Reviving Jiangnan’s lost folk crafts

Updated: 2016-01-26 09:29

By Wang Kaihao(China Daily)

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Reviving Jiangnan’s lost folk crafts

The exhibition of the Hangzhou-based China Academy of Art's folk crafts museum features daily-use items made by grassroots artisans in the southern reaches of the Yangtze River.[Photo by Wang Kaihao/ China Daily]

There are two key ways to develop a folk craft: to preserve as it was or to mix it with modern design.

"We prefer the second as we want to explore the possibility of revitalizing their spirit in our industrial design in the future," she says, adding that while she doesn't expect the old pieces to be used daily, she feels the ancient wisdom hidden in them may be of value to present-day product designers.

"Modern people are used to geometric patterns, but what will happen if we reintroduce organic designs to our industrial products?" she asks, showing an exhibited set of tweezers shaped like a swallow as an example.

Zhao Yi, a professor at Shandong University of Art & Design, says: "Chinese folk crafts were known for an admiration of nature and for following simple, delicate styles."

But the appreciation of folk crafts fell amid the country's many rapid changes in the past few decades.

"When a taste for flamboyance becomes a fad, it is time to get back to tradition," Zhao says.

Maybe the Jiangnan style will help in the revival.

Fang Xiaofeng, a professor of decoration and design at Tsinghua University, says: "In China, folk crafts were on the opposite side of royal craftsmanship ... a rather inferior position. But no royal art could be nurtured without the basis of folk crafts."

However, while such crafts are being remembered today, just putting them on show at museums isn't likely to revive their fortunes, he says.

As for Zhao, he says: "They can be sources of inspiration for modern design. They should create something we can buy from the supermarkets rather than be turned into luxury items."

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If you go

9 am-4 pm (Mondays closed). Folk Crafts Museum, China Academy of Art (Xiangshan campus), 352 Xiangshan Road, Xihu district, Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. Free entrance. The opening exhibition is to run through May.

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