gooood team interviews creative individuals years old from all over the world, some are pioneering founders, some are ordinary practitioners. gooood is trying to record the authentic living and working states of this era. Your recommendations and suggestions are appreciated!
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gooood x Mario Tsai 蔡烈超
Grow up and find myself
“When I was young, I loved making a lot of handmade things…then I had took apart many different kinds of appliances…Beijing Forestry University transferred me to Major of Furniture Design…”
My hometown is a countryside in Hubei province. It lies in a plain, rivers and paddy fields is everywhere. Growing up in such circumstances made me take a peaceful attitude towards natural and other related aspects. I always ran to the carpenter’s house and took some wooden crafts. My dad love drawing, and occasionally I do some drawings too. When I was young, I had made many handmade things, for example, I loved playing football. One day when I saw somebody playing table football, then I made one with some rejected material from street. This behavior is the initiation of design.
▼蔡烈超家乡风光，Mario Tsai’s home town
I passed the college entrance examination, and then I chose to study Architecture or Industrial Design because of the lack of art foundation. As a result, Beijing Forestry University transferred me to Major of Furniture Design. After a year of study, I thought Furniture Design is more interesting than Industrial Design.
After graduation, I wanted to found my own studio, but the time was not right yet, so I went to a furniture factory firstly. Because of my strong personality, I found it too hard for me to keep on working there. I was out of work for half a year after leaving the factory, then I talked to my father about opening a shop with my little brother, earning some money to do other things. I looked for the place with my brother all over the country. We had been to Suzhou, Hangzhou, Fuzhou and Beijing. When we passing through the Dajing lane in Hangzhou, felt comfortable and didn’t want to leave anymore, so we opened a shop there.
▼蔡烈超的杭州店铺所有家具和装修由他和弟弟一起完成，Mario Tsai’s shop in Hangzhou: the interior and the furniture were all made and design by him and his brother
The first victory after coming back
“I thought that I still have to do the design…The first year to participate in DOD, the response was good…”
I thought that I still had to do the design, because I have experience in this area. I found that there was an exhibition named DOD which only for the young designers in Shanghai International Furniture Expo, and I decided to attend this exhibition. I didn’t have any products that time, so I designed five works in three weeks, including the first chair and the Ostrich side-table. At the same time I built a website in English. After that I called the person who was in charge of DOD, and sent the website to them, they thought my works was good and agreed to let me attend DOD.
In order to attend the exhibition successfully, I started to prepare the furniture prototypes in July, but no factory was willing to help me, I could only solve the problem by myself. I rented a garage and bought some equipments, then I went to buy some steel in a steel market, after that I cut and welded these steel all by myself. Fortunately, there was a small factory, located in the western of Hangzhou, willing to help me make the wooden part of the furniture. I spent 4 to 5 hours on the road to the factory everyday. The factory helped me do the difficult parts, and I finished the parts of cutting, slicing and plane. After finishing the first patch of sample, I participated in my first exhibition. The response was good, there was a Wenzhou brand bought the copyright of one of my chair which paid me 30 thousand yuan, I felt so good and wanted to go deep into furniture design.
▼早期亲手制作家具，Mario Tsai was doing his design all by himself
▼几何椅：第一件销售出去的作品，Geometry Chair is the first chair he sold
Emerging in the international market
“In early 2017, I got the chance to cooperate with four brands from Stockholm Furniture Fair…which I’ve been dreaming of，they found me suddenly and made me feel like I was dreaming.”
But attending the exhibition in China is not enough. If we want to cooperate with international brands, we need to attend more international exhibitions. So I decided to attend a German exhibition which held for the young designers. And then I met my first foreign customer there. It was a Italian brand who bought the copyright to my Ostrich side-table. Afterwards I attended the exhibition aboard repeatedly, I felt so happy although hadn’t earn so much money.
