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Craftwork Exhibition Has a Hands-on-feeling 2019-06-24
A huge jade carving valued more than 1.1 billion yuan (US$170 million) was the object of considerable attention at the four-day 2015 China (Hangzhou) Craft and Art Exhibition of China held in Hangzhou as part of the 2015 West Lake International Expo.

The multi-faceted international expo goes beyond artworks. It is also showcasing the introduction of new technologies into daily life.

The craft and art exhibition, which ended this weekend, featured about 10,000 pieces of handicrafts admired and drew tens of thousands of visitors.

The exhibit’s aim was to “showcase the highest level of the country’s modern craftwork art,” according to organizers. Displays ranged from extremely delicate works by top artists, such as a lace bed sheet made of 58 million strands of thread, to affordable small artworks.

Some handicrafts are time-consuming and expensive to make, putting them beyond the reach of ordinary consumers. The government has been subsidizing artists in their work the past decade.

Lace artist Zhao Xixiang said few people would be willing to spend hundreds of yuan for a lace tea saucer or even tens of thousands yuan for a lace tablecloth, even though the tablecloth might take six months to make.

Hangzhou embroidery, an art form marked by embroidery as glossy as a photo or painting, is one of the labor-intensive handicrafts. Chen Yihui, a disciple of the genre, said a photo frame-sized work usually takes a year. The price of a larger work that takes up to three years can cost in the six digits.

Chen seldom sells her works because the techniques are so complicated that her dozen or so years at the craft haven’t qualified her a “master” yet. She said there around 20 disciples of Hangzhou embroidery, who all live on government subsidies.

Some handicrafts get a boost from modern technology. Crude pottery dolls, a traditional craftwork from Linyi in Shandong Province, used to be completely made by hand. But craftsman Huang Yong has updated the method by using pre-cast molds.

“Before we used to make one doll a day,” he said. “Now we can make dozens.”

Huang’s studio last year received doll orders amounting to hundreds of thousands of yuan.

E-commerce has also made an entry into handicrafts. Many of the works displayed at the exhibition were available for sale online. By scanning a QR code, visitors could buy goods via smartphones.

Another segment of the West Lake International Expo, the Hangzhou Cultural and Creative Industry Expo, featured replicas of ancient China artworks made in conjunction with the Palace Museum in Beijing. They included umbrellas evoking terracotta warriors and magnets in the shape of emperors.

“The museum every month creates at least one new product, so the precious works held by the museum can now be turned into cultural products bought online,” said Shan Jixiang, curator of the museum.

Many design firms also showed modern innovation by fusing tradition with the contemporary. Illuminated traditional Chinese umbrellas, maglev speakers shaped like pagodas and Dunhuang cave paintings duplicated by digital technology were crowd pleasers.

Art aside, modern technology was also on show at the Economic, Trade and Science-Technology Cooperation Fair, an adjunct of the international expo.

“This year the West Lake Expo focuses on industrial upgrading and economic transition,” said Huang Feng, speaking on behalf the expo committee. “Technology, e-commerce and smart systems have attracted people and investment.”

On display were new gadgets to make daily living easier: equipment that monitors plants 24 hours a day, motion-sensing games allowing people to experience virtual space travel and smart robots serving tea.

“Daily-use robots are not distant dreams anymore,” said Gong Zhaotao, general manager of Robot4u Technology Co. “Robot waiters for restaurants and robots who can assist the elderly are coming on the market.”

The 2015 West Lake International Expo is held from October 16 to November 1. It is expected to do 10 billion yuan of business this year and serve as an entry point for US$1 billion in foreign investment and 10 billion yuan in domestic investment.

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