Walking into Nicolas Deladerriere’s apartment in Baishizhou, I was immediately attracted to the little robots made of paper and plastic that either stood on the display shelves in his living room or on the work bench in his study.
Deladerriere, a designer and co-founder of TroubleMaker, a famous maker space in Shenzhen, was collaborating with his American friend Tully days before China’s Tomb-Sweeping Day by making paper robots that could be burnt for the deceased on the special day. The two robots he showed me were in blue and yellow and each had a golden paper with an image of the God of Wealth on it. The robots were just on his computer and wouldn’t be put into the market. Deladerriere said, “We do it not for business, but for fun. We just played a bit with traditional Chinese culture. Since it’s Tomb-Sweeping Day, we thought why people not send robots to the spiritual world? ”
Robots are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Frenchman’s products that carry Chinese elements. He also makes stickers and fridge magnets that are inspired by the urban villages in Baishizhou. Every day he sees them through the window of his study. Having been living in Baishizhou for nearly 10 years, he has witnessed the rapid development of the neighborhood.
“When I first came here, some of the high-rise buildings didn’t exist, but now they are everywhere,” he said. He has recorded people’s lives in Baishizhou with his drawings. The buildings he drew were called “handshake buildings” since they stand next to each other.
Deladerriere has deep feelings for Baishizhou and he even collected the signboard of a demolished factory to keep it as a momento. “Some people say the urban villages are a pile of garbage, but I think they are full of life,” he said. “Life” is also perfectly reflected in his drawings of those buildings. People biking and chatting on the narrow alleys, clothes being aired on the roofs or the steel windows and scaffolding being used constitute the key elements of his drawings.
Deladerriere also makes Chinese-style stamps and vases. Instead of just carving people’s names in the red ink paste, he includes people’s lives and personalities by carving things that speak for the person. For example, he once carved two dogs on a Singaporean client’s stamp because he had two pet dogs.