American China is 3D-printed porcelain dinnerware inspired by people, objects, and events in Chinese American history. This project focuses on the period during the Chinese Exclusion Act, an 1882 piece of legislation that prohibited all Chinese immigration to the United States that was not repealed until 1943. You can read more about my personal connection to these pieces.
I am interested in a form where I can integrate pieces of my family history into my daily routine. Eating and drinking is also often a social activity, so my intention is to create forms that would encourage impromptu conversations of family history, Chinese American history, and the American history of immigration.
I am drawn to this material because it is at once strong, delicate, and aesthetically pleasing. It was also originally developed in China and slowly spread to other East Asian, Europe, and the rest of the world over many centuries. Because of this, porcelain is also referred to as “China” in English-speaking countries including the United States, hence the name of the project, “American China.”
I want to create pieces that can be easily shared, reproduced, modified, and potentially manufactured at scale. Additionally, the process of 3D printing allows me to iterate very quickly and efficiently. It also allows me to be very specific and precise with my details. Some of the pieces are produced using data, which would be very challenging to accomplish by hand, especially if I intend to produce more than one of each piece.
Yes. One requirement for this project is that I will be able to use the resulting pieces in my daily life. It is because of this, functionality is on my mind when designing a particular piece. I hope to strike a balance between making forms that are functional yet physically compelling enough to encourage questions and conversation.
I generally start by looking at traditional Chinese porcelain dinnerware that one might typically find in a Chinese household. From there the pieces are modified to reflect the specific part of Chinese American history I am trying to highlight. You can view each piece’s page for more details on how they were designed:
I have programmatically composed all the pieces using custom computer scripts available online and compiled and exported using Blender, a free and open source 3D creation software.
The resulting files are then submitted to Shapeways, a 3D printing service that prints using a variety of materials that include porcelain. As of April 2018, Shapeways does not provide 3D printed porcelain. I have been using Kwambio instead.
You can visit the code’s documentation to learn more about the process and how you can replicate and adapt.
See the purchasing page for learning more about purchasing the physical and digital pieces.