Creating Liuli glass with class

"This really gets them thinking about their own experiences and what matters most to them." - Chang Yi (right, with Loretta Yang) on asking people at their adult liuli workshops what they would create if it was the last thing they did.

The ancient Chinese art form of glass-making may not sound trendy to the younger generations, admit the founders of art glasswork brand Liuligongfang.

But that does not daunt Taiwanese couple Loretta Yang and Chang Yi, who set up the company in 1987 for liuli, Chinese for glassworks.

Yang, 61, says in Mandarin: "The term liuli doesn't sound trendy. That is the burden we face when we talk to people about our art."

Each piece, which can take months to perfect, requires a 12-step process with wax-casting in a kiln, known as pate-de-verre in French.

Liuligongfang, which is headquartered in Taiwan and Shanghai and has 70 galleries in Singapore, Malaysia and the United States, features contemporary liuli sculptures, as well as a range of homeware and accessories.

To make their work more accessible, Yang and Chang travel around China, as well as to Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, to conduct liuli workshops for adults. In Taiwan, they also conduct workshops for children aged eight to 12.

The married couple were in town last week to conduct invite-only workshops for participants to create their own liuli piece.

The workshops are part of gastronomic food series Asian Masters, which is organised by Singapore Press Holdings subsidiary Sphere Exhibits and event partner Poulose Associates, and presented by OCBC Bank.

Yang and Chang say the adult liuli workshops are a "chance-of-a-lifetime" opportunity.

Chang, 62, says: "We ask people what they would create if this is the last thing they do. This really gets them thinking about their own experiences and what matters most to them."

Participants have to write down their concept and design before proceeding with the sculpting, a fundamental step for anyone making a liuli work.

Citing examples of a married couple who sculpted five hands to represent their family of five and participants who sculpted pandas and horses, Yang says: "It is important to write out your thoughts and have a clear concept, which can be refined along the way.

"Until now, as we teach our students, we are also learning from them because every piece is different and has a special meaning to their creators."

Yang, a popular actress in the 1970s and 1980s who won the Golden Horse Award for Best Actress for two consecutive years with The Young Runaway (1984) and Kuei Mei, A Woman (1985), learnt glass sculpting almost 30 years ago.

After the workshop held at The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, guests tucked into a five-course lunch by Chef Fok Kai Yee of the hotel's Cantonese restaurant Summer Pavilion, served on Liuligongfang's range of tableware.

On the relationship between art and food, Chang notes that it is most apparent in Japanese culture.

The former film director says: "In Japan, their tableware, dining atmosphere and food all complement one another as a big presentation. Every dish has a specially crafted plate.

"Nowadays, many families eat while watching TV at home. You don't notice what you eat and you don't even realise what you are eating on."

euniceq@sph.com.sg


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