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Madhands, Niu Yun

My name is NY (Niu Yun is my full name). I am born and raised in Yunnan, south-west China full of mountains and sunshine. I’ve lived in Shanghai since 2007, for university at the beginning, then spent 2 years in London for my Master’s Degree in Fashion Design. After studying I came back to Shanghai in 2013, started working in the creative/event industry, was part of the team that created DAFF (maybe some people still remember), after that I started Brew & Blend festival in M50 with my partners.

Meanwhile I also started my own knitwear label Madhands, creating fun and colorful hand knit pieces, workshops, exhibitions, and installations. As I am from Yunnan, I also started a small Yunnanese restaurant called Slurp! in 2014, we now have 2 locations for Slurp, and also one more called PILIPALA serving Dai minority BBQ in Yangpu District.


I have always loved knitting, my focus was already on hand-knitting when I was studying in London. Coming back to Shanghai, I wanted to have my little knitting project apart from work; I also met another girl Rain from Guizhou, we shared similar interests so decided to start Madhands. The idea was to create something opposite of fast-fashion, to draw attention back to craftsmanship and materials.

We have made a few collections when I started to realize that creating more clothes was not the best way to express myself, making it as product to sell is not the best way to be creative. So we stopped making garments, instead we started collaborating with artists/spaces/other brand to make hand-knitted installations, displays, and workshops. This way I can use yarn to knit something crazier, more colorful, and the most important, more fun! I also got the chance to teach other people to knit, to encourage others to make things by themselves, to enjoy the few hours of sitting down and using your hands to create something. I think this is what my initiative is, to make us believe in our hands again.


Shanghai has always been one of my favorite cities. It’s a combination of everything, sometimes it gets super futuristic as all the new technology will start here, sometimes it becomes an elegant charming lady, and you can find a corner in the city to slow down and relax. Something that's upset me recently is all the public areas that are gone. My apartment used to be next to Red Town (covered with a big grass area and a few art museums), Anxi second-hand clothes market, a super lovely wet market, lots street food and mid-night BBQ spot. Now they are all gone, and I am surrounded by big construction sites.

I love to eat around the city a lot, thanks SmSh for providing all the news about it. I always go to Bar No.3 for a mid-week drink, Elevator for weekend dance+drink (I also VJ there sometimes), love all the crazy Sichuan Hot Pot places on Dingxi Rd. Xime and Daliah occasionally for some good food and events!


I also like to go to museums & galleries, to get inspired. I always go to PSA and Mingshen Museum, they hold really nice contemporary exhibitions. Shanghai Natural Museum is my recent favorite too, good collections of animals (apart from the failed stuffed lion and leopard) and precious stones. Sometimes I  go to meet-up workshops/talks, I love events organized by Xinchejian, Xinfab, and Green Initiatives; you can always meet super interesting people. If it's good day I will go to the West Bund to walk my dog, and sit on the grass for a whole afternoon. Am I going to live here forever? Ha, forever is a big word. I always want my future to be open, so I don't have an answer yet.

It's always a good feeling every time I finish one project, no matter if it's knitting, or an event, or learning—I am proud of everything I have created. When I finally finish 2 weeks of non-stop knitting, and see it hanging there with people passing by touching it or talking about it, I am proud and thankful. Then the good feelings motivate me to start a new project and make it better.


You can join NY's workshop on "body knitting" to recreate your bod in yarn as seen in photos above at Ladyfest. Free entry, no registration, just walk up. Will run from 5.30-6.30pm at un Caffe Bar.

And yes, it's happening tomorrow! Check the full Ladyfest schedule so you don't miss out on the good stuff.


[Shanghai Famous]:

Shanghai Famous is a SmartShanghai column focusing on people out there in the city makin' the scene. They're out there around town, shaping Shanghai into what it is, creating the art, culture, and life around us. We asked them what's good in Shanghai. We asked them what's bad in Shanghai. We asked them to tell us more, more, more about their wonderful selves.

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