▼被意大利品牌Valsecchi 1918收入的鸵鸟边桌在米兰家具展亮相，the Ostrich was firstly appeared in the Salone del Mobile Milano
In 2016, a famous brand came to establish the business cooperation with us, it was a great surprise to me, and we started cooperating gradually. By the end of 2017, we got the chance to cooperate with four brands from the Stockholm Furniture Fair, three of them are Danish brands and the other one is Norwegian. So far this year, our business has developed widely, the brands we cooperate with are more than ten. Through it all, I harvested a lot of happiness which came to me suddenly, at the same time the process was breathtaking.
The deepest impression is nobody helped me to finish the furniture prototypes in the factory. The sample of the first chair was not good enough, the next year I found the better equipment, so I made the sample again, and the final sample is very good. In the process of proofing, I was impressed by the repeated debugging in the factory. These problems have been solved prefect now. Another thing that impressed me most is that some brands find us suddenly: just like the Danish brand which I dream to cooperate with. They found me suddenly and made me feel like I was dreaming. I think that there will be more and more cooperations likes this in the future, so I always have great expectations for the future.
▼2016年后越来越多的设计作品问世，many of his projects are coming out from the year 2016
Working in design just because I like it
“At present, many brands make the basic table and sofa on the market. If I do the same thing…it’s just like a resource repetition…so I need to do something more valuable, more helpful for the brand promotion, so as to maximize the value of the designer.
Compared to overseas, domestic designers would like to sell the products which are homogenous；But actually, design service is based on outputting design concepts, therefore most foreign designers would like to cooperate with brands. If a designer prepares to build a brand, he has to manage production, marketing, and all the other aspects, it will distract a lot of energy. The only thing I want to do is design, I just love it.
▼追求卓越，以小团队作战的蔡烈超工作室，Mario Tsai’s studio depends on a small group of work
▼认真工作的蔡烈超，Mario Tsai is devoted in his design works
The products we are designing now are not only experimental, but also useful. At present, many brands make the basic table and sofa on the market. If I do the same thing, I need to find a better equipment and supplier, but it’s just like a resource repetition. At the same time, I do not necessarily have the advantage of competing with these brands, so I need to do something more valuable, more helpful for the brand promotion, to maximize the value of the designer.
▼设计师价值最大化：实用性突出的绅士镜（点击查看更多），to make the most value of the designer: the practical Gentleman Mirror (click to view more)
▼设计师价值最大化：实验性设计，可自由组装的Press tables，to make the most value of the designer: the design encourages the users to assemble the Press tables by themselves
Crisis and opportunity in China
“Many foreign brands feel that the Chinese market is really big. If Chinese furniture brands do not make progress in the design market and make some breakthrough in the next few years ,it will be too late when these foreign brands adapt to the Chinese market and understand how to do marketing and how to make promotion.
The China’s furniture market is very different from the market abroad. Domestic furniture market mainly focus on the mainstream market such as MACALLINE. However, Taobao’s market share is still small. On the other hand, European brands are divided into different directions: the Italy classic furniture which is considered as extravagances sold well in China. It is also a symbol of personal identity; Many Nordic brands are trying to open the Chinese market, they always sell furniture, lights and home accessories by a set, because they hope to sell the lifestyle from northern Europe but not only the products. On the contrary, the domestic market have not reached the stage of emphasizing lifestyle and design, they still focus on the amount of material used . Now everyone always says that my furniture are all made of wood, which shows that most of the people are just focusing on the amount of material used but not the design of these furniture. The Chinese have not entered the stage of consumer design yet, wait until the time when 80’s and 90’s can actually control the wealth ,that would be the real era of consuming furniture in China.
Many foreign brands feel that the Chinese market is really big. If Chinese furniture brands do not make progress in the design market and make some breakthrough in the next few years ,it will be too late when these foreign brands adapt to the Chinese market and understand how to do marketing and how to make promotion. China’s high-end furniture market will be more mature in a few years. But few of China’s high-end brands are not comparable to Italy’s major brands ,even if there is any comparability, the price doesn’t seem to be lower than Italy’s brand. So it’s very dangerous if the Chinese brand doesn’t make any progress.
