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This Graphic Designer Is Serious About Playing With Her Food

Not your usual daily dose of fruit and veg.

14/10/2016 1:44 PM AEDT | Updated 16/10/2016 3:33 PM AEDT
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When Sydney freelance graphic designer Danling Xiao arrives home in the evening, she starts thinking about food.

But in a different way to most of us.

Everyday, she creates a sculpture out of fruits and vegetables, and documents it -- using a mere light box and her iPhone.

"My favourite ingredient to work with is the orange. I think it is the most beautiful creation of nature," Danling Xiao told the Huffington Post Australia.

"At first, I concentrated just on the orange. Then I thought, this is meaningless. So then it turned into something else."

Xiao's daily practice is the art behind Mundane Matters, an online project and Instagram photo feed that inspires and nurtures creative, sustainable living.

We can't have these beautiful things forever, right? They will collapse one day if we don't start listening.

The project began four years ago, when Xiao faced a series of crossroads.

"I was chasing a lot of things... I wanted a great career, I wanted to be appreciated for my work. But then something happened that made me sit back and rethink," she said.

Quitting her job, she refocused her creativity.

"I had a period of time where I could sit down and consider my beliefs and values. As a designer, I always felt a limit. So when I had time to think for myself, I discovered mindfulness can bring a lot more out of us."

Xiao meditates every day and says her inspiration came (and still arrives) in the quietest of moments.

"We don't tend to think in a way that there is something in a lemon other than the lemon itself," Xiao said.

"But if you sit there in the present and look at it, this all changes. When I grab a lemon, I think, what can I do with this?"

In my short visit to parents in China: on our way home from the country, there was a full truck of pigs on the way somewhere, maybe a slaughterhouse nearby, or another village miles away or even further in another continent. /// I was shocked. I was shocked not because of the scene - it is nothing unusual to me. I used to see it when I was a child, but I never get to see it now since I live in Sydney and I almost forget about the fact that most of the time, all these creatures have to suffer from long travel even before they die. 😔 /// Today (Aug 29) is the day of action to end animal transport. It is the 20th anniversary of the world's worst ever live export disaster, when 67,488 sheep were burned or drowned in the ship in Indian Ocean. No one came to their rescue. /// There are events happening everywhere in the world today which we could help to end the trade. You should check it on notfreight.org. I also believe the power is in us the consumers. If we could all eat less animal products (or none), shop local, all these creatures will have a much better life. #animalsarenotfreight #banliveexport #mundanematters 👊🐷🐮🐔🐥🐑🐄🐂

A photo posted by Mundane Matters (@mundane_matters) on

To me, imperfect fruits and vegetables are so weird and so beautiful. Someone sent me a tomato that looked like a heart, once.

This creative practice soon became Xiao's daily ritual. And in May 2015, things took off.

"I bought a light box. That was a click for me," Xiao said.

Beginning to evolve her creative process, she started choosing vivid backgrounds and stimulating stories -- from food wastage to climate change -- to bring meaning to her daily practice. And within months, Mundane Matters was trending.

With now just under 30 000 followers on Instagram, the project has well and truly resonated across global audiences.

"These days, I make a sculpture because I want to tell my audience something or make them feel something through a story. I think everyone can get a little something out of it, which is why it is attracting such a diverse group of people," Xiao said.

And with each sculpture, she is continually refining her message.

"When it comes to sustainability, I think it is all about how we practice ethical living and how this can bring out the most out of life -- from our health and our relationships to the environment."

"I choose fruit and vegetables as a symbol for the mundanity in life. We can't have these beautiful things forever, right? They will collapse one day if we don't start listening."

For this graphic designer, creativity is the best tool.

"We all have very short attention spans these days. Creativity in itself can grab peoples' attention. But then how can you wind your message into that creativity?

"I'm still working on that."

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