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Designer Annie Tung creates pieces that evoke an organic reprieve in a hyper-connected world.
If there’s a category of design that gets to surprise and delight its end user, it’s not often the function-first world of industrial design. But designer Annie Tung’s body of work takes more than a few thrilling turns through disciplines ranging from taxidermy to jewellery to art installations (she was also a finalist for Maker of the Year), and her craft-inspired approach to functional objects ultimately won her this year’s Industrial Designer of the Year title. Despite the range in her portfolio, it’s the 33-year-old’s affinity for non-traditional materials, from concrete to acrylic, that becomes the connective tissue uniting her work, injecting an element of surprise into everyday objects. “The aim is to make something that looks different or unexpected,” she says. “But it’s a familiar typography.”
From her Eclipse lamp—a marble sculpture that doubles as a lighting fixture—to the mesh enclosure around her cocoon-like Long Time chair, Tung’s work evokes an organic reprieve in a hyper-connected world and a poetic point of view that resonated with our judges. “I can feel the designer is aware of the importance of analog flow of time within the modern digitized world,” said judge Masaaki Kanai of Muji.
The driving force behind Tung’s creativity is a dual curiosity surrounding materials and process. “I try to work with natural materials whenever possible,” she says. “I’m always asking myself, how can I explore that at the same time with an idea that fits?” That line of inquiry, first piqued while studying jewellery design and metals at the Ontario College of Art and Design, has served her well. Since graduating in 2007, Tung has amassed an impressive list of accolades and exhibitions, including a prestigious residency with Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre.
In 2013, Tung was compelled to expand her repertoire toward product design, and left her hometown of Toronto to pursue a master’s degree in design for luxury and craftsmanship at École cantonale d’art in Lausanne, Switzerland. “I thought the approach there was more interdisciplinary and more fluid than it is in North America,” she says.
Love brought Tung to Vancouver in 2015, and she wasted no time in leaving her mark on this city’s design community. She snagged the emerging design award at the 2015 LAMP exhibition with her Eclipse fixture, which led to her working for local lighting company Andlight. And we can look forward to more surprises in Tung’s repertoire as she discovers the influences that await her on the West Coast. “Being from Toronto, I’m not much of a camper, so I’m like, okay, take me to the big trees, take me to the desert.”
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