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Crafting a town

Updated: 2013-08-08 02:16
By Sun Yuanqing ( China Daily)

Change from within

However, physical restoration alone is not enough to revive a town.

"What really matters is not the external, it is the inner spirit of the city," Yan says.

Crafting a town

A porcelain exhibition is staged in an old house.Photos Provided to China Daily

For thousands of years, Ningbo has been thriving on handicrafts like cloth weaving, embroidery and pottery. Today, it remains one of China's largest manufacturing bases.

As manufacturers in the area have started to build their own brands through original designs, they have taken inspiration from local culture.

"Designers know about design, but they don't necessarily know how to turn it into reality with crafts. And that's where Cicheng's handicraft artists come in," says Zhen Liqun, vice-manager of the Cicheng Development Company.

Zhen invited Huang Yung-sung, a veteran expert and publisher on Chinese folk handicrafts, to curate exhibitions and supervise projects in Cicheng.

"I was moved by their dedication to architectural heritage and felt compelled to do something for this place," Huang says. "People have been talking about culture revival for quite a while, but the roots of native culture have often been neglected. Cicheng has a very good foundation in handicraft, why not start from here?"

Huang started by curating the Mothers' Art exhibitions, which ranges from weaved clothes to Chinese knotting. Each exhibition is amplified by the work of a living representative artist.

Crafting a town

The roads in Cicheng near Ningbo in Zhejiang province are paved with white stones and black pitch to indicate the old waterway and stone road respectively.Photos Provided to China Daily

"The exhibits don't have to be expensive, but they have to be demonstrative of the history and manufacturing process of the handicraft," Huang says. "That's how exhibitions in Cicheng differ from those I did in big cities. They are meant for the handicraft students and designers."

The town now hosts handicraft workshops on a monthly basis, attracting international design firms like IDEO, Continuum and Frog Design.

German craft tool supplier PRYM set up its China showroom in Cicheng. Exception, a brand best known for dressing China's first lady Peng Liyuan for her first official appearance overseas, regularly sends its designers to Cicheng to train in handicrafts.

Cicheng is now home to 14 handicraft museums, 28 designers' studios, three master handcrafts' workshops and nine DIY workshops.

"We are trying to build an industry chain of Chinese handicrafts that has never existed before. It starts with the handcrafts masters. Their skills will teach and inspire designers, which will then attract manufacturers," Huang says. "And when all these people work together, the tradition of handicrafts will be passed on."

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