PHOTOGRAPHY: courtesy of Sian Zeng
We recently had the utter pleasure of being introduced to Sian Zeng, an esteemed design company based in London which is celebrated for its whimsical wallpapers and interior accessories inspired by designer Xiang 'Sian' Zeng’s own imaginative narratives - imagine if Winnie the Pooh was a Hungarian folk tale and the Hundred Acre Wood was inhabited by dinosaurs, flying pigs and a quirky hedgehog and you’re about half way there.
Born in China, Xiang Zeng relocated to Hungary with her parents when she was just a child, a move which unquestionably influences her work. According to the artist herself "Hungarian art and design is very strong in a graphic sense, they have lots of fairytales and beautiful, well-illustrated story books that can often be quite surreal. Being the only Chinese girl in the class meant that for almost six months, I had no other means of communicating with my Hungarian classmates than my illustrations or hand gesturing," says Zeng. "At the time, I loved looking at these beautifully drawn pictures in Hungarian folktale books. I obsessively copied and altered those images so that they would become my stories to tell to my classmates" and her interest in visual story telling has continued in the products she designs, inspired by these fairytales her work reflects the imaginative scenes in her minds eye.
She later moved to London, eventually graduating from Central Saint Martins with a BA in Textile Design. As a graduate of Central Saint Martins, Sian managed to win the Elle Decoration Young Talent of the Year Award for 2010/2011 and the Maison et Objet Les Découvertes prize in 2015. Now based in Cockpit Arts Studios in Deptford, with its young and spirited community feel which feeds into her quirky style and gives her the vibrant energy needed to create and design her unique body of work. Sian uses cutting-edge technologies alongside more traditional techniques in order to create her intriguing, storybook collection of wallpapers, cushions and home accessories. The philosophy behind her work is to encourage playfulness and imagination - hence the development of her range of interactive, magnetic wallpapers - by offering a innovative design perspective within a whimsical narrative, her customers can play out their own imagination by moving a cast of magnetic creatures and buildings across the wall, even adding quotes and stories with the speech bubbles.
In her more traditional wallpaper range the Woodlands wallpaper offers a "wonderfully whimsical adventure into an enchanted forest of surreal and extraordinary fairytale creatures" or the Cloud Forest wallpaper "where majestic plants grow amongst the autumn clouds in a faded dreamworld of fluttering winged seeds" or even the "silent snowstorm from the winter sky, an enchanted, glistening blanket of the Snowdrift wallpaper". It is also worth noting that all of her wallpapers are printed in England using earth friendly inks on paper from sustainable forests.
There is such a diversity to the tonal qualities of Sian's work that in turn creates such a sense of depth and space coupled with intricate detail - "In China, very early on, you are taught Chinese calligraphy. That gave me an understanding of how things are composed, because when you write Chinese characters, you have to think about the way things are placed and how different elements come together to look good. The characters are made up of two or three different parts and if you draw one too big, the others will be out of proportion". Along with the wallpapers - classic, magnetic and murals, magnets, cards and prints there are also fabric stickers, you can choose between a London or Croatian tree and combine it with some gorgeously eccentric flying pigs and/or hedgehogs. The dream like quality to these stickers is achieved using traditional Chinese inks, just what one needs in order to create "the feeling - a calm sense, a slow, meditative impression" something that is highly desirable in anyone's personal space, their sanctuary.