Ren Qian, a freshman at Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, earns over 10,000 RMB (aboutUS$1630) each month designing cartoon characters for T-shirts. She works part time for Tian Mao, a famous online market in China, and her designs are among the retailer’s top sellers.
So far, Ren Qian has designed more than 40 cartoon characters for the retailer, and over 20,000 T-shirts printed with her cartoon characters have been sold. Among them, those with her “I’m a foodie” theme are the most popular. Over 10,000 shirts with that theme alone have been sold.
Ren Qian finds many imitations of her work for sale online, as well as in shops. Fake everything is commonplace in China. During her senior year in high school, she spent 800 RMB (US$130) to copyright one of her cartoon characters, but since she is designing new characters all the time, she doesn’t have the time or energy to do so for each one.
With research by Monica Song