Innovative former livestreamer assembles striking pieces of electronics art

By Mo Jingxi | (China Daily)| Updated : 2023-01-30

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A disassembled watch and a diamond ring created by Lin Xi for a client to commemorate a touching milestone. [Photo provided to China Daily] 

Lin Xi, a 26-year-old entrepreneur engaged in electronic disassembly art has proved with her experience that no effort is in vain.

Lin's work is to tear apart used electronic products, such as phones, tablets, game consoles and computers, and then present the components in an artistic way.

"After being reassembled, the once dust-laden items will become exhibition pieces that remind the owners of their childhood experience, a period of hard work or a deep-rooted memory," she says.

Lin gained her popularity on short-video platform Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok.

In 2020, she posted two videos introducing an iPhone 4 and a Play-Station Portable (PSP) console that she had disassembled.

Through her videos, many people realized, for the first time, that idle, but classic, electronic products can be framed like art.

People were also attracted by the smiling girl, who wore an apron, a pair of rimmed glasses and talked them through the process.

"The two videos quickly received more than 10,000 likes and then nearly 200 orders poured in, most of which were for the disassembly artworks of the iPhone 4 and PSP," Lin recalled.

Electronic disassembly is intricate work that needs both a delicate touch and aesthetic sensibility.

Lin has to check the condition of the items she receives, and she communicates with her customers to learn the stories behind each one and the type of presentation they prefer.

Then comes the disassembly."It's like performing surgery on digital products, with different types of screwdrivers and tweezers," Lin explains.

The components, after being carefully cleaned, will be laid out on a piece of white paper in the desired order.

The final step is to use graphics software to draw and print a base plate based on that layout and affix the components to it.

It took Lin around half a year to fulfill the initial batch of orders, but, as she continued to post new videos, orders kept coming.

In late 2020, she had to hire some helpers and opened a business in Weifang, Shandong province, to grasp the opportunity.

Now her company, with more than 10 employees, has an annual turnover of more than 3 million yuan ($446,500).

However, it was not luck that brought Lin her current success.

She first tried her hand at livestreaming in 2017 as a performer singing popular songs on Douyin. At the time she was a senior at Beijing Foreign Studies University majoring in Turkish and international journalism.

Being talkative with a natural on-camera demeanor, she quickly attracted more than 400,000 followers, earning more than 1,000 yuan a day from digital gifts and rewards. Most other college students at the time were only earning 150 yuan a day from their part-time jobs.


Lin hangs one of her works on the wall of her studio in Weifang, Shandong province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

"At that time, some people thought livestreaming was not a decent job, while others felt it was energy-sapping and emotionally draining work that could not be sustained over the long term. But I enjoyed it a lot, because my dream job was to be a TV host," Lin says.

Graduating from university, she went to the United Kingdom to study for a master's degree in social media& society at the University of Westminster.

She paid for her own tuition with the money she had earned through livestreaming.

During her one-year stay abroad, Lin visited many museums and visited exhibitions on different subjects, varying from insects to dolls.

She was so fascinated by an exhibit of used light bulbs, it gave her the inspiration to disassemble electronics and present the components like a decorative painting.

"I've grown up with an interest in electronics, so I ended up keeping many that I no longer use. I thought that disassembly would be a good way to present them," Lin recalls.

She returned to China in 2019 and taught herself how to use digital design software.

"Another thing I did before officially starting my business was to survey my followers to understand their gender ratio and age distribution to see whether they would be interested in buying electronic disassembly art," Lin says.

It is important to know who your target audience is when running social media accounts, she explains.

The survey showed that about 95 percent of her followers are men, most of whom are over the age of 30 and have spending power.

Since initiating her business, Lin has received an old phone from one of her followers that had witnessed a successful entrepreneur's days of struggling to start a company, a game console that had accompanied a boy from a child to adulthood and a camera that started a professional photographer's career.

Besides digital products, Lin has also received some special items with touching stories that moved her. In 2021, she received a request to disassemble a watch, but a diamond ring was delivered to her together with the timepiece.

It turned out that a man surnamed Liu, whose wife had passed away due to illness, hoped to commemorate what would have been their 10th wedding anniversary.

"I felt so touched, but it was also quite stressful trying to present such a sad but tender story," Lin recalls. "My solution was to present the components of the watch in the shape of a tree which ends at the diamond ring."

She also received a set of barber's tools from a client surnamed Yu.

Yu's father was a veteran barber, but had passed away in his 40s.

They had shared a close bond, and his father's sudden death dealt a heavy blow to Yu, who was only 18 years old at the time.

Going against his father's wishes, while he was still alive, Yu had initially refused to become a barber.

After being mired in grief for several years, Yu finally decided to take on a career as a barber, so he wanted to mount his late father's tools in his memory.

"I feel a lot of trust when people send me the items of their loved ones. I'm glad that I can help them present a cherished memory, once hidden in their mind, in this way," Lin says.

Speaking of the future, she notes that there are no big plans, but she will keep focusing on her daily work. "Opportunities cannot be predicted, but they do sometimes appear when an effort is being made," she says.