Summer Suitcase: Martini medley

This is the fourth in a series of weekly “summer suitcase” stories, showcasing the international breadth of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

While some students are having a “quiet” summer, third-year York/Sheridan design student Nelson Cheng is enjoying “quite” the summer, interning at the New York studio of world-renowned design guru Karim Rashid.

In April, Cheng beat out about 200 competitors to win the Canadian leg of the Bombay Sapphire Designer Glass Competition for his design of a functional cocktail glass inspired by Bombay Sapphire premium gin. His award-winning martini glass has a detachable base, allowing the user to pick up olives with the stem of the glass. Cheng’s creation was described by the judges, who included Rashid, to be “creatively innovative and elegant.”

Right: Nelson Cheng at work in Karim Rashid’s New York studio

Cheng’s prize included the opportunity to select an internship from a list of leading design studios in Canada and the United States, as well as a trip to Milan, where he represented Canada at the global Bombay Sapphire finals (see the April 5, 2006 issue of YFile).

In May, Cheng embarked on his internship with Rashid.

“Learning the ins and outs of the design industry at Rashid’s has been very educational,” said Cheng. “Since starting there, I’ve been fortunate to work on numerous projects in almost every design category, including graphics, products, fashion and interior design.”

Rashid is an internationally acclaimed design pioneer whose name is associated with some of the biggest brands in the industry today, including Alessi, Sony, Umbra, Prada, Issey Miyake, Tommy Hilfiger and Estée Lauder. His design projects range from a new flagship store for Giorgio Armani, to a new manhole cover for the sewers in New York. His design work is found in many prestigious collections and has been exhibited in museums worldwide, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art; MOMA in New York; The British Design Museum, London; Gas, Tokyo; and The Groningen Museum, Holland.

Left: Cheng (left) with Rashid at the Distillery District in Toronto. Cheng is holding his award-winning martini glass

Reflecting upon his internship experience to date, Cheng said, “Being in the work environment is totally different from being in class. For example, the urgency of deadlines is unlike due dates in class. The experience of working in a real studio – how to act, how to work with other designers and function within a team to complete projects by deadline – has been invaluable.”

The perfect martini is a medley of its parts, and Cheng has been savouring all facets of New York City during his free time, from the cosmopolitan city’s culture, to its swank shops and ubiquitous hot dog vendors.

“Outside of work has been a blast,” said Cheng enthusiastically. “It was International Furniture Week during my first weekend in New York. So, there were lots of designer functions to attend. I made some new friends and just had a fabulous time!”

On a more sober note, Cheng recognizes that success is not always easy. “The internship really opened my eyes to living on my own. In the first week, I was tossed out of my comfort zone. Starting over in a new place without friends has been a very worthwhile experience. I think everyone should undergo something like this, just starting new. It has definitely made me a more well-rounded person.”

Cheng returns to Toronto on August 25 to complete his undergraduate studies in the Joint Program in Design offered by York University and the Sheridan Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning.

This article was submitted to YFile by Mary-Lou Schagena in the Faculty of Fine Arts.