THESHAW’s creations are not only visually confronting at first glance, but they are also deeply personal to designer Shaw Liu. Unafraid to share her inner demons and turmoil, she quite literally turns darkness into light. It is safe to say her art reflects life and vice versa. We sat down with Shaw to contemplate her beginnings, how she explores emotions and her most defining moments.
How would you define yourself?
I think it's darkness, a kind of dark but spiritual person.
Why is that?
It must have something to do with personal experiences and mood. My experience as a child was not particularly happy, but it certainly made me a more thoughtful person. I would describe it as walking through a dark tunnel, over and over. Until now, I've always felt that I was sacrificial somehow. On a more positive note, I have a strong feeling to protect other people from that. I really want to do something for others.
That sounds harrowing, how has this affected you as an adult?
Oh, many ways. Like I never really felt love until I met my ex-husband. He was the first, and arguably the only, person who supported me unconditionally. He was the person who could always make me feel warm again and really taught me to love. All that love and patience I have with my children now, I'm grateful for that. Despite breaking off our marriage for various reasons, in my heart of hearts, this relationship was pretty much perfect for me.
One of the things I remember vividly is one morning. At about 7 o 'clock, I suddenly sat up in bed and told him I wanted my own homeware studio. I want to be my own brand. He said ok without missing a beat, took me out, and bought me three computers before starting to look for a studio place.
For my next series, I want to honour this relationship. I read a bushido book during the recent pandemic. There was a samurai, wearing armour, within it, he was quietly protecting a bird. At last, when the warrior was dying, he slowly took out a letter from his chest to his lover. It's a beautiful picture. I want to name my next series, the 'Funeral of a Samurai'.
All these emotions of love, tenderness and inner turmoil, how does it translate to your work?
I hope that when others see my work, they have a tear in their eyes but also be able to crack a smile. I'm trying to say with my creations that you can find light, although you might be stuck in darkness.
What was the spark that morning that led you to design furniture?
Simply because I love objects, and I love everything that's related to objects. I particularly like visual illusions, because I think the human mind is also an illusion, and I've experienced near-death situations before. So I enjoying pairing these ideas and notions together. In fact, sometimes, I begin working, and I don't know where I'm going. Still, there's that underlying theme of spirit, illusions, the human mind and emotions.
Does sticking to those self-imposed parameters not stifle you?
No, never, I never run out of inspiration! It's that one thing I can keep going back to and weigh whether or not this object presents the right expression here. Things like emotion, spirit and energy, it's fluid in nature.
Tell us a little about your first light collection - Sanctuary.
I've always been fascinated by modules of death, like graves. Being able to design a spirit house was a very moving process for me. I suddenly felt that Newton's death was not the end. There could be such a beautiful monument to further his life. A miniature building of sorts that shows Newton's place in the human mind.
Moments like this suddenly make me feel that death is not a terrible thing. It's a soul shelter. When this piece is lit, a golden moon is projected onto the ceiling, and you're looking at it from a human perspective. This act of looking upwards connects us.
What was the most defining moment in your life?
When I started making furniture, I felt like I was born to do it. On a personal level, when I gave birth. I feel I am able to give my child the childhood I had missed out on and even experience it for myself. I'm a very curious person, so when my daughter plays, I do too. It's in those moments you forget you're a parent, and I feel like she's telling me that should do whatever makes me happy. I feel like kids have a lot of great wisdom they can share with us, we just have to listen.
Sometimes, I begin working, and I don't know where I'm going.