Its founder Han De Chang shares how this new initiative aims to promote Chinese culture through craft.
11 July, 2012
While working as a researcher at the Taiwan Design Center in 2007, Han De Chang made a proposal to launch the Yii project to help galvanise interest in local craft and stimulate dialogue between Taiwanese designers and craftsmen.
Bubble Chair by Kevin Yu Jui Chou
“[Back then], the designers in Taiwan were very much addicted to the design of electronic products; our history, culture and traditional craft were considered outdated and something to be ‘improved’ or ‘modernised’,” says Han. “Unfortunately, such modernist approaches on ‘improving’ craft were always done in very superficial ways, and I needed to do something about it. That’s why the project was conceived.”
While the intentions were good, Yii was a government project with some very complex problems to negotiate, such as the commercialisation of products. This led Han – with the encouragement and help from Droog co-founder Gijs Bakker and various designers – to launch his own entrepreneurial start-up, Han Gallery, at the end of 2011.
Brick Plan by Rock Wang
Han Gallery’s very first collection, which drew inspiration from Chinese culture, was presented at Ventura Lambrate during this year’s Milan Design Week. Curated by Gijs Bakker (Han Gallery’s creative director), it not only showcased the works of Taiwanese designers such as Gina Hsu, Kevin Yu Jui Chou, Pili Wu, Po-ching Liao, Rock Wang and Tong Ho, but a set of steel tables designed by Japanese studio nendo.
Bamboo Steel Table by nendo
“The collection was a commercial success. Most of the products were sold out at the early stage of the exhibition,” says Han, adding that most of the pieces are made in small or limited quantities using complex techniques and processes while some, such as the porcelain ware, are mass produced.
Plastic Classic Chair by Pili Wu
On the choice of Dutch designer Gijs Bakker as the gallery’s creative head, Han says, “Our task is to look at traditional wisdom with contemporary eyes, [and] also to see and to interpret Chinese culture to a broader, international audience… I was very much impressed by [Bakker’s] empathetic understanding of our culture. The fact that he almost single-handedly invented the early content of the word Dutch Design also contributed to our decision.”
Plastic Cermamic Light by Pili Wu
Han says that the ultimate goal of the gallery is to “re-interpret the unexplored symbols, stories and inspirations [in] the rich Chinese culture, by giving meanings from [a] design perspective, thus creating design classics of tomorrow.”
Plastic Ceramic Tabletop by Pili Wu
Lace Bowls Embroidery by Gina Hsu
Right now, the team is busy preparing for its first exhibition in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital – the first time it’s doing so on home soil. The purpose of the project is to “go back to the starting point of the gallery, and even of Yii”, says Han, and to use the designs as a tool for social and cultural discourse – exposing problems and proposing solutions through the intellectual use of design knowledge – as well as promoting greater understanding of the past and present, and of humans and their culture.
Calligraphy Screen by Po-ching Liao
Apart from an agreement with a representative gallery in Milan, Han Gallery is also discussing distribution and tour exhibitions in countries such as France, Belgium and Hong Kong.
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