Tradition meets innovation at craft week

Wu Huixin
This year's event focused on time-honored crafts, as well as those who are injecting them with fresh ideas and interpretations.
Wu Huixin

Hangzhou’s Third China Craft Week has provided a platform for a wide scope of local and foreign brands to display their artworks and designs.

The event was part of the annual Hangzhou Qiantang River Culture Festival. In a 3,000-square-meter exhibition hall at Hangzhou Creative Design Center, the organizers showcased products from the UK, Italy, France, Japan, Switzerland and the US.

The theme of last week’s event was “Crafts, Unique.” During the previous two years, the event invited old masters of traditional folk arts that have been straining to attract new blood. This year, organizers switched their focus to entrepreneurs pioneering modern ways to express old styles.

Noted professionals such as Kimiya Yoshikawa, British-Japanese artist; Bernard Moïse, president of French l’Agora du Design Award; Le Roni, Swatch ITS Artwork Award winner; and Paolo Ponzo, designer of popular Italian brand Clamori, were invited to discuss the latest design trends.

Tradition meets innovation at craft week
Wu Huixin / SHINE

China Craft Week provides a platform for a wide scope of local and foreign artisans to display artworks and designs.

Tradition meets innovation at craft week
Wu Huixin / SHINE

Y.Du pearl accessories

Fashionable designs

In the exhibition hall, highlights included furniture, daily utensil and jewelry from home and abroad.

Qing’an Shouzuo, a designer brand, turns traditional Chinese lacquered utensils and furniture into fashionable designs.

“Daily necessities covered with lacquer were moisture-resistant, heat-resistant, corrosion-resistant, smooth and shiny,” said Huang Jieming, a craftsman from Qing’an Shouzuo. “We hope to bring ancient lacquered wares back into people’s lives and promote the craft through the Craft Week platform.”

China’s history of making lacquer ware may date back to the Neolithic Age. At that time, the sap of the lacquer tree was used to varnish and protect daily necessities. Ancient craftspeople also carved on lacquer to create sophisticated patterns. An object was coated with around 100 layers of lacquer, thick enough to be engraved with designs, figures and landscapes. A piece could take as long as five years to complete, depending on complexity.

However, such ornate lacquered wares are no longer popular among young people. In a bid to allure new costumers, the brand creates unpretentious utensils with simple shapes, plain patterns and smooth lines.

Of course, tastes ebb and flow with passing time. Cane chairs, for example, are no longer as chic as they were when cane products were widespread and popular with the public. It largely rests on determined craftsmen to try to perpetuate the art.

Cane chairmaker Liao Shengdian, from Taiwan, attended the event in hopes of carving out a new market and looking for an inheritor for this olden craft. He is one of the last remaining handmade producers in the island province.

Liao finds the best natural canes from Indonesia and produces custom-tailored chairs.

“The natural canes feature multifarious shapes, diameters and density due to different climates, growing soil and seasons. Therefore, every chair I make is different from all others,” Liao told Shanghai Daily.

A chair often takes four to seven days to complete. Liao sells them at his outlet in Keelung city. However, the narrow market of Taiwan pushes him to search for more opportunities on the Chinese mainland.

“First of all, I am eager to find an apprentice. This craft requires years of practice and learning. I hope the Craft Week can help me discover a person willing to inherit my skills,” Liao said.

While time-honored brands are carrying down old craftsmanship, they are also innovating products.

Tradition meets innovation at craft week
Wu Huixin / SHINE

Bags from Italian brand Clamori 

Tradition meets innovation at craft week
Wu Huixin / SHINE

Liao Shengdian’s handmade cane chairs

Hirota Glass, a renowned Japanese brand established in 1899, brought a collection of innovative glass utensils to the event. As a pioneering glassmaker in Japan, it has created its own signature style through harmonization of European traditional glassmaking technique and Japanese artistry.

In the exhibition hall, Hirota’s “Green Bamboo” series features glassware designed in the charming form of bamboo. The bamboo bottles convey a limpid hue and strong vitality of nature.

“In efforts to echo present-day environmental protection concerns, Hitora also has produced glass straws to save natural resources as much as possible,” said Sun Hongkun, from Hirota’s Chinese agency.

Jewelry was another attractive part of the Craft Week. Shanghai-based designer brand Y.Du showcased their new collection of pearl accessories.

“Formerly we only cooperated with high-end boutiques, but now the event provides us with an opportunity to promote the brand,” said designer Zhang Fan.

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