Liuli, is an idea, an emotion.
To Liuligongfang, “Liuli” means many things:
--It is the “Liuli” from the Liuli ear cup found in the Western Han tomb of Emperor Liu Sheng.
--It is the ”Liuli” from the words of “Like Scattered Clouds, the Fragility of Liuli” by Tang poet Bai Juyi.
--It is the “Liuli” from the scripture of the Medicine Buddha that states, “May the moment come when I attain enlightenment, the body, even the soul become as Liuli. Pure, transparent, flawless”.
To Liuligongfang, Liuli is more than a material, more than a creative medium; it is a state of being, a form of life.
Liuligongfang was established in 1987. From scratch, they mastered the lost-wax casting technique (also known as pâte-de-verre or cire-perdue). Through constant nurturing, Liuligongfang elevated the creative realm of pâte-de-verre to a new level that no one has reached before.
Today the term “Liuli” is widely used throughout the Chinese world and approximately hundreds of craft workshops. But how many people do they truly understand the meaning of “Liuli”?
The term “Liuli” first was appeared in the Western Zhou Dynasty as a reference to the lead-barium glass produced at the time. “Gongfang” originated from the Song and Ming Dynasties as a common word for workshop. Liuligongfang believes that if thought and emotion are neglected, technique and material will never evolve past the surface level.
This is why we did not the adopt the common French or English terms for “crystal glass” and instead opted for the phonetic Chinese spelling of “Liuli”. Instilling this significance into our creative material and it represents the importance the cultural and historical connection for Liuligongfang.
Liuligongfang was established in Tamshui, Taiwan in 1987 as Asia’s first Liuli workshop and stands today as Asia’s largest Liuli arts brand.
Loretta Hui-shan Yang and Chang Yi are the co-founders of Liuligongfang and lead the brand as Creative Director and Brand Manager respectively.
Liuligongfang operates 70 galleries around the world. Since in 1987, the company has expanded throughout Taiwan, Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore and Malaysia. 2008 brought the first two stateside galleries in San Francisco and New York.
Over twenty-two years Liuligongfang creations have been acquired by internationally renowned museums for their permanent collections and Liuligongfang works have been exhibited in over 30 countries and territories. At least 32 world leaders have received the gifts that are made from Liuligongfang series works; Liuligongfang collection was once bestowed upon VIP members of the Annual Academy Awards and Grammy Awards.
In the span of twenty years, Liuligongfang has opened the doors for and given new life to the lost art of Chinese Liuli. Through untiring experimentation, Yang and Chang went from pâte-de-verre novices to experts in the field. Their emphasis has always been on Chinese culture and history and in terms of the value of craft, has always insisted on a hands-on approach.
Each Liuligongfang creation goes through an twelve-step process, lasting a total of six to eight weeks. In addition, each series is part of a limited collection, driving the team to constantly create new works.
Liuligongfang’s launching point is always in the aspect of material. They scrutinize the myriad of possibilities held by contemporary lifestyle design and push Liuli to pass the boundaries of accessory and craft to incorporate it into modern culture and life.
TMSK Restaurant opened in 2001 as a hand-crafted Liuli theme restaurant. With no other establishment like it, TMSK quickly garnered the attention of the culinary and design worlds in addition to traditional media outlets. New York Times, Wallpaper, ELLE, BBC and NHK are among those that have profiled the restaurant. The trend started by TMSK has become a model for interior design in China and beyond.
GNPS(Guan Nian Pei Shi ) is an accessory brand Loretta Hui-shan Yang creates for women. By flawlessly combining Liuli with 925 silver, the brand accentuates the female concept and value. It has come to represent the new female perspective.
LIULI LIVING, contemporary furniture design, brings Liuli into everyday life. Drawing from Chinese elements, LIULI LIVING aims to become the largest specialty furniture brand in China. From a design standpoint, it is aesthetic, creative, and exploits the multi-faceted characteristics of modern day living.
