The Rong Design Library is an ambitious attempt to document the knowledge of craft materials for the use of product designers.
The lead designer from Hangzhou Zhang Lei articulates a process of “deconstruction” of traditional crafts. The focus is on the “the regeneration of traditional handicrafts, and committed to promoting the inheritance of traditional culture and the progress of contemporary design.” To this end, over five years they visited “50 handicraft workshops and studied five kinds of traditional Chinese handicraft materials, including bamboo, silk, earth, copper and paper, and collected 72 designs from different fields.” The result is a non-profit materials library. Their current workshop focus is on dyeing of wood materials.
Rong Design Library is a powerful example of the re-focusing on craft that we see in Ancient Now. Craft today provides an important means for China to evolve beyond its status as the “world’s factory”, to appreciating its own design capital, particularly in traditional crafts.
However, with this emphasis on “deconstruction”, we do need to consider the interests of those who have cared for this knowledge over generations. What value is left in the artisans, once their knowledge has been extracted? Is there room still to appreciate the craft skills that is embedded in their hands and minds? Is the design library available for artisans as well as designers?