In the Mix

Natural Instincts

Design Miami

Three studios explore transcendence through the natural world at Design Miami/ Podium x Shanghai

Design Miami/ Podium x Shanghai 2023 is open! The second edition of the Shanghai event brings together over 20 international and regional exhibitors to celebrate collectible design. Curated by Dr. Xue Tianchong, this year’s event explores the theme “象外 / Transcendence,” highlighting the power of design to elevate our lived experiences, expand our understanding of the world, and point us toward a higher purpose. 

Inside Design Miami/Podium x Shanghai 2023
20C Gallery’s installation at the event; Photo by STUDIO 21

While every one of the incredible exhibitors on view is story-worthy, today we spotlight three exceptional studios—Leijie Zhou, Jinya Zhao, and Peter Ting—whose work engages the concept of transcendence by exploring the natural worlds potential to take us to unexpected places.


Leijie Zhou

From left: Elda and LC1, inspired, respectively, by works of the same name by Joe Colombo and Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, and Charlotte Perriand. Images courtesy of Gallery All

Hangzhou, China-based designer Leijie Zhou’s bold new Transformation series digitally translates classic design works—including Gerrit Rietveld’s Red and Blue Chair and Joe Colombo’s Elda Chair, among others—into unexpected, organic forms with decidedly biological characteristics. Inspired specifically by X-rays, which were discovered in 1895 and “revolutionized physics with their ability to penetrate through previously opaque materials,” the 3D-printed resin series offers up Zhou’s interpretations of the essence of these iconic forms.

Yu Wang, Cofounder of Gallery All, which is presenting the series in Shanghai this week, tells us the work is also a direct response to issues of consumption and waste. “Leijie Zhou...witnessed the problem of product surplus in mass industrial production. Based on this, he began to explore the language of creation, attempting to create works that reflect the drawbacks of mechanization in industrial production and embed the role of human beings.”

Clockwise from top left: Leijie Zhou’s Red and Blue Chair, inspired by the Gerrit Rietveld classic, and the Harp Chair, inspired by Jørgen Høvelskov’s 1960s iconic piece. Photos courtesy of Gallery All

The end result is a collection that aims to transcend boundaries—blurring past and present, manmade and digital, offering both a fresh perspective on established forms and a reflection on the relationship between the natural and digital worlds.


Jinya Zhao

Sound of Ice (2022) by Jinya Zhao; Photos by Homer He, Courtesy of the artist

Born and raised in China and currently pursuing her PhD at the Royal College of Art in London, artist Jinya Zhao’s practice focuses on expressing timeless qualities of atmospheric and sublime phenomena through hot glass. The dreamy, colorful forms on view in Shanghai demonstrate both her expertise in her medium’s formal elements—color, shape, balance, and depth—as well as her ongoing pursuit of the expressive potential of blown glass.

Glass artist Jinya Zhao; Photo by Homer He, Courtesy of the artist

How about your thoughts for the future? (2022) by Jinya Zhao; Photo by Homer He, Courtesy of the artist

Zhao tell us that her latest works are inspired by the inherent connections that exist between humans and nature. As she puts it: “The unspoken dialogue of nature and us is, ‘And you, I.’”

Her expressions of that relationship, she tells us, draw on her personal experience and ongoing studies—”the interplay between imagination, observation, memory, and atmosphere…contextually entwined with color theory, aesthetic research, and the descriptive language of the sublime.”


Peter Ting

Flower Cylinder by Peter Ting and Zha Caiduan; Courtesy of Ting-Ying Gallery

Visitors to the fair can also enjoy an up-close look at British-Chinese ceramic artist Peter Ting’s delightfully surprising and meticulously crafted Flower Cylinder. Part of the ongoing Hua series (meaning flower in Chinese), the work combines Tings elegant design with Dehua, China-based traditional flower maker Zha Caiduan’s expert craftsmanship.

The piece is a celebration of nature’s beauty that also plays with the art of concealing and revealing. Viewed from a distance, the flowers are almost fully hidden by the bowl’s sleek walls; only when one moves closer and looks down from above can they enjoy the full impact of the intricately layered,  blossoming flowers. It’s an unexpected delight waiting to be discovered. 

Peter Ting x Zha caiduan - Flower Cylinder from Ting-Ying Gallery on Vimeo.

The flowers are formed one-by-one by hand, then delicately placed at the bottom of a cylindrical bowl, which is made in molds. Ting (who is also cofounder of Ting-Ying Gallery) extracted the floral motifs from classic Blanc de Chine porcelain, engaging an ancient craft with a new, contemporary expression. (Blanc de Chine is the name given to the fine, white translucent porcelain produced in Dehua, a town in Fujian province that was producing ceramics as early as the 10th century).

As Ting tells us: “This work reconciles my western design mindset with my inherent Chinese heritage, honoring the amazing Dehua Blanc de Chine craftsmanship. Most importantly, it has the theatricality that I have been searching for.”


Thanks very much to each of these standout exhibitors for sharing your thoughts and work! And thank you to our generous partners who made this unique event possible: Louis Vuitton, FARFETCH, TAI PING, The Macallan, MULI, ELECTRO X, The Sukhothai Shanghai, and ZHANGYUAN! ◆

Visitors exploring the second edition of Design Miami/Podium x Shanghai

Design Miami/ Podium x Shanghai 2023, a Made in House production, is open through March 12, 2023, at the historic Shikumen compound, ZHANGYUAN, in the heart of Shanghai.

To learn more about the event, please visit the official Design Miami/ WeChat Account:

 Design Miami/ Podium x Shanghai 2023