In 2005, The Hong Kong Design Centre awarded Liuligongfang’s LIULI LIVING with the “Design for Asia Award (DFAA) for Most Influential Design Brand.
Chang Yi’s “Ethics of Craft” is Liuligongfang’s creation standard.
First is “material”. To understand the material requires a hand-on approach. For example, ceramicists would become true ceramicists when they are using their own hands to shape and fire their work in person. Without hand-on experimentation, it is impossible to grasp the material or technique. Only through first hand experience, education and creation can one refine personal technique and develop new works.
Next is “modesty”, approaching the value of history and tradition with self humility. The learning process is fraught with mistake and failure. One must take the time to evaluate and bear failure with a willingness to learn. Through this process, modesty is established, the “self” becomes insignificant and concern for the greater world widens. This is the only way to progress and grow. It is critical for craft to be attentive, to learn through humility and to not be limited by past successes.
Ethics is very important for the realm of craft art. Why is Liuligongfang named?
The name comes from our hope that we wish to become educated persons but not mere artisans. Through the learning process, one can be a good person; even he cannot become a successful artisan. This is a sound ethical concept that Liuligongfang wishes to emphasize.
The Concept behind Liuligongfang’s Limited Edition Series’ — the spirit of eternal creation.
On the underside of each Liuligongfang creation is a number engraved by a diamond-tipped tool, for example 68/2750. This means that it is the 68th piece of a 2750 piece series.
Why did we choose to limit our production? By offering limited editions, we are restricting market saturation and forcing ourselves to continuously create new work.
Before any Liuli work hits the market, it goes through an extensive 6 - 8 month process including design, planning and creation - an incalculable investment. If the response to the final product is wildly favorable and sells out, like Let’s Loudly Sing a Song in Chorus or Life Eternal, the edition must be marked as no longer available.
In Liuligongfang’s romantic ideals, “Liuli” is intrinsically linked to learning and awareness. It is a form of conscience and self-control. If one becomes arrogant, it’s easy to forget the impermanence and the fragility of life. A creation void of compassion, the human spirit will be lack of soul.
The idea of profit guiding production is completely against Liuligongfang’s “creation spirit” and “the super ego”. Since 1987, the soul of Liuligongfang sits calm in the chaotic and competitive market, and aware forever without regrets.
Carrying and Raising the Chinese Liuli Flag alone - Chang Yi
Every great craft will see its rise and fall.
As we probed the vaults of knowledge, we discovered the brilliant light of Liuli shining through thousands of years of Chinese history. Intrigued by our discovery, we began researching and experimenting with various techniques. The find was less mysterious than we thought; what we found was generation after generation of hard work, have taken it up endlessly, we realized the key to the concept: respect and progression.
It takes more than one generation to realize an art form. There are those who pave the way and those who refine the path. When we were invited to have a collection exhibition in Victoria & Albert Museum in 1998, we saw the rolling green grass fields in front of archaic castle nearby the museums and were so envious. And we were just reminded that there was an article on the newspaper about maintaining and creating a uniform lawn. The conclusion was simple: take care of it on a daily basis and after four-hundred years, it will naturally know its shape.
We thus believe that today’s loneliness is for the tomorrow’s cultivation. Perhaps we can not only do more than revive an art form but also maintain a cultural spirit by learning to respect tradition, ourselves and others. We believe that this line of work is one that holds meaning.
The production of Liuli beads saw the regeneration from the Western Zhou to the Western Han Dynasties. Under controlling high temperatures and casting techniques, new forms and depths were reached. We would imagine the creation of the delicately beautiful Liuli ear cups and the incredible journey took to get to that point. From Xinjiang to Hubei and Hunan, from Hebei to Jiangxi, each unearthed artifact exhibited unique composition and form in addition to the evident influence Eastern and Western technique and artistic theories had on each other.
In this era of Liuli art, we will carry and raise the flag Chinese Liuli alone. And through Liuli sculpture, the message we convey is the significance of receiving the past and passing the emotion on to future generations.
