Bone china tabletop items by designer Em Royston charm and amaze, like these Handy Tongs inspired by the classic fairground vintage pointing hand so often found on signs.
Hong Kong based design firm Maid in China Design is the invention of British artist and designer Em Royston. The firm specializes in luxurious stylish fair and circus themed house hold items. The inventive artist and entrepreneur studied design and has made items for brands like Suck UK such as Cross Stitch Map which found itself at both the Tate Modern shop and Urban Outfitters. This is a contemporary approach to artful tea or coffee breaks. So, if you love all things sideshow, circus, and vintage fair -these unique items are for you. It was a great pleasure to interview Em for this feature!
I have always loved the idea of creating miniature worlds in unexpected places and table top seemed a great place to start. It’s quite a hands-on set that is meant to be shared and enjoyed -that should be quite a joyful experience- sharing a special afternoon tea with someone or chatting over a long breakfast.
What’s your inspiration? Why circus and sideshow themes?
I love the timelessness of the circus – it has an appeal for all ages and seems so whimsical and magical. For design, I also think it is fascinating as it combines so many different elements and iconic imagery. And the purpose of the circus is entertainment, enjoyment, and surprise – and those are elements that I like my products to embody. I love the vintage posters, fair-ground stalls, amazing huge bell tents – and then it all gets packed away and moves on in these amazing ornate carriages. I think there is so much inspiration to find from that theme, and I’d like to think I’ve just scratched the surface..!
Do you have any designers, artisans, or craftspeople you particularly admire?
Oh, yes loads! Rebecca Finell has a lovely collection of homeware and fashion accessories – her origami handbags are amazing! I listened to an interview recently and found her story and diverse career really inspiring. Hella Jongerius for her playful work & stitched ceramics. Selletii is a brand that I’ve followed for a while and always enjoy seeing their new collections as they are nicely on that nice fine line between modern art and commercial design.
Mug carousel tea set. Each cup sits in the stand, which spins like a true Merry-Go-Round.
How did you come to begin making table top items?
It actually all started because I had the idea for the Carousel Tea Set – I loved the idea of making this functional sculpture that could be used as a cup and saucer set, but was also something to have on display that could spin and surprise people.
From the Carousel, it seemed a great chance to develop a collection to be used with that, and the Tiger Toast Rack was my next design. From the stacking circus mugs to the sugar pot disguised as a ticket booth, I’d eventually like to have a whole set that can be used together to create a miniature world, but is also a totally functional tea/ breakfast set.
You live In Hong Kong, tell me why and how you decided to move there, and what artistic culture is like there!!
Yes, I moved here last year! Hong Kong is very geared toward entrepreneurship and I’ve met so many people in the process of working for themselves or starting a company- that’s really pushed me on. The artistic community is fairly small but growing and it feels like an exciting place to be. This coming month I’m exhibiting at a handicraft market and can’t wait to see what else is available from the other innovative designer makers.