Salvaging precious shards of history to bring a taste of tradition to contemporary design
by Alessandro De Toni in Design on 22 October 2014
Since the beginning of last century, when the Qing dynasty was in its final years, China had a tradition of recovering old fragments of precious ceramic. In 1902, in the bustling commercial area south of Beijing's Forbidden City, several workshops were already giving a new life to broken vases by assembling little fragments into new pieces of jewelry.
Wang Jing, owner and designer of Caicifang, is the authority on this traditional craft. Jing inherited the nearly lost art from her grandparents who made their living in ancient ceramics. They had a small workshop on the old street of Zhushikou, where they sold antiquities and restored ancient chinaware. "My parents continued the tradition, and since I was a kid in the early '80s I remember my parents collecting chinaware from old demolished houses. They were spending a huge amount of time studying every piece, tracking the origin and production technique used," Jing tells CH.
Inspired by her family, Jing felt the call of this ancient tradition and left her career in information technology. After an informal yet continuous training with her family, she registered the brand Caicifang in 2007 and started collaborating with several museums producing gifts and souvenirs from historical archives. "Museums are an important source of knowledge about chinaware," she explains. "We keep a close relationship with porcelain experts and scholars—it’s a small circle of around 30 people —and we often debate about the pieces we use and consult them to define the historical period precisely." Jing also attends regular workshops and training sessions organized by China’s most prestigious museums. She also makes regular pilgrimages to Jingdezhen, home of the finest china in Jiangsu province, to gain deeper insight into ancient production processes.
In her small new shop in Yangmeizhu Xiejie, a narrow alley in the old city, Jing showcases a wide selection of jewelry made of ancient porcelain crafted by a small network of independent artisans. The work includes pendants, necklaces, cufflinks, and decorative objects like lamps, bags and traditional Mandarin gowns. The pieces are largely sourced from the intensive demolition the city has been undergoing for the last 30 years. Jing relies on a network of independent collectors who carefully comb any torn down old neighborhood in search of the precious items.
Showing us a jar of porcelain shards, Jing explains that, "80% of the pieces used are from the Qing and Ming dynasties, when the production of chinaware reached a peak. While Song and Yuan dynasties account for 20%, they’re rarer and more valuable. Everything here comes from blue bloods and families of officials of the past. Common people were using white china, while decorations were meant to meet the taste of a more sophisticated audience."
Every shard features a piece of history. For example, the five-legged dragon is a symbol of high ranking officials from the mid-Qing dynasty. Meanwhile specific techniques and color shades, like the distinctive red-azure glaze, embody Jun porcelain from Northern China. The ivory white of Ting ware is the trademark of Dingzhou and the characteristic uneven dark glaze of rare Jianyao porcelain can be traced to the Fujian province. The most unique pieces are Caicifang's bags, which are made of pieces from all the twelve emperors of Qing dynasty, decorated with an original ancient coin.
Despite the humble appearance of Jing’s shop, Caicifang is a mine of hidden gems which has become a hotspot for porcelain connoisseurs. "In the last years I’ve noticed a renovated interest toward porcelain and Chinese tradition in general, especially among the local upper class, but we also count many expats from the US and the UK embassy who became regular customers of Caicifang," explains Jing. "Many of our clients have a strong knowledge of chinaware and its history. They can easily understand the value of our products and sometimes come with their own old fragments to ask us to craft customized pieces of jewelry," she says.
Caicifang is available through online retailer Taobao and at the Caicifang boutique in Beijing's Xicheng District.
Images by Alessandro De Toni
Film magazine Little White Lies surveys 50 notable industry people, from the Coen Brothers to Philip Seymour Hoffman, on their motivations in this new book
Since 2005, Little White Lies has been a unique creative read for film buffs seeking something besides hype. Dedicating each issue largely to a single film, the bi-monthly indie publication broadens the conversation beyond just reviews and interviews by initiating discussions on gender politics, history, technology and more—and strengthening the connection between fans, films and today's culture. LWLies' newly published first book, "What I Love About Movies," digs deeper into what movies, on a personal and cultural level, mean to the people who are making them.
