(Left) Lin Xi, a designer of creative mementoes, creates a design with parts of a smartphone in her studio in Weifang, Shandong Province, in 2022 (COURTESY PHOTO)
An inaccurate watch is wrong every second, but it can still be put to good use. People stop their watches to mark major moments.
A bereaved husband stopped his watch, a present from his wife's parents, at the time of his beloved wife's death. He then had the watch parts reassembled into a "tree of life" connected to the diamond ring he had given his wife as a token of his love. The watch is now an art piece and an eternal tribute to their love.
Lin Xi is the creator of this ingenious "time framer." She is good at reassembling electronic items to create keepsakes to help their owners keep the memories of old days alive.
The “tree of life” Lin designed for a bereaved husband in memory of his wife (COURTESY PHOTO)
Building a 'life museum'
Since she came up with her innovative memento idea in 2019, Lin has received a variety of vintage items including mobile phones, cameras, gaming machines, toy robots, hair trimmers and bitcoin mining machines, from people who asked for her help to create mementoes.
Her memento idea was inspired by an art installation she saw in Japan. "The artist dismantled electric bulbs and put the parts together," she told Beijing Review. "It looked beautiful and harmonious and an idea popped out. Maybe I could also have a shot at it."
Nevertheless, no harvest comes out of nowhere. As an amateur designer who majored in the Turkish language and journalism, Lin had to start from scratch, learning how to disassemble electronic items by watching videos and then how to use design software. After her first disassembling video went viral, she spent all her time on her new venture, setting up studios, hiring employees and learning how to run a business. During that period, she worked during the day and live-streamed at night.
Lin dug out her old iPhone and gaming console, took them apart and then collaged the screens and chips into a picture frame. As a vlogger back then, she posted a video recording her work and within days received over 200 orders. It took her almost half a year to fill her first batch of orders.
More and more people began sending their memory-laden possessions to her. "I gained their trust as they handed over items that they cherished," she said.
A renowned surgeon once sent her a pair of surgical scissors that he had won in a competition. Instead of disassembling them, Lin integrated them intact into a Red Cross and a Fibonacci spiral, a geometric pattern used in diagnostics, denoting the benevolence of doctors.
Liu Run, founder of Runmi Consulting, is a loyal fan of Xiaomi smartphones. The name of the Chinese cellphone brand is also his daughter's name. Liu wanted to have the first four generations of his Xiaomi smartphones reassembled to commemorate the brand's growth and Lin helped him to achieve that. Once Liu had received the artwork created by Lin, he obtained the autograph of Xiaomi founder Lei Jun and hung the autograph and artwork together on his wall.
The items Lin has created are more than artworks. They are a collection of countless life stories. "The meaning of reassembled art does not exist in the item itself but in what it denotes," she said. "The cold mechanical parts have heart-warming stories to tell."
With such connotative art, Lin's "life museum" is taking shape. She said it will nourish her inner world and enrich her spiritual life.
A pair of surgical scissors Lin framed for a surgeon(COURTESY PHOTO)
Second bucket of gold
Besides spiritual fulfillment, the innovative work has now become Lin's career, bringing in a good income. Depending on the complexity of the design and work involved, the items range in price from several hundred yuan to thousands. She said her income from the innovative work so far is around 3 million yuan ($429,264).
But this is not Lin's "first bucket of gold." She was a vlogger when she was a student at the Beijing Foreign Studies University, posting short videos on traveling, singing and dancing. She rented an apartment outside the campus to record her videos and the income from them was almost 10 times that of her peers doing similar work.
With the money, Lin paid for her postgraduate studies in London. After graduation, instead of opting for a white-collar job or settling in a metropolis, the Beijing native chose to establish her first studio in Weifang, a small city in Shandong Province, due to the low cost of living and running a business there.
Today, she combines the two job experiences, posting videos on the disassembling process and giving audiences an introduction to electronics. This has boosted Internet traffic and turned viewers into clients. Across multiple social media platforms, she has more than 3 million followers.
Making short videos on reassembling electronic items to make art and also live-streaming is a new and niche occupation. Lin, like a growing number of Chinese youngsters, is determined to think out of the box in developing her career.
She attributes her freedom to do whatever she wants to an inclusive family and society. "I grew up in a relaxed family environment in which I enjoyed encouragement and appreciation from my family. They enhanced my confidence to move forward," she said. "Today, the social environment has also improved. People with better economic means want more cultural entertainment and a new supply-demand relationship is taking form."
Today's generations can make their dreams come true with a wide range of channels to acquire new knowledge. Their innovations draw a large number of buyers as young people look for fresh and innovative products.
Lin continues to upgrade her designs and hunt for new ideas. "The emergence of new occupations means there is a change in demand," she said. "With time, more occupations will appear while some old ones will disappear. We must keep learning and experiencing new things to keep pace." BR
(Print Edition: The Framer of Time)
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