Global brands give Korean craftworks chance to shine again

In July, news that artist Jeong Da-hye became the first-ever Korean creator to be awarded the prestigious Loewe Foundation Craft Prize shook up the country’s craft art scene.카지노사이트

The prize, launched by the Spanish luxury fashion house’s cultural foundation, recognized Jeong’s delicate, horsehair-woven, lattice-like vessel in helping revive the centuries-old Joseon-era technique of weaving noblemen’s hats.

The award ceremony coincided with the foundation’s opening of a month-long exhibition in Seoul of all 30 shortlisted works from 15 countries ― including seven from Korea, the largest number ever.

In recent months, a number of shows hosted and sponsored by global brands have given Korean crafts a chance to shine again through collaborative projects. The global brands include French fashion giant Chanel, Danish furniture design company Fritz Hansen and single malt Scotch whisky maker The Balvenie.

Aptly titled “On the Aesthetics of Radiance,” the exhibition sponsored by Chanel at Yeol, a non-profit foundation in Seoul, brings two shimmering forms of timeless artistry in dialogue with one another ― “geumbak” (gold leaf imprinting) and “ottchil” (Korean lacquer).

The show, held as part of the fashion house’s latest efforts to support Korea’s cultural scene, has named “geumbakjang” or gold leaf imprinting master Park Soo-young the Artisan of the Year and “ottchil” artist Lyu Nam-gwon the Young Craftsman of the Year.

While gold foil decorations were reserved for opulent costumes donned by the royal family during the 1392-1910 Joseon era, Park has shed the traditionally regal nature of her craft by transferring the gold leaf patterns to sheer silk, kinetic sculptures and glass paperweights through her collaboration with other designers.

She has even placed the resplendent patterns onto the lacquered surface of Lyu’s tea utensil box.

Lyu has also expanded his creative exploration beyond the simple reenactment of long-standing lacquer craft as he adds a twist to the “jitaechilgi” technique by piling stacks of traditional paper on top of the wooden surface and applying coats of flowing lacquer repeatedly. By doing so, the lacquer seeps through the rough, uneven texture of the mulberry fibers of the paper, thus birthing an unexpected one-of-a-kind result each time, he said.

Fritz Hansen, a Copenhagen-based lifestyle brand, presented its first collaboration with seven Korean designers and artisans at its 150th-anniversary exhibition, “Shaping the Extraordinary,” at Culture Station Seoul 284, an exhibition and performance hall that used to be the main train station of the capital.

“In addition to serving as an extensive survey of Fritz Hansen’s history, the show is a launch pad to introduce Korean talents and long-standing craft techniques to the company through the section, ‘Korea Project,'” curator Kim Green told The Korea Times.

The project invites four holders of intangible cultural heritage titles, putting their time-honored craftsmanship of natural dyeing, embroidery, lacquer and bamboo weaving in dialogue with the Danish brand’s signature chairs and daybeds.

“We wanted to emphasize their labor-intensive skills mastered over decades by focusing on their finishing techniques applied to the products’ surfaces,” the curator noted, adding that the visiting representatives of the Danish company “were impressed by the subtle and restrained beauty embodied within each piece.”

Choi Jeong-in embroidered multihued patterns inspired by Joseon-era artist Shin Saimdang’s “Chochungdo,” a painting of flowers, vegetables and insects, onto a white Swan chair, while an Egg chair has been enveloped in Jung Kwan-chae’s cotton patchwork dyed with natural pigments of indigo plant.바카라사이트

The collaboration between a 130-year-old premium Scotch whisky maker and Korean artisans seems rather out of the ordinary at first glance.

Founded in 1892 in Scotland, The Balvenie is known for strictly adhering to traditional hand-crafted Scotch-making practices. Such a celebration of long-standing artisanal production and craftsmanship is what put the Scottish brand in conversation with Korea’s evolving handicrafts at the recently-wrapped-up “The Balvenie Makers Exhibition,” held at Hwigyeomjae, a traditional Korean tile-roofed building in Bukchon Hanok Village.

Born from the whisky maker’s collaboration in the last two years with 12 Korean artisans and contemporary craft artists ― including five intangible cultural heritage title holders ― the show brought together some 60 objects, notably the Scotch-inspired products called The Balvenie Edition.

Kim Dong-sik, a fourth-generation “hapjukseon” (traditional folding fan) maker, replaced the fan’s bamboo ribs with oak from the casks used to mature whisky. Covering the hanok windows were Cho Dae-yong’s semi-transparent bamboo blinds that visualize the underlying notes of honey present in The Balvenie’s whisky using yellow thread.

Why the collaboration?

So why are big-name global brands looking to bring Korean crafts into the spotlight?

Cha Jeongwook, the director behind Fritz Hansen’s exhibition, said that while Korea has managed to safeguard outstanding craft techniques passed down by generations, there haven’t been enough chances for a majority of the pieces to be properly highlighted to the public.

“After being made aware of this, the overseas brands have realized that such underrepresented handicrafts and their history can be a gateway to introduce their own long-standing heritage to the audience,” he said, adding that Korean craft has diverse branches ― from form to material and finishing techniques ― that can offer a wide range of collaborative opportunities.

This seems to be the trend with the abovementioned companies as they call attention to their beginnings as craft-based workshops and their history of celebrating artisanship, through their presentation of Korean craft.

Cho Hye-young, the appointed commissioner and the expert panel member for the Loewe Foundation Craft Prize, noted that the sheer number of Korean creators proposing innovative approaches and a daring way of interpreting the materials is also astounding and has thus captured the eyes of global brands.

“I mean, just take a look at Jeong Da-hye’s horsehair-woven vessel or Kim Jun-su’s coiled vase made of stacks of leftover leather strips. How about Kwon Jung-mo’s hanji lamp that was dyed with flowing whisky?” she said.

“One of the noteworthy aspects of present-day Korean craft art is that the artists are reviving and reestablishing the centuries-old tradition but with an ingenious idea of their own as they make efforts to move with the times. The resulting product then becomes very timely.”

Nonetheless, while the global brands’ entry into the Korean craft scene has certainly been a game changer, she added that relevant domestic organizations need to step up their game in terms of promoting their shows to strike the right note with the general Korean audience.

Having witnessed more than 1,000 people per day visit shows hosted by the Loewe Foundation and The Balvenie, Cho pointed out that the public is indeed taking interest in the country’s craft art scene.

“Many local foundations sponsor artisans and host craft-centered exhibitions, but unfortunately, they would only remain as topics of interest among industry insiders and sponsors. The institutions need to make considerable efforts to change their promotional tactics,” she said.온라인카지노

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