Za Nian - An independent leather craft brand in Shanghai 

His studio is located in a quiet compound in the middle of the city center, a passionate wintersweet tree is blooming yellow flowers in a yard, as yellow as a painting. I got his contact through a friend, who introduced his personal brand as customized leather crafting: 杂念 (Za Nian). Everything I expected for a craftsman, Li is very calm and polite with a very organized studio. His dog and cat are discreetly friendly, sitting on me with my permission as soon as I found a place in the couch. There started our conversation.

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I was trying to interview Li with a format of questions, but he was, on the other hand, driving the talk in a natural tone without any deliberation. He was an engineer 4 to 5 years ago before he started leather crafting. It all started with his willing to offer his little daughter with a pen case made of leather. He raised the question: why such a simple object is so pricey? His engineering gene engaged him to self make a leather pen case for his little love. This action lit up his passion for leather. He resigned from engineering and started to spend more time on this hobby by adapting the top quality materials and tools to craft things: passport covers, wallets, bags, belts...

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When I asked him whether he’s designing himself today, his answer was straight and honest: I’m willing to but not today. Not difficult to understand: Surviving is priority. “Not everyone in the industry could make a sustainable living out of leather craft, “ he said, “Knowing that I’m now expanding the team and we are still too busy with fulfilling the demands of just making the classic designed crafts.”

His order-to-make business has made him to have a long term employee and a few part time assistants working over the weekend. Their duty is to help on the operational and administrative work, which liberates space and time for Li to focus on hand making. He picks up top quality only materials to make sure that the range of his products are high valued. Apart from this, they also organises workshops at his studio when asked. Clients choose to self make a piece under Li’s instruction or they could participate in some of the procedure.

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Without any grandiose claim, Li is a living dream catcher, who’s chosen a different path of his life with more adventure but less security. He’s doing it happily and still on his way.

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Za Nian - An Independent Craftmaker in Shanghai

Za Nian - An Independent Craftmaker in Shanghai

His studio is located in a quiet compound in the middle of the city center, a passionate wintersweet tree is blooming yellow flowers in a yard, as yellow as a...

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