An interview with Wei Wu, 2023 Maker of the Year

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Above: Photo of Wei Wu @_woodway_ by Anthony McKee

One of the traditions of the Maker of the Year awards is that the overall winner acts as a judge the following year. Here we meet,  2023 overall winner Wei Wu and now a judge in 2024 for Maker of the Year presented by Carbatec. We asked Wei about his background and about the his winning entry, The Ming Noir Cabinet.

You left your woodwork studio in Beijing and moved with your family to Australia a year ago. What was your profession prior to woodworking, and why did you make the change?
I majored in product design. Before starting my own furniture brand, I worked for 12 years as a design director in a large IT company. With the rapid development of the consumer electronics industry, the lifespan of products has become increasingly short. So I gradually developed a desire to create objects that could last longer.

At the same time, when choosing furniture for my new house, I wanted to find products that were friendly to both the elderly and children. However, I couldn’t find any furniture that met my requirements in terms of both form and function. Since I had woodworking skills, I decided to design and make it myself, and that’s where I started.


Wei Wu, Ming Noir cabinet, reclaimed Tas oak. Two views show how the cabinet can be positioned below or above. Photos: Wei Wu

Why have you chosen wood as your medium for expression?
The variety of wood is very rich, each species has a different character. Colour, scent, grain and texture give the designer a great space to work within. Good furniture requires designers to fully understand the tone and emotion of the materials they are using, letting the wood speak its unique qualities. And well-crafted solid wood furniture can be passed down from generation to generation. For me, wooden furniture represents a tradition, and I really enjoy working with wood.

How does your design philosophy flow through to your work? Every piece of artwork is a reflection of the designer’s inner spiritual world. A good designer is one who notices and understands the real needs of people, and has the ability and creativity to meet such needs.

In today’s hectic and challenging world, many people suffer from pressure and stress. It is my wish to pass on a sense of simplicity, maturity and serenity to modern people through my work.

In a social media post you said: ‘Eastern culture goes inward and to the core. Artistic creation provides a way to move from the outside to the inside, and the practice process itself contributes to the harmony of body and mind.’ Can you explain that statement?
Eastern cultures focused more on inner mastery and peace as the preconditions for a more peaceful world, the outer world was nothing more than a reflection of the inner world. When a person understands the importance of exploring inner self- awareness and life experiences, they truly begin to focus on the inherent value of life. In this sense, arts and crafts activities serve as a means of connection between our body and mind, the inner and outer world, the visible and invisible.


Wei Wu, Ming Noir cabinet, detail. A 'stop stick' was left unstained to reference its origins. Photo: Wei Wu

Can you explain the title of your piece please?
With a time-honoured history, the handicraft of furniture formed its unique characteristics in the Ming Dynasty. My cabinet was inspired by Ming furniture, which combines advanced engineering with minimalist aesthetics and has influenced many world-class masters. Black (noir in French) is a colour of elegance, formality and certainty – and it covers up the flaws in the recycled wood perfectly. Together Ming and Noir create an atmosphere of serenity and stability at home.

How did you set up your furniture studio in Beijing, and how will you do it in Melbourne? What are your woodworking plans for the future?
My studio in Beijing was the very first DIY woodworking studio in China. As I myself was nurtured and fulfilled in craftsmanship, I wanted to pass on this experience and share the joy with the people around me. Melbourne is like my second home, I plan to start from a small workshop, make custom furniture and interesting designs, and bring in the furniture I’ve designed over the past ten years. I hope Icandoasagoodjobasbeforeand contribute to this country.

We now know that you’ve won some prestigious awards including Red Dot and iF Design awards, so this is not a new experience for you! What did winning a Wood Review Maker of the Year award mean to you?
Winning an award is always an exciting experience. I am very grateful to Wood Review for providing such a platform for every creator to showcase their work. I have also seen a lot of impressive woodwork and respected craftspeople. I feel very fortunate to be able to stand out among so many great entries.

Over the past year I have faced many challenges as a result of moving to a new country and city, and this is the first award I have achieved in Australia. So unlike the previous international awards I won, it has a very special meaning to me. It’s a great start to my new life here.

Enter Maker of the Year presented by Carbatec

This interview was published in Australian Wood Review, issue 121, December 2023. In 2024 the December of issue of the magazine will feature the top 100 entries from this year’s competition.





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