Over the past nine years of interviewing industry heavyweights for the magazine, LWLies has collected words from the likes of Wes Anderson, the Coen Brothers, Darren Aronofsky, Helen Mirren, Park Chan-wook, Alfonso Cuarón and more. Every one of the 50 names is recognizable, and each piece is accompanied by a carefully written biography and newly commissioned portrait from a different illustrator. In fact, most of the illustrators had the quotes beforehand to incorporate the ideas into their artwork.
"The concept for the book actually arose from a LWLies tradition of routinely asking the question 'What do you love about movies?' at the end of interviews," deputy editor Adam Woodward tells CH. "In nine years of making the magazine, we've amassed a vast number of quotes from a diverse mix of actors, directors and film industry figures, and it was quite a task to whittle it down to 50 for the book. Many of the quotes in the book are previously unpublished, so it's been an amazing opportunity to share these impassioned insights from just some of the people who inspire us in what we do."
"We are essentially asking these people, why did you dedicate your life to the creation of transitory entertainments which drift through the public consciousness like so many scattered autumn leaves?" writes editor David Jenkins in the amusing introduction, before answering the looming question himself and posing the same to the reader. The answers throughout the book are equally personal and unique, but share one common theme: they deepen the reader's appreciation for film.
The book is dedicated to the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, who is also featured inside. He describes the mysterious, subconscious-reaching event that takes place inside a dark room: "It's indelible. It stays with you for a long time. I think that's why when you go back and watch a film that you loved from when you were younger it's never quite the same experience. Even though it's the exact same film." Overall, the book is an eye-opening survey into the motivations that each person has for dedicating their life to this medium.
"What I Love About Movies" is now available from the Little White Lies shop for £25.
Quentin Tarantino illustration courtesy of ilovedust, William Friedkin illustration courtesy of Hedof, open book images by Cool Hunting
Re-imagining the human form through geometrical patterns and shapes
by CH Contributor in Design on 21 October 2014
by Chérmelle D. Edwards
Allison Kunath, a Los Angeles-based visual artist and fashion designer, has developed a distinct style over the past few years, creating geometric portraits of people—such as famed figures like Maya Angelou and Frida Kahlo—as well as animals. "It was a merger of two styles into my own, fragmenting human forms into geometric shapes and detailed illustration," Kunath tells CH. "I use a low poly technique, geometric fragmenting, geometric portraiture and it’s the simplification of everything and the shading of fragments into triangles and cross hatching for density and body." The results are familiar faces seen through a new lens.
When contacted by the non-profit organization Beautify Earth, which scouts walls and pairs business owners with artists to transform them, Kunath found herself bidding on her largest portrait project to date—importing company Marco Polo Imports based in Venice, California. "They wanted a portrait of Marco Polo with a modern twist. The wall is massive, probably about 20x50 feet with a door in the middle," says Kunath.
Turning the massive surface into a testament to Marco Polo’s legacy of travel and adventure, Kunath’s process involved a lot of quiet planning before her pen touched paper. Treating the project as if it was one huge mathematical equation, Kunath deduced a method to transfer her original 9x12 (inch? ft?) sketch onto an estimated 20x50 foot stucco surface.
"I work ruler-free, making straight lines with short distances from one another. Once it’s broken down into simple shapes, I can actually go ahead and do it. Each triangle then informs the next and the shading is always relative to the triangle next to it." describes Kunath. Since Marco Polo’s travel to Asia was by land with a return by boat, Kunath kept the theme of movement as the focus, while imposing a sartorial three-piece suit for modernity. Free-styling the entire wall, she used a combination of water-based house paint, Krink graffiti pens and brush work—the latter more so—to create the mural in just 36 hours.
Peruse Kunath's full body of work online, including wearables, digital work and paintings.
Images courtesy of Allison Kunath