Ancient skills meet modern designers

Over 100 artworks melding traditional skills with today's products and artworks are on show on the sidelines of the ongoing Cherry Blossom Festival in Baoshan District.
Ancient skills meet modern designers
Ti Gong

Zhou Min’er, a master of local cloth painting from Gaojing Town, showcases her skills at the Baoshan International Folk Arts Exposition.

Over 100 artworks melding inherited traditional skills with modern designs are on show on the sidelines of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Baoshan District.

The exhibits created by local handicraft masters and designers from both home and abroad showcase how ancient skills can be used in modern products, the Baoshan District government said. 

The exhibition, themed on “blooming flowers,” is underway at the Baoshan International Folk Arts Exposition near Gucun Park through May 5.

The cloth painting of Gaojing Town in Baoshan, a listed intangible cultural heritage dating back more than 1,000 years, is combined with photographs about the city’s old architecture. The cross-embroidery of Luojing Town, the city’s major agricultural town, is involved in paintings about the white magnolia, the city flower of Shanghai.

The ancient skills, along with silk tapestry, Shuxiu or Sichuan embroidery, as well as brocade from the Li ethnic group, are also applied to clothes, handbags and loudspeakers.

Half of the exhibits involving the city’s intangible cultural heritage made their debut at the exhibition.

“With cooperation with the heritage masters, my photos are given new life,” said Wang Hongfeng, a photographer who works with Zhou Min’er, a local cloth painting master from Gaojing Town.

“The black-and-white photos about the city’s old buildings to be demolished remind visitors of the importance of protecting vanishing heritage skills,” Wang said.

Zheng Xiaorong, a master of cross-embroidery, has worked with different designers to incorporate traditional skills in paintings, handbags, bespoke costumes and glass jewelry.

A ticket for the exposition costs 30 yuan (US$4.5).

Ancient skills meet modern designers
Ti Gong

Visitors admire exhibits that meld inherited traditional skills with modern designs at the Baoshan International Folk Arts Exposition.

Ancient skills meet modern designers
Ti Gong

The cloth painting of Gaojing Town in Baoshan, a listed intangible cultural heritage, mixes with photographs of old buildings. 

“The practice aims to revitalize traditional culture with modern designs and help promote the handicraft skills abroad,” said Professor Wang Dawei, executive managing director of Shanghai University’s Academy of Fine Arts, a leading institute of a training program initiated by the Ministry of Culture. 

The program sends masters with traditional skills to study at universities for a month.

Since the program began in 2015, over 120 universities and art colleges have participated in classes for 15,000 heritage handicraft masters in disciplines such as bamboo-carving, silver jewelry-making, mud sculpture and ceramics.

In Shanghai, the academy has trained over 600 heritage handicraft masters and developed hundreds of products over three years with the help of professors and design students, said Zhang Lili, operation director of the Public Art Cooperation Center, which jointly hosted the exhibition.

"Cultural heritage is alive and well, but must evolve with new techniques in the new era," Zhang said.

The cherry blossom festival at the Gucun Park had over 300,000 visitors over the weekend, keen to see Asia’s largest cherry forest. With more than 12,000 cherry trees in 90 species, the festival is running until April 15.

Ancient skills meet modern designers
Ti Gong

Local cross-embroidery is incorporated into bespoke costumes at the exhibition at Baoshan International Folk Arts Exposition.

Ancient skills meet modern designers
Ti Gong

Local cloth painting decorates loudspeakers at the exhibition.

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