Pâte-de-verre is one of many techniques used in creating Liuli art. The process involves casting a wax sculpture in plaster, melting out that wax and adding glass ingredients to the leftover negative space. The advantage of this technique is the potential for incredible detail. Experimentation in pâte-de-verre is constantly expanding the creative realm of Liuli.
In the 19th century, the French revived lost-wax casting, a lost-art dating back three thousand years to ancient Egypt. The technique was resurrected during the Art Nouveau period, becoming the catalyst for modern European Liuli art.
According to known artifacts, the Chinese mastery of the technique dates back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD). However, the art was lost after this period and became a regretful void in the timeline of Chinese history. Pâte-de-verre did not reappear in the country until 1987 when Liuligongfang revived the lost-art and in turn, Chinese Liuli. Because of it, there are over one hundred Liuli workshops in the Asian world that use pâte-de-verre nowadays.
The Liuli pâte-de-verre technique involves a complex twelve-step process per creation. Each step must be performed without error to prevent breakage, irregular air pockets or impurities.
The Liuligongfang Peony
The Liuligongfang peony comes from the Su embroidery housed at the Jiangning Fabrics Bureau. The Jiangning Fabrics Bureau may sound unfamiliar but it is intrinsically tied to Cao Xueqin, famed author of the classic Dream of the Red Chamber. Cao, his grandfathers, father and uncle all held the post at the Jiangning Fabrics Bureau for over 65 years.
In the early days of Liuligongfang’s establishment,
Loretta Hui-shan Yang said“ I would like Liuligongfang’s packaging to convey a sense of Chinese culture. I want the gift giver to be proud and the gift recipient to delight at this gift.” Coincidentally, it was at this time when the Jiangning Fabrics Bureau peony appeared.
One day Liuligongfang design consultant David Wang prepared a series of slides and pulled one out to show Chang, “Do you want to try this one?” “This” becomes the peony pattern adopted by Liuligongfang. It came from a friend who happened to be one of Taiwan’s best antique dealers. He discovered the patterns in a roll of Jiangning Fabrics Bureau satin brought over from China to Taiwan. Bombarded with peonies of vibrant reds and greens and seeing the official “Jiangning Fabrics Bureau” stamp on the corner of each roll, the two of them thought: two hundred years ago, a group of people actually came together and by hand, created this peony pattern stitch by stitch.
Chang Yi’s first instinct was: they showed even more craft than Liuligongfang did!
This extraordinary piece of embroidery takes on a different appearance from every angle and distance. Each new looks giving a new color to each bloom. A stitch of yellow, a stitch of green, the result a lush and multi-faceted leaf, strand after strand of different colored silk threads seem to follow an unspoken order. As you step back, it treats your eyes to the beauty of the multi-faceted peony.
This encounter between Liuligongfang and peony creates the beauty and romance and every stunning peony packaging of Liuligongfang just stood out.
The Story of the Peony
As recounted in Shi Wu Ji Yuan, the Chinese record of climate, phenology and daily necessities: Empress Wu Zhe Tian was wandering her moonlit garden admiring the newly fallen snow when she cast her eyes upon the peculiar sight of hundreds of red blooming flowers. She announced, “I’ll stroll through the all gardens tomorrow, and let the God of spring know. All flowers must bloom in the shade of night and not wait for the harsh winds of morning.” She then passed this order to a palace maid to announce it in public.
At daybreak the next morning, hundreds of flowers burst in a brilliant bloom beyond all beauty. The entire court descended upon the gardens to view the spectacle to the joy of the Empress. But her joy was marred by the disobedience of the peonies that stayed firmly shut. In a fit of rage, she ordered the banishment of all peonies from the city of Chang An and those remaining to be burned. The exiled peonies went to the outskirts of Mang Mountain in Luoyang and laid down their roots. When spring arrived, the mountain flourished in reds and greens and thus the famed Luoyang Peony just blossom flourishly.
Liuligongfang chooses the peony as a brand identifier for its luxurious beauty and Chinese ties. It is the king of all flowers, possessing an unyielding and maverick spirit.