WUZU 2010 – The Ice Jewelry Project

About WUZU10

WUZU is a long-term collaborative program between the Jiangnan University and the Industrial Design department of the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHDK). Alternating every year, one university hosts a joint international summer school. Since its inception in 2004, the WUZU program has stated an example of successful collaboration between Chinese and European universities.
This years WUZU 2010 program was organised by the School of Design at the Jiangnan University in China.

The Subject was “YOU•WU”. The program started in June 2010, when 11 students and 2 professors from the ZHDK had the opportunity to fly to China and meet their educational partners; 20 students and 4 professors from the Jiangnan University. Together they conceived and designed a product that will be exhibited in September in the pavilion “Basel Geneva Zurich” at the Expo in Shanghai.
What does YOU•WU stand for
The topic YOU•WU is from Tao, a concept found in Taoism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tao). It has two modalities, YOU and WU which you can also call “origin” and “effect”. In the Chinese culture this means the non-existence and existence. The goal was to create a product that incorporates YOU•WU.

The Project
We started our project with different expeditions, prospects  and ideas. While I was more concerned about building something with educational values and that makes people think, my Chinese friends Candy and Claire chose an approach that would be based on a more literal implementation of the topic.

On one of our many trips to the beautiful small towns in China we observed students buy cheap jewelery. I immediately thought that this jewelery is probably being worn once, maybe twice before it disappears somewhere in a box or even a trash can. What a contribution to our daily waste production. So many resources carelessly wasted for a trend or a brief moment. This experience made us focus on an idea to build a product that is environmentally friendly and at the same time allows for a critical statement over our waste society.

Together we developed a product made of ice. It’s jewelery completely made from frozen water. When worn, it slowly dissolves on it’s own without causing any impact on the environment. Consider a hot day at the beach. Jewelry made from ice is fashionable body cooling that is fun to wear and completely guilt free. It can be produced everywhere and does not require sophisticated production methods.

The state transformation from frozen to liquid symbolizes the phenomena of disappearing fish populations that is caused by our destructive behaviour. Our fast living and careless disconnection from mother nature may lead to a irreversible ecological catastrophe. Just like a piece of art made from ice needs care to not melt away, we need to finally take care to possible avoid what currently seems inevitable.

Our ice jewelry comes in three flavors: °fish | °rubbish | °fun

°fish is to make people aware of the fact that many sea animals are dying out. This can be because of overfishing or pollution. Either way, we need to somehow find the balance with our environment again otherwise we will destroy all sea life. Hence, °fish comes in the shape of sea-animals to remind people that we need to take care of our oceans and its animals before it’s to late.

°rubbish should let people understand that they have to keep rubbish away from the sea and the beaches. Today there are already huge patches of trash floating in the ocean, some bigger than the US state Texas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_Garbage_Patch). This should not have happened and filling trash into our oceans can no longer be tolerated. The °rubbish line shall remind people that it is our responsibility to keep the sea and our environment clean from trash.

°fun is to simply enjoy the beach life. It’s decorative and fun to wear. It is to remind us all that, being environmentally responsible is still a lot of fun.

How did we work?
From start to completion the project could last a maximum of 5 days. Naturally, we were working long ours and it made us work hard. In collaborative and individual short brainstorming sessions we developed a bunch of ideas. When we had all our ideas written down, we discussed each one of them in detail and we chose our favorites. The selected ideas we then presented to our teachers. Which does not always yield a clearer result ;-)
With the chosen product idea we started a few rounds of experiments to find out how the cold material would behave, how to form it, etc. We built many shapes used many different materials to create wearable jewelry. To demonstrate the final product and the topic of the pollution, we produced a short stop motion video:

Looking back to this project.
It was a great experience to work hand in hand with Chinese Students. My team member Candy and Claire were both very open minded and fun to work with. We had a good time and we learned a lot about our cultural differences. Personally I gained a lot of value out of the intercultural collaboration and thus the project was a great success.

Video of the final product

Thanks for Matt from Yatah for helping me finding the words ;-)