Home >> Hot Issue

Stories of life, out of the woodwork

Updated: 2021-03-29 10:48 ( China Daily )
Share - WeChat
Wu Song Beats the Tiger [Photo provided to China Daily]

Going against the grain

Interested in handcrafts as a boy, Yu first encountered automata designed by Kazuaki at an exhibition in 2015 when he studied at the Communication University of China in Beijing. "It was like meeting a like-minded friend," Yu says, recalling the moment.

As an art and design major, he began to learn the craft by himself and, with the support of his tutor Lu Ying, he kept studying and examining automata in school. Now the hobby has become a career.

The pieces that seem to move effortlessly take a beginner a long time to make. It can take Yu more than a year to ensure his mechanical sculptures move smoothly.

When he graduated in 2016, Yu landed a job at an advertising agency near Shichahai, a popular scenic area in Beijing. He stayed on at the company for three years because, at that time, he was not sure that he could make a living out of his hobby.

Yu Chenrui [Photo provided to China Daily]

While working as a designer, Yu kept exploring and advancing his skills in wood carving and mechanics. Eventually, though, despite the job's good salary, it was not enough to compensate for not following his true passion. Every day, when he walked alone along the Shichahai lake, he watched ducks swimming, foraging and diving. He envied, in a way, their freedom to do as they pleased.

"Every time I would encounter the ducks, I would ask myself if I was doing what I wanted, and if I was happy with my life," Yu remembers.

The ducks inspired his automaton creation entitled Search for Self, in which a duckling swims happily in a circle. At the same time, an older duck seems unsure of what its life is about. The younger bird seems unconcerned, and is just happy to play.

At an exhibition, when a girl saw the piece and asked why the duck kept searching but finding nothing, Yu heard her grandmother's interpretation, which of course was exactly how he wanted the piece to be explained. The grandmother said that, because humans change as time goes by, searching for yourself is a lifelong process, and doubts may come with age.

Hat [Photo provided to China Daily]

Finally, in 2018, Yu quit his job and returned to Chengdu to open his automata workshop. The studio he rents exceeds 200 square meters, and Yu has spent more than 300,000 yuan ($46,000) refurbishing it.

Just after finishing the renovation, Yu didn't know what to do and worried about cash flow. To keep himself occupied he planted blueberries, raspberries and cherries. He watered, weeded and added fertilizer every day.

"Daily routines helped me calm down and reignited my creativity, which resulted in an automaton called To Observe the Autumn," Yu says. The pendulum installation tries to show how lovely and short autumn is.

The planting and distractions seemed to work as word spread among the city residents and business increased.

Goldy Mouse. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Many of Yu's creations are built with a dash of wisdom, a sprinkle of humor and are inspired by observations of real life.

Woodcutter and Worm is derived from his own experience of finding a wormhole while cutting wood. The piece shows a creature with its eyes wide open at the moment the log in which it lives is being cut in two.

One fan, Paul James, who saw the piece online commented: "Amazing woodwork, really love the small details, like the fingers moving individually on a hand and the worm hidden inside the wood log."

Yu knows that there are many more creative ideas waiting to be expressed. "It feels quite good to be fully devoted to automata creation and I am still searching for myself."

|<< Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Next   >>|
Editor's Pick
Hot words
Most Popular