Mixed media textile designer Ejing Zhang marries the beauty of geometry with an extremely captivating colour palette, creating one-of-a-kind handmade pieces. In her graduate collection, Chinese craftsmanship and ethnical cultures inspire the translation of traditional techniques and materials into manipulated textile designs and contemporary accessories. This London based young talent can make you a dress, a stunning piece of jewelry or even a trophy, managing to blur the line between art and design.
When did your passion for textiles start?
I grew up seeing my mum analyze woven fabrics under a magnifying glass. But the moment I really began to be aware of how exciting textiles can be was when I took my foundation course in London.
You studied Textile Design and Mixed Media Textiles at some of the best arts universities worldwide, apart from having gained professional experience in houses such as Givenchy, Liberty and Alexander McQueen. How does all of this reflect in the way you work on your projects?
The education I got in UK shaped up my creative thinking. It's a good balance of research and hands-on work. And the industry experience was great in terms of giving me an insight of the role textiles play in the fashion industry. It was also valuable because my work went into production. But I did not carry too many commercial concerns into my own projects… it was the best time to reach my extremes in college.
You were born in China, a totally different culture to the one you found where you were studying your degree and developing your projects. Do your origins influence your creative process?
Yes it definitely does. I cannot get away from it and will not try to. In the end it's my background which could make me unique. I am fascinated by the oriental aesthetics and spiritual essence.
Last year you were commissioned to create the trophies for the WGSN Global Fashion Awards, which turned out beautifully. How did that come about for you, and how did you enjoy it?
We did a project which was initiated by WGSN in the first year of RCA (Royal College of Art). And they still remembered me after a while. I was approached after graduation and it was an amazing opportunity. I thank WGSN very much for supporting me as a young talent. I had quite a lot of freedom to use my own material and came up with a design based on my style and their research. I went through some hard-core production phases: all 19 trophies were hand-crafted by me. But I was very pleased with the result.
What are your main sources of inspiration and who are the artists that most influence you?
My main inspiration is the material itself. As soon as I lay things on the table I will have plenty of ideas of how to construct them. I love first hand researches such as going to museums and markets and collecting scrap pieces from everywhere. Also, I do quite a bit of traveling to get to know other cultures. I adore Issey Miyake and Shigeru Ban’s way of thinking. They are both designers who make the most extraordinary things out of simple ideas and materials.
Tell us about WORKS, the collective you are part of. How did it start, and what is it about?
WORKS is a lovely group of creative RCA graduates. They first formed it with the product graduates and then, when I finished, I got an invitation to join. We presented an exhibition at the London Design Festival last year. We are all like-minded, having unique design approaches to materials.
Your embroidery work is stunning and your resin sculptures and jewelry pieces are so beautiful and such a great source of inspiration. What’s your favourite material to work with?
My favourite material is still simply threads. They are all kinds: thick and thin, matt and shiny, fluffy and plasticy, dyed and plain… You will see the difference immediately when you pull a single string out of the cone. They are like ink from a pen, you can draw a huge picture with them.
It feels that you love to explore different techniques and mix them up. Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t done yet?
At the moment my urge is to refine the rapid prototyping technique that I briefly touched for my final collection –Moonrise. 3D printing is becoming so popular and sometimes overwhelming. I would like to use it as a necessary tool rather than a trend or an end product.
Talk us through your work process, from inspiration stage to final product?
I always start with a theme and then do my research, going to exhibitions and collecting bits and bobs that are relevant. I then sit down and sort out what to do with them and how to make them go best with each other. I draw and sketch a lot, while I test out the ideas and make samples. I often need to change the sketches and then do the test again, it’s a back and forth process. Talking to people from other expertise also helps me balance my opinions. Then comes the final product.
What’s the best advice you've ever been given about how to be more creative?
"Any time you start a new thing, there will always be people saying that you cannot do it. If everybody agrees with you, somebody might have already done it”.
For your Graduate final project you collaborated with another artist to develop a 3D printed tote collection, how was that experience? Do you plan to collaborate with other designers/artists in the near future?
Yes, the collaboration with Weilong Xie was very successful. He is brilliant on how to realize an idea into 3D modeling. I could have not done it without him. I could almost say the future is all about collaboration. It’s like having extra arms that enable you to do something you could never do alone.
How would you like your work to evolve?
I would like my work to be a wider range across the lifestyle and interior sector.
Professionally, what’s your goal?
Ideally to set up my own studio and keep doing collaborations with exciting brands and talented people.
What would your dream project be?
To do a collaboration with some furniture brand, for example with the Italian brand Moroso, I love it!