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Unravel and Top 5 Founders Talk About Posters and Story-Telling

This Thursday, up-and-coming organizations TOP 5 and Unravel are doing a hybrid, pop-art-story-telling-mash-up, complete with food and drinks. It’s the TOP 5 Launch Party X Unravel, where TOP 5 ...
Last updated: 2017-07-26

This Thursday, up-and-coming organizations TOP 5 and Unravel are doing a hybrid, pop-art-story-telling-mash-up, complete with food and drinks. It’s the TOP 5 Launch Party X Unravel, where TOP 5 will be displaying their new posters set for the first time and Unravel are presenting storytellers from the community, recounting personal stories on the nostalgic theme of “When I Grow Up.” Ahead of the event, SmSh sat down with founder of Unravel, Clara Davis and co-founder of Top 5 Beryl Chung for a couple questions.


Founder and organizer Clara Davis shares a story at Unravel's April event 'Chance'

SmSh: So what is Unravel? Why do it in Shanghai?

Clara: Unravel is a live storytelling platform premised on a monthly live show, with an abstract theme. It's a bit different from an open mic or story slam in that it's curated in advance. Interested storytellers pitch their stories and we work together to make sure content, delivery, and relationship to the theme are all in alignment. Since I’ve moved here in 2014, I’ve marveled at Shanghai’s unmatched penchant for stories and characters, not to mention made and reflected on stories of my own. Channeling all this into a storytelling platform felt like a natural (if intimidating) next step.

Artist and Co-Founder of TOP 5, Beryl Chung at show's first edition in December

SmSh: And TOP 5, you guys like the number 5…can you give us a little more background?

Beryl: TOP 5 is a poster show series where artists from different disciplines each create a set of 5 posters based on their Top 5 biggest artistic influences from movies, TV, books, comics, and music. We assign the 5 colors so everyone in the show uses the same palette, but each artist’s style and influence makes every set of posters unique. TOP 5 is organized by my boyfriend Sean Kiefer, my best friend Logan Clements, and me. Sean and I are the founders, we're organizers, and we’re also artists in the show - we make a new series of 5 posters for every exhibition. 

Here's a piece of Beryl's work off the poster for the Unravel event 'Chance'

SmSh: What sparked the collaboration between your two organizations?

Beryl: I've been doing the posters for Unravel since their 2nd event. I like working on them because the themes every month are so open to interpretation. Both Unravel and TOP 5 are about sharing your personal influences and experiences. We thought doing a joint event would enhance each of our concepts.

Clara: We’ve been trying to find an opportunity to bring our two concepts together, and are so psyched it’s happening now. In a nod to pop culture influences and nostalgia, Unravel’s theme this month is “When I Grow Up.”

Unravel's drawing a crowd

SmSh: Tell us a bit about the anatomy of an Unravel event, what can people who show up Thursday expect to hear?

  Clara: The energy of the storytellers and the audience members is what makes the show and that always feels special. I try to keep the “anatomy” the same: six storytellers recounting an authentic story from their real lives, loosely inspired by a given but abstract theme.  We’re also excited this month to curate the event experience a bit more. So far we’ve only popped up at venues, but this time we’re partnering up with community food and drink brands (Peddlers, Craft Republic, Gracie’s, Boulevard, BYFO) to create what we hope will be a really fun, community rooted experience.

Cool poster, bro - from TOP 5's first edition in December

SmSh: What can people expect to see at Thursday’s event?

Beryl: For Series 2 (this is TOP 5's second show), we have 9 artists from different design fields, from China and abroad, all with very different methods and aesthetics...and they're all super talented! The idea of TOP 5 is for each person to reimagine these pop culture favorites in their personal style, so that the completed series together is a reflection of them as an artist, a conceptual kind of self portrait. And all posters will be for sale after opening night.

Top 5 and Unravel are teaming up for the pop art poster show launch party for a night of art, stories, food, drink, and fun. The unique posters will be on display (and on sale!) for the first time, and Unravel storytellers will recount authentic, unscripted stories from their real lives inspired by the theme: "When I Grow Up". The party will feature food and drink specials from a bunch of community partners, like Gracie's, BYFO, Peddler's Gin, Craft Republic, Tippler, etc). Listen to stories, support community art, and drink and eat up. Entry is free and the party starts at 6pm (stories start at 7:30). For more info, contact

The mash-up event is happening this Thursday, July 27 at 6pm at Xin Cafe (Changle Lu). Stories start at 7.30pm. All 45 Top 5 posters will be for sale. Food and drinks also available for purchase. Free Entry.

In case you miss the show, the TOP 5 Pop Culture Poster Show will stay up at Xin Cafe until August 31.

Photos shared by Keith Esposito and TOP 5