On a cold Friday afternoon, designer Chifen Cheng invited me into her warm home where we discussed the latest trends, art, and most importantly her thriving business Designlump. Born in Taiwan, Chifen moved to Montreal with her two sisters and mother at the age of 10. Growing up, she always enjoyed hands-on work and drawing, but it had never occurred to her to become a designer. “Coming from an Asian family, they expect you to be an accountant, or a lawyer, an engineer, or anything that is not related to design and art.”
After finishing the Arts and Literature program at Marianopolis, Chifen told her parents she wanted to study design and enrolled in the design school at Concordia. After completing her second year in university, Chifen got a summer internship at a design company in Taiwan and had the opportunity to design a product which was chosen to be sold at several 7-11 stores.
Thats when her passion for design really emerged.
“When I started working, I dived into blogs and the design scenes and started following a lot of designers. I was constantly checking their websites and blogs, I thought ‘wow I want to be like them.’”
Before Designlump bloomed, Chifen was working on corporate branding and lighting for a company in Montreal. “I started a blog just to post things that inspire me like an online library for myself and people started following me and commenting on my blog.”
Q: How did Designlump start?
I passed by a pretty ceramic studio as I was walking and I decided to learn ceramics. I wanted to learn something new, we weren’t taught ceramics at school, and it wasn’t as easy as I thought. Ceramic is a tricky material, it was a whole new learning process, but luckily I had a lot of people helping me all the time. I started to design and once I created something with my hands, I figured, ‘I’m going to put it on Etsy and see what happens.’ It wasn’t like ‘I want to sell, I want to make it a business.’ I was just learning, I was still young, there was a lot I needed to learn before I make it on my own. One day the Food & Wine Magazine contacted me and wanted to feature my product in their November thanksgiving issue, which is their biggest issue of the year. It was a mortar and pestle that I had just posted on Etsy and just like that I had orders coming in and I thought ‘okay, I guess I’m starting a business.’ I knew I wanted to start my own studio eventually, but it was just at that moment.
Q: Whats the name behind Designlump?
I chose “design” and “lump” because at that point I was in love with a song called “Lump” by Presidents of the USA, and I was on the spot of creating a name for my blog, so I thought I would put the two things I love. for the moment I’m going to put Designlump and it stuck. Some people think it’s really strange but I like it.
Chifen describes Designlump as simple and minimalistic, the idea is to have something that has a lot of thought put into it, that is functional and lasting. It’s about having a lifestyle, and how you want to build it, it’s slow and experimental and everything that Chifen does involves a lot of research and testing.
I don’t believe you can come up with a good design in six months, it takes time to develop. Designlump is actually a learning process for me because I’m learning so much. For example, the lamp that I’m doing, I had never worked with copper before so I decided to learn about the material for this project. I learned how to bend and lacquer metal. It’s kind of like a home-school that I give myself, it’s really about what I can learn from doing every project.
Q: How does your design process evolve from start to finish, where do you find inspiration?
Well I think inspiration comes from pretty much anything and everything. Walking down the street watching someone talking on the phone, or even watching a dog. One of my projects was a picnic bag; that idea came to me while watching people having picnics at Park la Fontaine. I thought, why do people have to carry so much with when when they go on picnics? They have their bikes, their coolers, their backpacks with a blanket and its a lot of work! So I think most of my design is how I can come up with a solution, what I can do to solve a problem. I start by sketching, and I do prototypes, I make little mock ups with paper and metal wire, you just have to test every step and see how things work. Later I jumped into 3D, everything you do on paper might look different once you add in the scales. I experimented with different materials. Right now I’m starting jewelry, and I’m seeing how people react: the reaction is quite positive.
One of Chifen’s biggest achievements was winning the award for best prototype at IDS 2014, Canada’s largest interior design show in Toronto, for her Focal Point lamp.
Chifen is in the process of working on a new and exciting venture for Designlump. Her Focal Point lamp just got featured in DesignMilk, one of the biggest design websites, she sees it as a huge confirmation and has received a lot of admiration for her style. She has a bright future ahead of her.
Since Chifen does all the production herself, she can’t provide to stores just yet, she sells to direct customers and has built a close relationship with each one. Slowly, she is building a small inventory to start selling to stores.
To buy any of Chifen’s products visit her website: http://www.designlump.com/ and follow her on instagram @designlump.
All photos courtesy of Chifen Cheng and lamp image by Julie Langenegger Lachance.