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For the Joy of Creation

Updated:  2019-01-22 14:31:41

  (China TEFL Net)

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Visitors take a photo at the expo. [PHOTO BY GAO ERQIANG/CHINA DAILY]

The increasing popularity of the annual Hobbycraft Expo shows that people are relishing the chance to get hands on and craft their own works of art, Zhang Kun reports. 

Despite the onset of a cold front that sent temperatures plunging down to near freezing, the reception for the last edition of the Shanghai International Hobbycraft Expo was the complete opposite.

According to the organizers, the event at the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition& Convention Center in December attracted 300 companies, institutions and studios from 15 countries and regions, and on Dec 8 alone was attended by more than 78,000 people, nearly twice the amount of the inaugural edition in 2015.

This fast-growing popularity of the Hobbycraft Expo has made it one of the important cultural platforms recognized by the municipality, according to Yang Qinghong, director of the Shanghai Culture and Tourism Bureau's public culture department, who manages matters related to the conservation of intangible cultural heritage.

"Creating things with your own hands brings great joy and fulfillment," says Yang Wenxin, general manager of Shanghai YESBY.Me Information Technology Co, an organizer of the expo. "We are not only handicraft lovers, but also cultural inheritors."

From woodworking, leather smithing and glass sculpting to embroidery, pottery and print making, the fair showcased a comprehensive range of handicrafts through live demonstrations, interactive classes and lectures.

Events like the Hobbycraft Expo are important because they introduce traditional handicrafts and China's intangible cultural heritage to the wider public, says Zhang Lili, deputy professor with the Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts in Shanghai University.

Zhang has been the director of the Public Art Coordinating Center of the academy since 2015, when she started working to help promote handicrafts recognized as China's intangible cultural heritage. She was also one of the nominees for the "People of 2018" listing by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism for her work on the conservation of China's intangible cultural heritage.

Zhang points out that such events are important because they help people to appreciate the differences in workmanship between handicrafts and machine-made products.

"Many things today can be bought at lower prices because of mass production. When you show people something that is made by hand, they often lament about how it's pricier than something similar that was made by a machine. They just don't realize how much time, effort and workmanship goes into making the product by hand," she says.

"When they understand the true value and how each piece is unique, I hope Chinese people will spend good money on handicrafts, just like they buy a Louis Vuitton or Prada handbag."

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Two students from the Qiangshu School in Maqiao of Minhang district perform the hand lion dance at the Shanghai International Hobbycraft Expo in December. [PHOTO BY GAO ERQIANG/CHINA DAILY]

Old craft, young learners

Among the performers at the expo were students from Qiangshu School of Maqiao town in Minhang district. Unlike the traditional lion dance where two people are needed to don a costume to perform, Maqiao has a miniature version called shoushiwu, which literally means "hand lion dance".

This art form originated more than 300 years ago as a popular street performance during the lantern festival, a major Chinese festival celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunar Chinese calendar. In 2010, shoushiwu was recognized as one of the national intangible cultural heritages.

Besides teaching students how to perform this art form, Qiangshu School also offers classes on how to craft these puppets.

"Maqiao is home to the Qizhong Tennis Center. Every year during the Tennis Masters, our students would perform hand lion dances on the tennis court for guests from all over the world," says Gong Minying, a teacher of the school.

"When we first introduced the lion dance to the art class, children made lion faces with colorful clay. Once they opened up and used their imagination, the students created all kinds of forms and images that are so beautiful."

One major highlight of this year's expo was a series of classes given by inheritors of China's intangible cultural heritage, who taught visitors some of the basic skills required for their craft. Yang Qinghong said that it was not easy for artists to compress the fundamentals of complex handicrafts into one-hour sessions.

Craftsmen and young artists from the Shanghai University Art Academy also worked together to design programs that allowed participants to experience the fun and fulfillment of creation. By getting to work on something themselves, visitors got to experience the beauty and craftsmanship and fall in love with the heritage of China, Yang Qinghong adds.

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Attendees try out a product at a carpentry stall of the expo. [PHOTO BY GAO ERQIANG/CHINA DAILY

Ancient wisdom

Huang Lei, a designer with more than 20 years of experience in building industrial tools, took his new company and business ideas to the expo. He named his company Muniuliuma, or "wood ox and flowing horse" in Chinese, which refers to the famous wooden ox invented by the legendary military strategist Zhuge Liang during the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280).

Developed to transport army provisions, this mechanical creation was a fine example of the ingenuity of ancient Chinese engineering and woodworking, explains Huang.

To showcase this to the public, Huang developed a series of workshops where children and grownups could learn how to build small, articulated wooden models, albeit not as complicated as the famous wooden ox. In the past four years, Huang and his colleagues have taken these workshop programs to schools, communities and shopping malls.

"The best way to tell a story is to get people to experience it themselves," he says.

At the expo, Huang guided participants as they pieced together mortise and tenons joints using hot glue as part of the process of building the wooden models that came in different animal shapes.

"I am quite clumsy and not confident of working with my hands, so to make a rabbit model that can actually walk is a lot of fun even though there are only a few steps involved," says Zhang Lan, a participant of the workshop. "Also, you can take home what you just made so that every time you look at the rabbit, you remember the sense of achievement you got from building it."

Source: China Daily


Source: China Daily

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