BODW: Tea Party

29 november 2013 / design / words christopher dewolf

01-06 Slow•flow, a new “tea aesthetic”, will be presented by Tea Party’s director, Rock Wang, its product designer, Tong Ho, and its graphic designer Ken-tsai Lee at BODW 2013; 07 Tea Party.


Taiwanese designer Rock Wang tells us how a team of eight designers used their distinct skills to transform the traditional Chinese tea ceremony.

Next week, dozens of renowned international designers will converge on Hong Kong for the three-day Business of Design Week Forum. But one of the BODW’s biggest treats is not only hearing from the stars, but getting to know new talents from around Asia. This year, that includes the eight designers behind Tea Party , a cross-disciplinary project from Taiwan that transforms the traditional tea ceremony into a platform for inventive design. We spoke to the project’s leader, industrial designer Rock Wang, who will be presenting at BODW next week with collaborators Lee Ken Tsai and Tong Ho.


What will you be discussing at BODW?

Our team is quite big – we have eight people – and we’re going to present three sections. I’ll be talking about the vision of Tea Party, what we think and what we’re going to do in the future. In the second part, we’re going to present the product design. The third part is on graphic design.

How did Tea Party come about?

One and a half years ago, we just had the name, Tea Party, and nothing else. To all Chinese, tea culture is typical. Everybody knows tea, but nobody wants to talk about a vision of tea in the future. So we started thinking about how to deal with this topic – the Chinese tea culture.

We did a long research and finally found new ways to present this tea culture. I started to write some scenarios and tried to organize a design team. The first person we needed was a very good graphic designer, then a product designer to make things real. We also needed a table, so we got a furniture designer. Then we needed a tea master to perform the tea ceremony. I thought, maybe I could find a dancer, not a traditional tea master – because a traditional one only knows about tea ceremonies and not creative things. We sent the dancer to study tea ceremonies for two months. Finally we needed a musician who could make a soundtrack. And of course the dancer needed a good dress we needed fashion design.

I like traditional tea ceremonies. Tea Party is evolution, not revolution. We didn’t destroy anything – it’s still based on the traditional way of making tea and doing the ceremony. In a traditional ceremony, the tea master always does thing the same way, the music is always very traditional. We asked, a thousand years ago they played this music – but what if we changed the music? It’s still tea, it’s still a tea ceremony, but it could make for a very different result.

What’s the most satisfying thing about the project’s outcome?

We’ve made more than 30 products. I think the most interesting thing to me, personally, is the Tea Master, because we’ve tried to redefine what the tea master will look like in the future. We’ve almost created a new occupation. Maybe some young people who want to become tea masters will learn how to dance, play music, create new designs for objects and tea.

Is this kind of collaboration common in Taiwan?

Not really. Nobody’s done this before. After we did Tea Party, some designers started to find other designers or artists in different fields to cross over. It’s fun. To us, it’s a good way to mix with different fields of creation.

What happens next?

It’s a long project. It’s a new beginning. Next year, we’re going to find a new topic to talk about tea culture, another way. Maybe we’ll make a movie.

What do you find inspiring about Taiwan?

Taiwanese culture is a mix of Chinese and Japanese, and also Dutch people. To us, it’s in our nature to try to find a way to fuse different elements. That’s become part of our daily life.

What are the greatest challenges to working as a designer in Taiwan?

For commercial projects, we have the same problems as all designers around the world. We have to deal with clients, we have to make the best product in an economic way. But for cultural projects, something like Tea Party, it’s sometimes not easy. It’s very difficult to find a sponsor. I think that for Taiwanese, and maybe it’s the same in Hong Kong and China, designers are still very practical, so a project like this is not easy.

What’s your favorite kind of tea?

I don’t like to drink tea. Most Taiwanese people are always drinking tea, but I don’t like to drink it that much. I like water. I’m a very strange Taiwanese.


Rock Wang will discuss Tea Party at the BODW Forum on Friday, December 6 as part of the Design for Asia session. Visit for more information.

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