This residency is co-initiated by Pro Helvetia with its liaison office in Shanghai and the Róng Design Library. For the 2024 program, five Swiss designers are chosen to spend one month researching Chinese traditional crafts techniques and materials.
The Róng Design Library invites Swiss designers to participate in a residency in a village near Hangzhou, China and to focus on the search and deconstruction of Chinese traditional crafts techniques and materials (bamboo, silk, mud, copper, paper, etc.), and combine the learnt techniques with their own practice. This one-month residency will take place between March and December 2024.
The collaboration with Pro Helvetia represents a distinctive facet of the library’s residency program. Its aim is to foster a dynamic environment that bridges traditional crafts and contemporary design, inviting mutual inspiration. Residents will engage with local artisans and gain fresh perspectives. In its eight-year history, the program has welcomed 50 designers from 10+ countries, including Swiss designers like Jean-Philippe Bonzon, Josefina Muñoz, and Laura Couto Rosado. The selected designers from the 2019-2020 call are Laure Gremion, Karin Lorez (WEER), and Alix Arto.
« I submerged myself in the heart of traditional Chinese craftsmanship. » —Josefina Muñoz (@josefinamunozstudio)
“I believe that during my residency period, the process should be the purpose. Sharing experiences, learning new techniques, listening and co-creating have been a few steps of that process. I made a conscious decision not to focus on making a specific object, but to deepen my knowledge and experiment with different craft techniques. During this experience, I had the opportunity to collaborate with bamboo weavers, experiment with ceramic scraps, learn from ceramic specialists who can make anything from giant pots to intricate crockery, and finally explore the technique of wool rolling felt technique with a family.”Alix Arto (@alix.arto)
Selected designers for the 2024 program
Lousia Carmona (@louisalolacarmona) is a product and textile designer based in Switzerland and Belgium. Graduated in Industrial Design from ECAL. She explored ancient traditional spinning and weaving techniques with crafts-women in Argentina and Benin. Textiles have become a material and technical exploration field, where she studies their various properties and the possibilities of finishing and treatment.
She’d like to explore finishing techniques in the rich history of artisanal and industrial textile know-how and, more specifically, the incredible textile work of the Miaos. From their indigo dyeing and pleated skirts to the use of egg white to make fabrics shiny and waterproof. And so to understand and translate this ancestral know-how into my design practice, somewhere at the intersection of material, object and space.
Emma Casella (@ioemmaetu) is an industrial designer focusing on a local approach to conception and sourcing. She studied graphic design at CSIA in Lugano, and industrial design at ECAL in Lausanne. She was born in Grisons and grew up in Ticino, developing a strong connection with the Alpine region. Emma’s design approach aims to revisit these ancient methods of handling textiles to rejuvenate them.
After almost two years of research into new ways of using wool in Switzerland, she is aiming to preserve the knowledge of working with wool and valorise it. After reading some articles on the tradition of wool for the Yi people in the mountain region of Sichuan, she could deduce that the ancient techniques of weaving and felting animal fibre are being contaminated by the large world market for synthetic fibres. Therefore, she’d like to observe, learn and perhaps help in the valorisation of these techniques before they disappear.
Nicole Frei (@salonfrei) is a fashion designer and a scenographer. She graduated from University of Art and Design FHNW and Zurich University of the Arts. Her work could be seen in many theatre and dance pieces, recently in “Creature Comforts” by Criptonite & Symbionts at Tanzhaus Zurich, in “Salzige Tränen” and “Pssst” from Leonie Graf or “Blockade” from LAB Junges Theater at Gessnerallee.
Her design approach is guided by embodied practices and experimental sensory research methods, working with crafts that emphasize slowness. For her, the slowness in the weaving process is an act of resistance. She’d like to give value to otherwise invisible things such as chronic illnesses. During the residency, she would like to do discover local crafts and their materials, and deconstruct and combine them with local material waste. The traditional Chinese craft techniques, such as metal, bamboo, rattan, palm, sedge grass or straw weaving have great potential for upcycling.
Yan Jiang (@yan_jiang_studio) holds an industrial and product design education background from China, Italy, and Switzerland. After her studies and a decade of experience in the Swiss watch and high jewellery industry, she started to draw upon her extensive knowledge and understanding of precision craftsmanship, material and her passion for contemporary art to create contemporary jewellery through her experimental process with various materials and techniques.
During her residency, she would like to study traditional crafts and materials such as metal weaving, Miao silver, glass and bamboo weaving with the goal of reshaping the function of ancient technic and creating a series of objects that challenge the limited materials and crafts. Furthermore, she’d also like to discuss the relationship between traditional techniques, modern technology and society.
Silvio Rebholz (@silvio.rebholz) is a product designer from Germany currently residing in Lausanne. He holds a MA in Product Design from ECAL and graduated in Industrial Design at ABK Stuttgart. He is a lecturer at ABK Stuttgart, and teaches Design for Sustainability at ECAL and EPFL.
Silvio is dedicated to exploring unconventional ideas and transforming them into practical product solutions. He aims to create sensitive and compelling products that align with the environmental and social considerations of our modern society. As a craft heritage of Chinese culture, oil paper umbrella coating is an extraordinary technique. With the climate crisis and the associated problem of microplastics, such old techniques as this are gaining renewed relevance. Taking this fascinating technique of oil paper umbrellas as a starting point, he plans to further his knowledge of biodegradable paper coatings and explore how oil-coated papers can be integrated into contemporary objects.