Dazed Digital


Jellymon meets Brut Cake

January 18, 2012

An exclusive Satellite Voices interview series by the Shanghai studio and collective Jellymon interviewing some of the most influential creatives in Shanghai

  • Text by Satellite Voices

Guest Feature by Josh Atkin of Jellymon

Jellymon interviews some of the most influential creative people in Shanghai and finding out what makes their city tick.

This week we talk with Nicole Teng, founder of Brut Cake, challenging the status quo of product design with the idea of letting the consumer sense the designer's hand touch, and discover the original inspiration that drove their creation.


Jellymon: Can you tell us about Brut Cake and why you chose to launch it?
Nicole Teng: I launched the brand Brut Cake in 2011. Against an environment of mass production and over consumption, I wanted to challenge the current state of product design and return it to a more traditional and smaller scale. Everything from Brut Cake is almost exclusively hand-made and in small volumes. We keep the rough textures and are very fond of the original look of the material. By committing to “hand-made”, Brut Cake promote the essential beauty of raw materials, which we believe makes the experience fundamentally different to mass produced products.

Jellymon: What is the thinking behind the name?
Nicole Teng: “Brut” is a reference to the 19th century art movement labeled in France as “Art Brut”. The title meant “Raw Art”, “Original Art” or “Rough Art”. All creations from this movement were very strong, original and rough - imperfect but with a genuine heart. “Cake” represents the sweetness to be found in daily life. “Brut Cake” aims to eliminate the distance between the maker and consumer. “It has always been our goal to let everyone feel the makers hand through the product.

Jellymon: Can you tell us about some of the product ranges we can expect from Brut Cake and where are the products available?
Nicole Teng: The product range includes re-imagined furniture, hand-woven home wear, ceramic work (including hybrid light bulb pots that give this traditional craft a new look) and costumised designs for specific clients. We currently sell in Beijing (UCCA Gallery Shop), Shanghai - (Showroom-shanghai) and Taipei (Home Hotel design shop, Twines design shop, Taipei Good Cho, hikidult on-line design shop)


Jellymon: How do you feel about creativity in Shanghai and where do you see it heading?
Nicole Teng: Nothing is impossible in this city. I decided to give up my office job after living here for one year, as I felt anyone with creative energy has the possibility of realizing their ideas. The creative industry is blooming, although at this moment creativity has been seen as a kind of business, but sooner or later, people will be aware of creativity as something we should build into daily life, at that moment the design industry will grow much faster and healthier than now.

Jellymon: What do you like about living in Shanghai and how do you feel about its rapid development?
Nicole Teng: I like my Shanghai life purely because only here can I recruit enough resources to work out my collection with a reasonable investment. I also love all those old buildings and trees. However in Shanghai, the environment develops too fast, over consumption is rampant, there is no permanent value, the life of a good design is very short.

Jellymon: Where are your favorite places to hang out in the city?
Nicole Teng: I love Fuxing park (in the day time), it’s a peaceful green land. Lying in the grass makes you forget where you are.

Jellymon: What would you say are Shanghai's biggest successes and pitfalls?
Nicole Teng: Successes: This city is a big melting pot of different cultures and people. It’s very interesting just because of that, it’s a hub to help you connect to the world. Pitfalls: A lot of waste and carelessness.

Jellymon: Is there one secret you have about Shanghai you'd care to share with us?
Nicole Teng: That’s not the way secrets work...

Jellymon: If you could sum up Shanghai in one word in Chinese what would it be and why?
Nicole Teng: 萬花筒 (kaleidoscope) as Shanghai is a city of fantasy from every way you look at it. 

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