Paintings, PCBs, and Possibilities – How Chinese Copies Became Originals


What does this peaceful, Chinese oil painting village. Have in common with the largest wholesale electronics markets in the world? Believe it or not, they are alot more alike then you think. And similarities explain alot more about how Chinese industries and manufacturing is organized. And it’s so cool and way different than anything i ever experienced, before coming to China. If you have been watching my videos for a while now but you are not subscribe yet be sure to hit that subscribe button down below and the little bell icon next to it, so you’re notified for the future videos. I also want to thank Audible for sponsoring this video more on that in a little bit. I am in here Dafen oil painting village which is probably my favorite places in Shenzhen second only to the electronics market. Now they called neighbourhoods like this urban villages where you got like apartments above and then like workshops and retail spaces whatnot down below. Even though this probably isn’t what you think of when you hear the word village. It’s world famous for producing really high volume of oil paintings and particularly impressionist art reproductions especially Van Gogh, if you ever seen reproduction starry night chances are it came from here. In recent years it has evolved beyond just mass producing starry night and sunflowers and moved in to also doing custom portraits and original art. Across town here in Huaqianbei neighbourhood are the worlds largest wholesale electronics markets and the epicenter of the Shenzhen electronics manufacturing ecosystem, which is known to produce a large percentage of the world’s electronics. If you have a hover-board or toy drone or a cheap pair of copy Beat headphones, chances are it came from Shenzhen And there’s a likely chance that a least some part of it came through one of the companies that have booth here in the markets. So what makes these places so similar ? When on the surface they seem so incredibly different. You might have noticed, that they both have roots in creating low priced copies of Western goods. But that’s not what I’m actually talking about. But now you would be right both places do have a reputation for copying but aleast that partly deserve. And well, both of them are working to move past that towards creating original products in works. The reality is that, it’s still part of the business here. But if all you have come away with this video is further strengthening of old stereotype that all Chinese people do is copy things than you are missing most interesting part. What i think is most interesting about these places is how the industry is organized. And the incredible opportunity that offers to both the insiders and outsiders. And i think we can stand and learn alot from it. They both are made up of small independent business that are super specialized working incredibly closely together. Both collaborating and competing doing the one thing that they are really good at Lets take a deep dive in how they are organized. And try and figure out what’s makes them so chaotically efficient. First we start with supplies, for paintings you need paint and you need canvas There are shops all over the neighbourhood selling both. For electronics you need tons of different parts and components. Ranging from chips to screws to batteries. They’re distributors and factory booths all over the markets selling these. And then you need very specialized services. Things that might require expensive machinery and that just don’t make sense to everybody to try and do themselves. For many paintings both for preproduction and custom portraits the painter will lightly print a copy of the painting on the canvas using a large format inkjet printer. Now it doesn’t make sense for every painter to own their own inkjet printer cause they are expensive and honestly, they just sit idle most of time while they are painting. so instead there are print shops in the neighbourhood that will take your canvas, take your picture via We-chat and print the picture on the canvas for a very small fee. Similarly, for electronics you need a Pcb or a printed circuit board to solder all the components to. it’s essentially the wires that connect everything together. This needs to be custom designed and manufactured for very version of the product. I made a video last year about how Pcbs are made. You can watch that here, but needless to say you need alot of machines and a big factory to make Pcbs. So, there are factories that do nothing but make Pcbs. And alot of them have booths here in the markets where you can take a look at their sample of their works Similarly, there are framing services and custom keypad manufactures And Pcb assembly services aka Pcb-A that will solder the components on to a circuit board for you Next, you need tools. If you’re a painter that means things like paint brushes, palette knifes, easels for electronics this is everything from solder plots to screw drivers, oscilloscope and some other test equipments. Both areas have tool shops that sell all the specialized tools you need for their respective industries. I have a bunch more i wanna show you, but first i wanna take a quick moment and want to talk about sponsor for this video Audible. I sometime see comments talking about my dedication and determination, which i honestly think is pretty funny because i think myself at my core as pretty highly distractable and lazy. Only relatively recently have i figured out how to actually finish things and keep going when i hit a set back. And one of the things that’s really helping with this is the book The One Thing. If like me you feel like you really struggle to focus and finish the big things that you dream of i can’t recommand to listen to this book highly enough. You can download it as well as heaps of other books to help you become a better person on Audible as well as Audible originals which are exclusive audio stories told by actors, journalist and more. Audible is gonna give your first audio book for free as well as 