#1 – Bamboo Root Carving
In Vietnam, Craft Villages are an important part of the manufacturing landscape. Dinh Xuan Hung was born in the pottery village Thanh Ha, first learned carpentry from ‘craftsmen in Kim Bong on the other side of the Thu Bon River’, and later started playing with a piece of bamboo root, carving it into a shape that sort of looked like an old man. He liked it, so continued.
He is the only craftsman making souvenirs from bamboo roots in Hoi An town, producing 1,000 souvenirs each year.
“I wish for the day when bamboo root souvenirs will become special gifts for visitors in Hoi An. The trade will help promote tourism in the city, as well create jobs for local people,” the article quotes him as saying.
Without some help from the government in finding or certifying bamboo root stock that is capable of meeting international quarantine regulations, this cool craft is likely to remain available only for domestic tourists.
#2 – Nike’s Transparency and a Vietnamese Factory
Nike has long had a sweatshop problem. I very much doubt that this problem has been solved, however I applaud Nike’s efforts to be more transparent in approaching it by openly publishing every single one (they say) of their factories worldwide. This is big for Vietnam; there are 65 factories and 312,687 employees in the country. The manufacturing map lets anyone find the contact details for each of these factories, and presents information about how many people are located at a factory and their demographic breakdown.
There doesn’t seem to be many new reports of problems at Vietnamese Nike factories in the last few years, and studies have shown a high level of satisfaction among Nike’s Vietnamese workforce. This manufacturing map that I found while researching Vietnam’s manufacturing sector certainly looks like a step in the right direction.
Also a couple of cool design jobs going at the moment (April 2014) if anyone is interested: http://jobs.nike.com/vn/vietnam-jobs
#3 – Bamboo Tricycle by a21 Studio
“By designing this bike with materials, which can be easily found everywhere, we hope not only to bring true happiness to children but also remind us about our childhood,” say the designers. Also cool about designing the bike with materials that can be found anywhere: the materials can be found anywhere.
Even the bolts on this trike are bamboo (and are hidden by the coiled rope). Customising size or angles wouldn’t be beyond any handyperson, and the bamboo has even remained untreated. This lack of treatment isn’t great for the bamboo, as it will weather in a few years, but much better for the child who will be riding or chewing on it.
#4 – TH Milks ‘Largest Dairy Farm in the World’ Project
This ‘Largest Dairy Farm’ is actually 10 farms, with more than 30,000 cows between them. Delivered on a build and deliver contract with Israeli Afimilk, this project could be in production for decades to come.
It certainly isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing project I could have chosen to write about, but it is interestingly complex. Between all the human elements, there is the added complexity of needing to develop processes to feed, clean and otherwise care for large animals, in an optimal way.
Sold under the True label, this milk is sold based on it’s safety, so the margin for error is low. That something so complex was able to be delivered as a turnkey solution , especially in a country like Vietnam that has been slow to embrace technologically driven innovation, is extremely interesting.
South East China Projects
#1 – Milk Design’s “Repair” Series
Founded by Chi-Wing Lee in 1998, Hong Kong-based Milk Design delivers, ‘consultancy projects of industrial and consumer products for international companies, conception and creation of lifestyle products under the brand Feelgood Home, a Hong Kong Kong origin brand of high end bathroom and home accessories.
This particular series of items is not part of that Feelgood range, though it’s goal and output does make me feel good. Chi-Wing found he was throwing away many of the pieces he had grown attached to, and wanted to extend their lives and make them useful again. His goal was to, ‘add new design elements while keeping the smallest changes and their original nature and beauty to continue their uses for today’s living.’
#2 – Hong Kong Design Centre’s Incubator
Hong Kong arguably understands Western Design better than any other region in the East, and has long funded efforts to improve the local design industry.
The regional government funds this project, that ‘aims at nurturing design startup companies to meet the challenges during the early and critical start-up stage of development.’
It’s a two year programme, that gives access to a number of services; ‘ready-to-use office, financial subsidies, business development and networking opportunities with industrial organisations, academic institutes, professional bodies and potential business partners.’
#3 – Xiamen First Stone Co’s River Rock Table and Chairs
I wanted to include a project that is both available for sale, and indicative of the possibilities of industry in South East China.
When I say this rocky setting is available for sale, it is as long as you’re ordering by the container load. Xiamen have a network of quarries and a wide range of products, and have delivered the stone for a number of Western luxury home builds.
Here’s their blurb:
‘Xiamen First Stone Co., Ltd is a professional manufacturer of natural stone products, running 7 factories and several quarries of chinese travertine, China Sunny Gold marble, SL Black Limestone and G654 granite. Over 550 skilled workers of the company, with their best workmanship, are capable in outputting and supplying more than 80,000㎡ of various stone products annually. As one of the most outstanding enterprise in the stone industry in Xiamen region, the company has sold its products to 65 countries and regions in the world over the past decades and have won recognition through several overseas national projects, which brought a firm and continuous development of the company.’
#4 – Geoby Bikes
There’s a reason that most of the bikes that come out of China look them same, even though they’re ordered from different companies. Most companies that sell bikes are reselling a generic bike made by one of the few companies like Geoby. If you’re happy to order in 100+ bike shipments, Geoby might be the right company for you.
By working at scale and delivering bikes at the design of others, Geoby have built up a considerable business, and have for the first time started selling bikes worldwide under their own brand – and with models available that they’ve only built for partners before, giving them a huge range of bikes. If they can add B2C marketing skills to their operation successfully, they could well end up the biggest bike company in the world.
For a bit of extra bikey goodness, have a read of Zach Hyman’s great piece on Frog Design’s blog that looks at how e-bike charging infrastructure is going in China: http://designmind.frogdesign.com/blog/chinas-electric-bike-charging-cultures.html
culture – http://designmind.frogdesign.com/blog/chinas-electric-bike-charging-cultures.html