▼如今蔡烈超作品已成系列出现并传达出成套的生活理念， the design should sell the lifestyle but not only the products
Provide more opportunities for young people
“Young Chinese designers know more about Chinese style… Top designers will come from them in the future.”
Chinese brands need a whole set of project: including the design of products and branding, strategy and marketing. Many brands know they should take some initiatives in this direction, but China still lack of talents in this area currently. Now many Chinese enterprises want to ask foreign designers for help in order to improve the brand value, but it’s difficult for foreign designers to adapt to Chinese market because of the huge differences between the concepts. On this point, young Chinese designers have an advantage over them. Because they know more about Chinese style, so young Chinese designers have a lot of opportunities for the time being. Designers enhance the visibility by cooperating with the brand, and the brand improves corporation development with the help of designers. It’s a process of supplementing each other. I think Chinese brand should provide broader space for young people to display, because top designers will come from them in the future. Young people deserve more opportunities.
▼以中国传统元素为创新设计理念的“灯笼”系列作品（点击查看更多），Lantern lighting series: inspired by ancient Chinese portable lanterns (click to view more)
Cooperation procedure with brands
“The pointcut is usually a visible object or concept… Brand in the market is very practical, therefore, they consider a designer according to his experience cases for other brands, which is very realistic… On the other hand, we widen the scope of using various materials and technologies… It’s unnecessary to make a compromise of marketing… When we lose design, our marketing will be lost too.”
Brands usually acquire designers’ works and collect it in their new catalogue when take a fancy to a designer in a exhibition, and then they will have a communication about the new products in the following season, inviting designers to collaborate. The pointcut is usually a visible object or concept. My design language is quite obvious, so there are many brands think that my style is suitable. Normally brands won’t let designers merely design products in their own style. They also need to let designers keep their specialty so that the product could differentiate itself. In the process of differentiating products, brand planning can make this difference under control. After all，the characteristic of a brand is not just saying that all the products come from the same style, moreover, it should be vivid.
▼悬臂边桌（点击查看更多），Cantilever Sidetable (click to view more)
By cooperating with foreign brands, we realized the value of goodwill, it would contribute to opening international marketing. Though swimming against the current is difficult, sailing downward with the current is quite easy. Brand in the market is very practical, therefore, they consider a designer according to his experience cases for other brands, which is very realistic. We’ve cooperated with various kinds of domestic brands: including SHANG XIA, MZGF, ZAO ZUO and so on. Instead of positioning the consumer at a confirmed point, we manage marketing in the space witch is as huge as the brand offer to. Sometimes，the brand we are cooperating with requires to use a specific material, on the other hand, we widen the scope of using various materials and technologies by the aid of the businesses relationship with various customers. In the early phase, we should accomplish from the prime concept, the design drawing and the whole rendering to adjustment and confirmation of the sample. After confirming the sample, the rest can be handed to the brand: consists of sales, marketing, promotion planning, photography, and the whole work of later period.
▼Hive Light：与木智工坊的合作，Hive Light: cooperation with MZGF
▼Take it Light
▼Foxtrot Light：与造作的合作，Foxtrot Light: cooperation with ZAOZUO
At the very start, we mostly use metal and wood. Because metal has the features of high precision and a strong performance feeling of lines, in addition, it is more tensile than wood. However, wood is a thrifty choose. Till now, different customers require different materials: containing cushion, carbon fiber, marble and ink stone, and we also try some plastic. Sometimes we provide a project with a material have not been used before though, they’re still willing to have a try.
