“Where should we begin?
I would say it’s a story about lost and found.”
You have to go away to come back home.
You will never truly have a sense of home until you leave home.
– Neri Oxman
Mengwen, who first came to the UK from China for study at 17, has tried hard to settle in Western society - learning about the culture, language and customs so as not to be seen as a foreigner.
Latitia is from Hong Kong, but has moved between different cities since the age of five. She has grown up without a strong sense of home, but has always been fascinated by the latest trends and eye-catching things in the outside world.
Living in London, one of the world’s most multicultural cities, the two seekers of novelty had never fully appreciated their own cultural heritage, not to mention the beauty and richness behind them.
A beautiful encounter
They met in the autumn of 2017 at London Design Week and hit it off instantly thanks to their shared interest in design. The two of them would hang out every weekend, visiting all the latest exhibitions in London. When the pandemic started in the UK in March 2020, they were living in lockdown in their flats like millions of other people. Without being able to explore new places, they started to talk about their lives over Zoom, from Mengwen’s Japanese language study and interest in the Japanese tea ceremony to Latitia’s favourite tea trip to the Ali Mountain in Taiwan and the best white tea she ever tasted; they finally had time to slow down and rediscover the tea tradition at the heart of their culture.
Tea has been in our DNA all this time.
Tea is a ritual Chinese people take part in every time they gather for special occasions; and it’s also a daily beverage. When hosting guests they serve tea in delicate teacups with a flower motif. For their grandparents’ birthdays, they might buy them teaware which symbolises good fortune and longevity. And for that precious moment alone, they might choose simple yet elegant teaware to bring themselves a sense of peace. Tea, through beautiful teaware, brings people together and connects them.
When Mengwen was a child, her grandma used to sit in a rocking chair and tell ancient Chinese fairy tales while drinking green tea in an old blue ‘Gaiwan’. Latitia has a big family and they usually gather together on weekends for Yumcha, known as ‘Tea at Breakfast’. Sometimes after the meal, family members will chat and laugh together all afternoon over a cup of Pu'erh tea. For Mengwen and Latitia, it is not just tea, but also teaware, that reminds them of their roots and all the beautiful childhood memories. However, it’s not easy to find authentic, unique, beautifully handcrafted tea sets here that perfectly hold the taste of nostalgia.
This is how House of Serene began.
Mengwen and Latitia started to speak with friends who worked with tea and teaware, and they became fascinated by the history, techniques and stories behind each style of teaware.
This isn’t just tea ware – it’s living art!
The craftsmen still use the same technique they used 1,200 years ago during the Song Dynasty. It takes 90 steps and more than 180 hours to make each piece. In this process, they put their whole hearts into perfecting the shapes, rich colours and meticulous hand-drawing. Surprisingly, the humble craftsmen are not conscious of how much they contribute to the quality of life of those lucky enough to own a piece of their teaware. Mengwen and Latitia felt that the best way to appreciate their hard work, understand the stories behind it and champion their craftsmanship is to make the teaware accessible to more people.
The future needs to understand the past.
It’s thanks to the extraordinary skills and the techniques of the Chinese teaware craftsmen who make the work so unique. But this isn’t just celebration of the past. Life is like a Flambé Glaze tea cup – constantly evolving. On our journey to discover the exquisitely handcrafted teaware with its incredible stories and history, Mengwen and Latitia have discovered themselves again.
When I hold a blue and white porcelain tea bowl, close my eyes and feel the beautiful aromas of tea lingering in the air, it takes me back to childhood.
Home has always been here no matter how far we go. House of Serene hopes to curate the storytelling art pieces which are close to our hearts. We hope you will feel serene and inspired too.