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Craft art enjoy a boom in pandemic times

A visitor to the 17th edition of the Craft Trend Fair at Coex in Seoul takes a photo Thursday. (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)
A visitor to the 17th edition of the Craft Trend Fair at Coex in Seoul takes a photo Thursday. (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

Craft art usually requires a sophisticated touch by artists, an understanding of traditional craftsmanship and, of course, hours of labor.

It did not come as a surprise to artistic director Yang Teo when the country’s largest craft art fair gained unprecedented popularity this year.

The 17th edition of the Craft Trend Fair -- which kicked off Thursday and runs through Sunday at Coex in southern Seoul -- saw a 40 percent increase in applications by craft artists, galleries and craft brands to participate in the fair, reflecting the popularity of Korean craft art in recent years.

"Another Pearl Series" by Kim Hyun-joo (Korea Craft & Design Foundation)

Helmed by Yang, who heads Teo Yang Studio, the fair, titled “Today’s Questions, Craft Answers,” explores three themes at the thematic pavilion located at the center of the hall: standardized lifestyle, loss of humanity and environmental issues. The 42 participating craft artists and collectives give much to think about on those issues through their works.

“We are seeing a striking popularity of craft art and expect a bright future for Korean craft artists,” said Yang, adding that craft art helps people to feel connected to each other because they are made by hand.

"Designers have their own stories to tell, but they don't have as many chances to do so as other artists, many of whom work with galleries," he said adding that the hope is for the art fair to become a platform for craft artists.

“Ottchil Jogakbo (Patchwork Wrapping Cloth) 2” by Lee So-ra (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)
“Ottchil Jogakbo (Patchwork Wrapping Cloth) 2” by Lee So-ra (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

Among the works at the thematic pavilion is “Ottchil Jogakbo (Patchwork Wrapping Cloth) 2” created by textile artist Lee So-ra. Draped like a curtain, the wrapping cloth comprises ramie fabric scraps in different colors and sizes dyed with natural ingredients and coated with the ottchil, or lacquer, technique.

Many of the works at the art fair demonstrate how traditional craft art can be modernized. A section titled “2020 Living Heritage” shows how master artisans who inherited traditional Korean craft art can collaborate with designers to create works with contemporary designs.

Some 330 artists, brands and galleries are participating in the fair.

"ReBottle Objects_Plants Series No. 15" by Park Sun-min (Korea Craft & Design Foundation)

By Park Yuna (yunapark@heraldcorp.com)

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