▼力量之椅：金属和木材的混合尝试（点击查看更多），Power Chair: combination of wood and metal (click to view more)
▼Clash tables：大理石和金属的混合尝试，Clash tables: the combination of marble and metal
▼几何花瓶与烛台，Geometry Vase & Candle-holder
Even if some goods bring bad feedback, their purpose is not merely the sales. These brands see benefits from the tension and influence what designer brings to so that it can offer help to marketing, thus generating other products sales.
I make efforts to keep balance between practicability and experiment, under the condition of basic function, to realize artistic sense of design. Because the direction of design in the future is not just satisfying basic function. The quality of future people must be enhanced, therefore, the higher spiritual pursuit would be asked for. That ’s the reason why furniture can make home atmosphere different when it becomes more artistic and has a sense of design.
▼提篮桌：用看似简单的家具打造不一样的生活方式，Basket Sidetables: using the same furniture to make life differently
Do design, grabbing at youth.
“After 40, people turned to be not so flexible as ever… The peak period of design is very short… Being a designer needs to do more good works by grabbing at youth.”
After accept the concept from customers, we will do some research and think it over. By accumulating information and dissipating of thinking, there comes the inspiration. I write it down immediately when ideas float, and then adjust the proportion, select the material, finally, the end product will show up. In fact, it’s a simple process, which has some connection with age though. When one gets to 40, his thoughts might not be as flexible as ever. It’s a little difficult to do design in this pattern, thus the peak period of design is very short. After the age of 40 to 50, European designers often do not have as many outstanding works as they did when they were young. As a designer, I think I should do more good works with grabbing at youth.
▼最近作品飞盘几，the latest work flying tables
A productive dobe with no personal life
“People who know me always say I’m a dobe… I’m a sincere person, which can’t keep under cover even when doing design, can’t compromise either, therefore, I always accomplish things the way it is… I don’t have any spare time, which seems that I spend all my time at work… European designers want to know why we can update so many products in a year… I said, compared with you, I spent more 8 hours at work in one day… and much more efficiently…”
People who know me always say I’m a dobe. Strangers might think I’m a little serious and cold. Especially in the exhibition, there are many people dare not to approach me, But they always change their mind after we contact.
I’m a sincere person, and I can’t keep under cover or compromise when doing design, therefore, I always accomplish things the way it is. Sometime customers let me make some compromise of the market, however, I would not allow it. Out of respect, they can have nothing to do with me.
▼进行中的作品方案，the projects on progress
I don’t have any spare time, which seems that I spend all my time at work. I work from 8am to 8pm, so I think it meaningful to regard design as an interest. European designers work 8 hours a day, moreover, I work 15 hours a day, even 16. They want to know why we can update so many products in a year, besides, accomplish so fast. I said, compared with you, I spent more 8 hours at work in one day. It cost them 2 hours to have coffee, and many time to have meals during this 8 hours; on the contrary, I work a long time everyday, and much more efficiently. I don’t drink coffee at all, a little tea is enough for me. Based on these facts，it’s easy to output many products in a year. Particularly in this year, we’ve been making dozens of projects, in the next period, there will be more and more projects to do, so maybe we have to work overtime again.
▼蔡烈超的设计手稿，drawings of Mario Tsai
Small studio has large energy
“There are 4 persons in my studio besides me… Now we’d like to design some new products，exploring the development direction for future design… There will be more activities in the next year. This year is just like a preparation period for us, next year, outbreak period will come. ”
We don’t have any big plan, and we’d like to design some products which tend to be more futuristic now. Doing these projects is just part of the plan. Actually, we would like to spend some time on other things and open our mind every year. Designers do not work only for money, and it’s more important to do something useful, interesting and meaningful.
There are 4 persons in my studio including me. Our business card has only my name on it, as well as, we don’t have any other titles like design director, and they don’t even have a card. We are a small group. Everyone is equal. There will be more activities in the next year. This year is just like a preparation period for us, next year, outbreak period will come.
▼团队讨论（右一：蔡烈超），group work (right: Mario Tsai)