Present Ten: A Special Collection Celebrates 10 Years of Design Series
By: Tung C. | Oct 23, 2023
Beginning in 2013, I embarked on a design challenge—a series of annual explorations, spanning ten years, that would uncover the future of design at Heath. I anchored each year around a theme that culminated in a show and copious learning or unlearning. As the ten years come to a close, I now see, Design Series didn't take me where I thought it would—because nothing ever does—it took me on a journey of connecting my hands with my heart.
This year, in addition to the exploration of lidded objects in Design Series 10, I also created a special collection called Present Ten, which I've spent over two years developing. As I walk around my studio, I am surrounded by samples from past Design Series. Some of them I like to keep for further reference, but many are the broken ones, reminding me that each Design Series is not always a straight line. While some ideas inspire the next, some go back and forth... others even contradict each other. I started exploring: what if the ten Design Series were made together? How would they interact with each other?
These seven pieces house objects representing the past ten Design Series. Each is a work of art, with parts that connect, share, and speak to one another—a collection of moments and memories, informing how we grow. Wood is introduced throughout the collection to highlight, support, and group the objects. Ideas from previous Design Series reappear, but the objects of each Present Ten piece are united by new, unique themes.
Individually, these pieces achieve a simple goal: create an opportunity for complete sets of the Design Series to exist in the world. Together, the pieces of the Present Ten collection represent something much larger: the many connections and relationships that were nurtured over my past decade at Heath.
After ten years of making with my hands, there’s calm in my heart.
“I started with the idea of how the pieces can stay together, and how they can enhance each other.” This is the first piece made for the Present Ten collection, a wooden box, made of Douglas Fir, hosting each Design Series object in its own place. Instead of separating the objects, the box shapes itself around each theme—the volumes are tailored to each occupant, opening or closing to accommodate a candle’s heat, a beam of light, or a flower’s bloom.
“While I worked on Design Series in my studio alone for the past 10 years, it never felt like a solo journey. Many people touched my heart, inspired me, and helped me along the way.” This collection sits in an enclosed shelf with 11 compartments—10 for Design Series and the 11th for our friend Akio Nukaga, who Tung has known since joining Heath.
“I love to design each Series, but I’m also obsessed with their number.” Each year, Tung and the Heath team create a poster to celebrate Design Series, focusing on the number of the collection. In this piece, each object’s Design Series number is hidden in its form.
Tree and Bird
Nine ceramic pieces are stacked on a red oak shelf to form the trunk of a tree. The tenth piece, a little red bird, is free to fly around and rest on any section of the trunk. A simple copper rod allows the bird to sit where she likes. “I particularly like when she rests on DS8, shaped like a branch that has been chipped away by a woodpecker, or when she looks inside DS9, which is a planter but becomes a nest.”
“The trees are connected, we now know, not only by their roots but also by the fungi that help them to share knowledge and information.” In this piece, each object is connected to the others by the shared wooden base, blending their roots and their knowledge. Rearrange them and place them as you like.
Collecting antiques has been a part of Chinese culture for thousands of years. Often, to display an individual's unique wares and treasures, a custom display shelf is created for those pieces. “In this case I started with the shelf. I designed it with uniquely-shaped spaces and created ten pieces to fit perfectly into those spaces. Eddie Aya, an up-and-coming woodworker in the Bay Area, helped me build this beautiful shelf in white oak.”
“There is so much I've learned over the last decade designing and making each Design Series that goes beyond clay and glaze or form and function. Each piece in this Present Ten collection represents a different Design Series and I painted a poem onto each piece expressing what I learned from that year. The poems are written in an old style in traditional Chinese characters. My friend, a creative director in Hong Kong, helped me translate each poem into English.” Each piece has its own wooden box made from paulownia wood, which is light and strong. These boxes are inspired by Japanese tomobako, which are custom made boxes that accompany a piece of art for storage and protection. The boxes also serve as a pedestal for the pieces allowing them to be displayed together. Two of the shortest boxes are stacked in the center, and the others are arranged around them. The light, representing Design Series 3, hangs above the whole collection like a reading lamp illuminating the poem.
First year: I declare I am clay for life, freedom of shaping and reshaping. Second year: The time when my mind connects with my both hands. Third year: For the first time, I see it so clear in my dream. Fourth year: Master has no end; success cannot be achieved without mistakes. Fifth year: I find myself in many life forms, including animals. Sixth year: Growth has no size and scale, learning to be humble and stay small. Seventh year: Unlearning everything i have been told, let knowledge stored in memory, let heart take the first step. Eighth year: Learning how to use love to heal pain and loss. Ninth year: At the age of 57, I am still growing. Only wish my belly will make an exception. Tenth year: starting is not easy, stop is even harder. Letting go and starting again.