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FLABJACKS Artist and Illustrator, Ton Mak

Hello. I’m Ton. I am an artist who focuses on a series of odd and slightly round characters called FLABJACKS. I am originally from Hong Kong, and grew up between New Zealand and England. I have been in Shanghai for roughly 6 years. I came for the advertising scene, I used to be a strategist, and back home in Hong Kong there are not that many strategist opportunities, but being one in Shanghai is really interesting.

Back in 2010, jobs like banking and consulting were really “trendy” and cool amongst my peers. I wanted to wear a lady suit bad. I got the suit look… but at the end, I ended up venturing back to art. And now, FLABJACKS, the characters and all, are like my full-time BFFs.


My mother is sort of like a founding patron of FLABJACKS. We did a lot of art together as a duo; from mellow soft-core art therapy to hardcore awkward life drawing classes with lots of nudes, as a mom-daughter bonding thing after school. I was worried that art wouldn’t really be a financially sound game plan during my teen days, so took up Anthropology as a degree in university.

My future dreams for FLABJACKS isn’t really about numbers but it’s a very visual affair. And there are many many dream projects to tick off still. I remind myself not to take this very simple having-something-to-look-forward-to-feeling in the job for granted.


The Nike project? It all started because a really good friend of mine called Jason used to work at Nike, so one thing led to another. We started collaborating and then finally they had this running shoe opportunity, called "Tees for Your Feet"; they were looking for active artists who run to represent their city and the spirit of running and to creatively represent that in the shoe. The shoe I designed at the end was based on the idea of “Dream, Dream, Drift” which was taken from my experience of running in Shanghai and how different it is visually. The shoe was launched in April of this year [Ed’s Note: The NIKE x FLABJACKS FREE RN are currently sold out in China].



I love Shanghai for the space (physical + mental), the openness and the overall momentum. The city feels hopeful. Uphill vibes. There’s this underlying “everything’s going to be great!” attitude as opposed to “we are going to sh*t”. It’s also got pretty liberating feels; I don't feel self-conscious or nervous walking around in my pajamas for example. That’s important. The air could be better but it’s a really beautiful day as we speak, so I am feeling blindly optimistic. 

My diet is 85% and I have been ordering from three places on an obsessive loop since 2016: 1) Soup Master 2) Hunter Gatherer 3) Café on Air. I also have an obsession with Oatly, it arrived to Shanghai about 4-5 months ago, it's sweet-ish oat milk, they have it at very select coffee shops like Doe, Paras, and Cafe on Air is my all time favorite coffee shop—so I actually wrote to the owner and said “please get Oatly!!” I can talk about Oatly for days.


Most of the time, I am drawing or working out of coffee shops. Right now, it’s in an air-conditioned room with a nice window view. Air-humidified as a bonus. And just sitting, in itself, is really satisfying. The thing I value most about my work is the freedom. And naturally, drawing is my happy place. With the freedom comes the responsibility to make sure things are moving forward. For example, setting personal goals, having dream projects that I wish to accomplish, and self-motivating myself. And when these goals and dream projects actually happen, it’s a happy thing.

Right now I just launched a book, A Sloth’s Guide To Mindfulness, published in San Fransisco; and next week I’m going to Beijing for almost a month to set up a solo exhibition and then I will retire in September!

Haha, kidding.


You can check out more of Ton's work on her website, and purchase prints, totes, and more right here.


[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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