2 Audible originals, when you try Audible for 30 days Now, lets get back to exploring all paintings and electronics. Now, we haven’t actually talked about who makes the finish product yet. For paintings it’s obvious it’s the painter themselves that are taking all of that paints and supplies and tools and services and turning that into a finish painting. For electronics, it may not be immediately clear though. It certainly wasn’t to me when i first came to Shenzhen. The equivalent of a painter in the electronics world might be called the contract manufacturer if they are making the product for somebody else or just manufacturer if they making the product to sell themselves. The important part is that they are the ones finding and working with all the components suppliers and sub-contractors making or supplying all of the individual parts and then putting all those parts together during what’s typically call final assembly. This is where you typically see a long assembly line of people with a big conveyor belt running down in the middle. We are not done yet though we still need to package up the product or the painting for end customer/ For electronics that means putting it in a nice box with the logo and name and features and barcode so that it can sit on a store shelf. These shops along here will make you the custom packaging to your specifications or they will sell you a generic packaging that you can buy straight of the shelves. For paintings i think the equivalent is framing there are ton of framing shops in Dafen that will make a custom order frames for your paintings. Finally, we have to actually ship the end product to the customer and the international shipping particularly from China is a complicated dark art especially when fragile paintings and electronics with batteries are involved There are logistic companies that specialized in packing and shipping products in both Dafen and Huaqiangbei they can handle things like custom declarations and they also service middleman for companies like fedex and DHL and they can also do things like sea-shipments with, like you know like if you ship a entire container or something. So, now we come full circle. From basic supplies to a finished shipped product. And with exception of maybe some chips and some brand name oil paint its all being done by either individual or very small companies working independently but in really close cooperation with each other. This is unlike any industry i have seen in US maybe it was like this a hundred years ago this model offers such a incredible opportunity for people with some hassle. For the most part everything is happening out in the open and is open to everybody; If you wanna participate as an outsider you can just physically show up and find a place for yourself. Whether its as an in customer buying a pre-made product or having one custom made or whether its taking advantage of all of the parts and supplies and learning it how to put it together it yourself or if you end up remixing the existing services in new and exciting ways but regardless nobody is gonna refuse this to sell you a part or service you are free to come and hustle alongside everybody else. Between 2000 and 2012 64% of China’s urban population went from lower class to middle class and the correct response to those numbers in case you are wondering is holy 🍌🎾🦇 It’s incredible and i think partly responsible for that is ecosystems like Huaqiangbei and Dafen and with that i turn it over to you guys do you think like places like this should exist and if so what should we be doing as societies to encourage them to flourish. Leave your thoughts down in the comments below. Also if you know other places like this i would love to come and visit. let me know about that too. I wanted to add a little bit of a foot note on to this story. At the beginning i mentioned that China is trying to move away from manufacturing other peoples goods for them based on their designs and move towards manufacturing goods of their own designs In a one way this has been dub as is moving way from made in China towards created in China And literally while i have been out shooting this video Dafen has been renovated around me presumably to help encourage this shift. All of these alleys that i am walking down had painters booths in them. Two days ago three days ago and they’re all gone now. They have been tearing out alot of the painters work spaces in the narrow alleys like this one.This had painting spaces in it people actively painting in it. Probably three days ago four days ago. It was also super hard to find any of the large format inkjet printers. I looked every where and i couldn’t really find a single shop. Two years ago, they were every where they were 10~15 shops I don’t quit know what happened to them. All of the footage that i have used is stuff i had shot in the past from previous trips out here. Is all this renovation and change is good for the people and the artist of Dafen. Will it be a place where someone can work their way up from nothing and make a living for themselves and create a successful business, only time will tell. I really really hope so. If you like to learn more about Dafen and the painters here and their lives. There is an amazing documentary called China’s Van Gogh that is can’t recommend highly enough. I will put a link to that down in the description. But completely out of sheer luck i happened to meet one of the painters in that documentary and got the chance to sit down with him for tea. You are very famous now partly because you were in this film. How is your life changed since this film came out ? And so how long you had been living in here in Dafen and painting ? Dafen have must changed alot in that time how is it different ? what was it like 28 years ago compare to now I am Scotty from Strange Parts. If you enjoyed this hit that subscribe button down below and that little bell icon next to it, so you are notified for the future videos. But for now stay tune for more adventures. I’ll see you next time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *