the practical function in the most natural state and return to life in the form of furniture.

Zhilong Zheng's studio

The early works of Shimuji mostly adopted the dark wood (ebony) buried deep underground for years, the texture of which is solid and heavy while the section is smooth and delicate. Zheng did not use the efficient Western method to process the wood but relied primitively on the time. Over the decades, the wood changed from raw material to a mature one, later it needs to be immersed in the pond for one or two years and then seasoned for half a year. In this way, the beauty of the wood will be revealed straightforward, and all the design later is based on the wood itself. When polishing, Zheng almost stubbornly insisted on hand making, believing that through the contact between skin and wood can refresh the affinity of his work and hoping the living wood continue its own property and the temperature of its maker.

Tree Chair, LOEWE Craft Prize 2017 exhibition

'Tree Chair' adopts North American black walnut, birch tumour and hard maple, balances the colour by adjusting the proportion of the size of different wood and retains the natural shadow of the tree.

Mushroom Stool

Given that Zheng’s daughter likes mushroom very much, he shapes the stool in its form. It adopts imported Sapele, birch tumour and hard maple. Various stools with different heights and colours can be grouped together.

Zheng hopes that his works are simple and natural, so he insists on ‘thinking by hand’ and lives up to every piece of wood, letting them return to their original appearance, breathe freely according to their own rhythm and integrate into our daily life. His brand, Shimuji (拾木记), which means 'pick up the wood', aims to pick back the waste and call back the soul of the wood.

On 7-11 September 2018, China Design Centre will collaborate with Hundredicrafts to present an exciting showcase of works by over 20 Chinese craft artists, designers and brands. Zhilong Zheng's Tree Chair will be joining in our presentation.

Image Source: Zhilong Zheng

Zhilong Zheng / Shimuji

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