Fan Weiyan: Revitalize Kesi Through Ingenuity

In the secluded Kesi hall of Pan's Residence, Niujia Alley, Suzhou, a ray of sunlight shines through the lattice window, lightens the Kesi placed indoor, giving people a feeling of passed time. This is the studio of Fan Weiyan, a teacher of the School of Art of Soochow University. Over the past eight years, Fan has served as a "pioneer" to rejuvenate Kesi, giving this old handicraft various possibilities through incomparable ingenuity.

Recently, in Milan International Furniture Fair 2017, which is known as an "Olympic" event in global furniture industry, Fan won the Special Mention of Salon Satellite Award by virtue of his elaborate work. This designer, as an odd of the generation after 1980s, became the fourth Chinese Mainland designer winning the award in this exhibition.

 

Widely acclaimed in Milan International Furniture Fair

Revitalize old handicraft of Kesi with modern craft

 

As the old saying goes, "every inch of Kesi is of great value", Kesi is the top-notch weaving technique in China with more than two thousand years' of history. The tatting and cutting of each horizontal thread and vertical thread are all completed by hand. However, as time passes by, this old technique gradually lost its recognition in Chinese traditional culture.

"It is time for Suzhou and China to have their own luxury brand!" Fan has devoted himself to Suzhou traditional handicraft for eight years and established his brand "KE—Made in Suzhou". The Kesi designed by him vividly interprets "every inch of Kesi is great effort".

 

Fan and his team use strong monofilament to restore the artistic conception of Chinese ink painting. Inspired by traditional golden ground color Kesi, they independently develop a memory fabric. By innovating traditional wooden loom, they take the lead in creating new two-layer Kesi fabric variety with different colors, textures and fabrics. Through the innovation of new material and modern craft, they endow this old Suzhou handicraft a new charm of design.

 

"Modern craft should be used to activate old craftsmanship, so as to endow them various possibilities." Fan thinks these designs reflect Suzhou manufacture and traditional Chinese Kesi craft.

In this April, Fan attended the Milan International Furniture Fair with 12 Kesi furniture of 5 series. After the strict reviews by the international jury, he became one of the four Chinese designers among the 104 design agencies presented in the exhibition. Last year, he was successfully selected to attend this event. And this time, the exquisite embroideries featuring Chinese Kesi craft, prove his competences and skills again in Milan, the World Fashion City.

"Bravo, the innovation of Chinese silk is so surprising!" After seeing Fan's work, the chairman of organizing committee said excitedly.

"This beautiful and elegant design should be introduced and promoted to more people through art institutions including exhibitions and museums." A fashion design columnist of Le Figaro said.

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In the Milan International Furniture Fair, the grand arena for top designers in the world, the distinct oriental aesthetics, long historical traditions and attractive human stories of Kesi attracted lots of visitors to stay and appreciate. The commercial counselor of China's embassy in Italy, the chairman of salon organizing committee, people in fashion and the journalists worldwide all extended their congratulations to this young designer.

Study in Suzhou and Paris

Going Broader and Deeper by Connecting the Aesthetic Trend Between East and West

"We cannot be satisfied with making such a little achievement, what we should do is to liberate and relieve ourselves." Fan works so hard to make world famous luxury brand made in China. In order to achieve this goal, he never gives up.

Fan's art tour started in 1999, when he was a student majoring in dyeing and weaving art design in Soochow University. After four years' hard work, he held his own home textiles design exhibition named "Gardens in the Water-Town" in Suzhou Art Gallery when ending his undergraduate study.

With persistent pursuit of art design, he gave up high salaries offered by enterprises, and went to France for further study of textile design and materials engineering.

"The design study in Soochow University lays a solid foundation for my overseas study." Under the cruel and strict knock-out teaching system in the Mulhouse School of Art and Design, Fan only used two years to finish the three years' study. As an outstanding learner among the hundreds of young students worldwide, he received the award from the French government and got the degree with the grade close to full mark. At last, he was one of the eight students who successfully graduated from the major of design.

Being curious about the field of textile engineering, Fan continued to study in the National Graduate School of Engineering of the University of Upper Alsace, and got a master of engineering degree in textile materials, which is the highest degree in majors regarding design and techniques in Europe. From sentimental design to mechanized production, precise training in materials engineering gave Fan the ability of implementing ideas.

Integrating the aesthetic trends in the east and the west, knowing the modern craft in textile engineering, and bearing the national designer qualification in plastic arts, together with the multidisciplinary background laid the foundation for his work in the R&D center of Hermès headquarter in Paris.

Fan used one month and a half to conclude more than 2000 new products by himself, accomplished the leader's tasks with high quality and high speed, and communicated and exchanged inspirations with the colleagues and leaders. Since then, a new world unfolded to him, helping him gain a broader and deeper vision.

"The precious experience I learned from Hermès is not just the job itself, but also the intimate and direct touch with so many original products. I feel these works by touching and making technical conclusion afterwards." Shuttling in endless design of Hermès, Fan drew the far-reaching inspiration of design and the infinite pursuit of beauty.

 

Coming Back to Collect "Treasures"

To be the Favorite Enterprise Mentor of Students

During his career in Hermès, Fan was invited to give lectures in Soochow University, his Alma Mater. When he set foot again to Suzhou, the cordial feeling and the milk of human kindness are irresistible to him.

In 2009, he resigned from Hermès and came back to Soochow University to be a teacher, spreading his own learnings and a product designer making original local works.

Luxury development, material and craft, Suzhou-style innovative designs, brand planning and management... In these courses, Fan applies his learnings and thoughts to teach students. In various classes, he tells students the design thoughts, product developments and market trends; in practice class, he guides students to make real product from design on the paper; after class, he shares product innovation, creation method and company operation & management with his students, helping them know his entrepreneurial path of collecting "treasures"...

 

 

His dedication and persistence impressed his students. Wang Yijun, a 2010-grade student as well as a former intern at Fan's, told the journalist that Fan's professional attitude and striving for excellence deeply impressed her.

Traditional silk thread of Kesi is already fine enough, but Fan still wants the manufacturer to divide it into several strands with each strong enough for weaving. This suggestion is almost impossible to traditional handicraftsman.

"Make impossible possible!" After the recreation of thread, the color, fineness and expression of patterns are all greatly improved, and this reformation itself has already revitalized the Kesi.

Fan's insistence moved the Kesi technicians, and made his students feel the power of carefulness.

Life is full of practices, Fan likes to be called as a "pedestrian". In his view, as there is no bound to travel around the world, the inspiration of design is also ubiquitous and endless. Since the inspiration comes from life, only through knowing, feeling and discovering the life can one express the truest self and transmit the most down-to-earth design.