CHINA: An innovative Volvo CE arts campaign launched with the support of the China Resource Recycling Association encourages the transformation of scrap metal from Volvo machines into art, thus exploring new approaches to environmental protection. Highlighted here are entries by the four winning finalists in the Trash to Treasure: Volvo CE Up-Cycling Design Arts Campaign

by Wenming Dai


The main prizewinner of this competition to turn scrap metal into art will spend a month with Volvo CE’s design department in Gothenburg, Sweden. A fourth year undergraduate at China’s most prestigious art institute, the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Xitian Si had already planned to visit a European country for further study upon graduation in July. Having now won a month’s internship working alongside Volvo CE designers, Xitian says she hopes to experience teamwork during her time in Sweden.

“I’ve been on my own all through university days and I’m eager to communicate with more experienced designers and work on something with them,” says Xitian, 25.

She says she is also looking forward to learning about “real industrial design” that can be put into mass production, rather than simply “conceptual design out of personal taste”.

Xitian’s prizewinning ‘Shelf’ abandons the stereotype image of square, one-side-facing shelves, and is simpler, lighter and cooler, without being any less useful. Made from scrap expansion tanks, steel pipes and steel wire, Xitian proves that thought and effort can not only give scrap material new life, but can also transform it into an object of beauty.

The frame is made up of simple-looking black steel pipes. Inside space is divided by steel wire into multiple diamond shapes. And there are no drawers: objects are supposed to be stored in irregularly positioned expansion tanks facing up or down at will.

According to Xitian, her shelf, being both lightweight and transparent, also serves as a movable partition or room divider.

“Just horizontal and vertical are boring – I wanted it to be dynamic and a bit out-of-the-loop,” says Xitian.

Designers with their creations

Designers with their creations


Minghui Chen, a 29-year-old art director in an advertising agency in Shanghai, has loved making things from spare parts since he was a small boy in China’s central Hunan Province. “LEGO was not something my family could afford, so spare parts became my best friend in childhood,” he says.


Sea Horse, made of brake pads

Sea Horse, made of brake pads

Partly inspired by the 2014 Chinese Year of the Horse, he fully unleashed his creativity with spare parts by creating a 3m-tall installation art piece ‘Sea Horse’ out of brake pads. “Designing and producing a real life art piece is so different from 3D animation on MacBook,” says Minghui. “You not only have to communicate with metal parts, but also need to consider every tiny detail such as lighting effects,” he explains.


Wen Yuan, an interpreter for a Japanese logistics company in Shanghai, is also a spare-time cartoonist who has published a popular book teaching children how to draw cartoons. Trash to Treasure gave her a chance to work with metal parts for the first time, in place of pencils and brushes. For a whole month she spent her weekends with metal engineers in a factory workshop, before she finally came up with a stylish, partly gold-plated belt out of scrap-metal parts.


Gold-plated belt from scrap metal parts

Gold-plated belt from scrap metal parts

“Accessories are often related to elegance and beauty, while metal parts are not,” says Wen, 33. I therefore combined the features of accessory and metal to express a new understanding of beauty.”

Designers with their creations

Designers with their creations


Sisi Ni, a graduate student and tourism management major at Sun Yat-sen University and Lvbing Wang, a graduate student at the China University of Mining Technology, both 23, collaborated on their ‘Antler Mirror’ inspired by deer because they “represent power, animation and tenderness”. The Volvo CE scrap metal used for the frame was transformed by the artists into a warmer and more peaceful rose gold color. People looking in the mirror become the deer, thus reflecting the interdependency of man and nature.


Antler Mirror