Saturday, 10 November 2012

Forever Lost?

I'm back at home this weekend and have indulged in watching a bit of TVB (now with fewer adverts!) and today came across this show: 一手造成 - a show exploring the beauty of handcrafted arts.

In an era of rapid technological development, precious traditional crafts have become outdated. In the society we live in there is much thought and calculation put into efficiency and economic value. Patience is easily lost as is the ability to fully appreciate these handicrafts.
In this thirteen week series, traditional crafts in a variety of field will be rediscovered but sadly, most of them are the last of their kind.
Much focus will be put on the idea and heritage of traditional craftsmanship. All the arts were passed down from the teacher's own craft learnt through years of apprenticeship and dedication. But now everything is a matter of economy, efficiency and money-making so very few people are willing to take the time to learn these crafts which I think is a very sad reality.

I tuned into today's episode for the first time knowing from the name of the show that it was going to explore handmade crafts and I am so glad I did, I really found the crafts that I discovered/ rediscovered to be truly amazing.

Elephant Tusk Carving

Mr Leung took a five year apprenticeship to learn the art of hand carving elephant tusks to become the professional he is, his first piece being a carving on an 50 inch tusk. From his mid-20's he's been working in the field creating pieces carved in the style of shan shui paintings. When asked why, he explained that that was what he was taught from his teacher, he's carrying on what he was taught.
Elephant tusk is a hard material to work from requiring much strength to carve even when using electrical equipment developed in the 60's which soon replaced traditional techniques. it needs to be help up to the light often to see how deep the marks made are due to the translucent nature.
Ivory from elephant tusks is highly expensive and was seen to be very precious and signs of wealth but with elephant tusks being harder and harder to get hold of there is a block in the road but he says he will no retire, he will go on to carving wood or wax but is sad to see a beautiful traditional handicraft being lost.

Winter Melon Carving (Dung Kwa Jung)

Mr Tam worked in a restaurant when he wasn't able to enroll where he had wanted and took an interest in the  hand carved decorative winter melons. This became his practice.
The design is drawn onto the melon from a reference image and then carved. Much consideration must be put into the pressure as nothing can be erased once a mark is made. To achieve a beautiful design, Mr Tam points out the importance of contrast. Each of his melons are one of a kind and his designs vary. He says that portraits are the hardest since everyone is unique.
An alternative cannot be used while learning and the results can be altered by the ripeness of the melon. The riper the melon the easier to carve but the result will not be as good and sharp because it;s softer.
Sadly, there is also little appreciation for his craft. He concludes by saying 'no one wants to learn how to do this because you can't make a living.'

(photos from the TV, hopefully I can find it online so I can get better screenshots. If you have TVB I recommend giving it a watch. I seriously just learnt more about these two crafts about my course over 2 months, I PLUG this!)

It saddens me that these beautiful traditional crafts can't withstand the test of time and will be lost because of efficiency, economy and the modern lifestyle. It makes me wish that I could learn a traditional handicraft. People like Mr Leung and Mr Tam say they'd be lucky if people are even interested enough to give their work a second glance and that the practice will soon be lost but hopefully, the legacy lives on like all trends, I hope they come back into 'fashion' and are not lost forever.

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