We all cry sometimes when we’re sad or hurt. But crying is more than a symptom of sadness; it’s triggered by a range of feelings—from empathy and surprise to anger and grief. Not all of these emotions are easy to see, however tears happen to be a common signal.
And after an altercation with her tutor, Dutch Design Academy graduate Yi-Fei Chen couldn’t keep herself from crying in public. Yi-Fei was born in Taiwan, where she was brought up with a strong sense of authority and taught that disagreeing with teachers was rude. Thus, this public display made her feel ashamed. But the incident led her to come up with a quirky conceptual design project.
Recently on display at Dutch Design Week, Yi-Fei’s brass ‘Tear Gun’ fires water collected as she cries. Her design is the literal expression of her internal struggle to speak her mind.
“The difficulties living as a foreigner in another country lead to high pressures in the study environment,” she said. “Those pressures had been building for 18 months before finally reaching a crisis point during one of my midterm presentations.”
The Tear Gun works by catching tears under the wearer’s eye with a silicon pocket. They are then funnelled into a steampunk-like brass system. Finally, a small bottle filled with dry ice fixed to the back of the pistol freezes the teardrops into solid bullets; ready to be fired into the face of authority.
At her graduation ceremony, Yi-Fei got to use the gun on her head of department—an opportunity she gladly took. The tear bullet luckily didn’t lead to any harm. The gun might not be able to physically hurt anyone, but it does offer the owner a sense of emotional release when the trigger is pulled; and often that’s more than enough.