When it comes to supporting practitioners of the decorative arts, Loewe stands out among luxury houses as one of the most singular. Back in 2016 – way before home accessories became a ubiquitous part of fashion – creative director Jonathan Anderson launched the annual Loewe Foundation Craft Prize to spotlight artisans who bring a contemporary flair to craftsmanship.
It’s since remained one of the most prestigious awards of its kind: Besides a star jury (this year’s included the Metropolitan Museum of Art curator Abraham Thomas and architect Patricia Urquiola), the top name brings home a cool 50,000 euros (S$71,000). This year’s edition drew more than 3,000 submissions across a diverse list of mediums including ceramics, woodwork, textiles, basketry, metal and lacquer (finalists’ creations pictured above).
A selection of the Loewe Foundation Craft Prize 2022’s finalists’ works
And, while the sophisticated creations of the 30 finalists would inject a gallery feel to any space, that by winner Dahye Jeong from South Korea can be said to hit home in particular. Using a 500-year-old hand-weaving technique traditionally used to create hats for the landed gentry and which is now practised only on Jeju Island, the 33-year-old spun up a vessel out of – get this – horse hair; the delicate, basket-like results exuding an idiosyncratic rustic charm. Here, Jeong walks us through her process.
Tell us more about this hat-making technique – how did you discover such an old technique and what drew you to using it?
“For about five years I have been experimenting with techniques used during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) for men’s headwear made out of horsehair. Traditional Korean craft has always been a strong interest of mine and one of the first bodies of work I created using horsehair was a series based on traditional Korean fans and trinkets.
As part of my research for the project I travelled around Korea, visiting national museums to study their collections and I was able to see up close ancient examples of how horsehair had been used across a range of objects and garments.
My training at a specialist school, a university that focuses on re-interpreting tradition, led me to work with horsehair. It has a long tradition in Korea stretching back hundreds of years, however, in recent times the technique has been forgotten. My hometown of Jeju Island has a strong association with this ancient craft, as the island is known for its horses and even has its own local breed, the Jeju Horse.”
Korean artist Dahye Jeong is the winner of this year’s Loewe Foundation Craft Prize.
Horsehair is a pretty intriguing material – what can you tell us about it?
“The material is quite incredible in that it is strong with tension, furthermore it is effective in experimenting with dimensions – light and shadow, almost translucent. I wanted to revive this ancient craft as I feel as if I were one with the material and I am interested in the elasticity, strength and three-dimensional effect the material gives. Horsehair is a natural material and I like that it can be composted down and returned to nature.
In my work I combine Korean horsehair with imported types – Korean horsehair is praised for its fineness however once cut, horsehair takes four years to grow back, so I use a combination of Korean and American, which is coarser in my work.”
Jeong’s vessel “A Time of Sincerity” is fashioned out of horsehair. To do so, she utilised an ancient technique previously used to create hats for the landed gentry of the Joseon Dynasty period more than 500 years ago, and put her own spin on it.
What prompted you to join the Loewe contest in the first place?
“During my master’s degree, I lost my confidence as I realised that there were so many good artists out there working today. I thought that I was not good enough and almost gave up. For the past five years, I have wanted to focus inward to prove to myself that I could create something interesting. The work ‘A Time of Sincerity’ is the start of my belief in myself; it is about remaining true to my inner voice.
Everyone in the field of craft today knows about the Loewe Foundation Craft Prize. I thought that if I did not apply, I would regret the opportunity. I did not know at the time (of submission) that the exhibition would take place at the Seoul Museum of Craft Art, but now I think it is more special that I won the prize while showing the work in Korea.”
Craft seems to be a very big part of your practice – what is the importance of craft to you?
“Craft is about valuing handmade things. The origin of things do not change. I believe that no matter how developed we are, human beings desire to create and much of that relies on the hand. Craft is about getting to know about a material through special skills. I practice this through my work.”
Your creations seem to straddle both craft and art – how would you describe it?
“Today, the boundary in creativity has become blurred. The question is implying whether craft is related to function, utilitarian aspects and art to aesthetics. I think that this is not so important for me. What I do is artistic, and it is unique. I consider it as a new kind of art form with a focus on materiality. The Loewe Foundation Craft Prize selects works of high standard, often with emphasis on material interpretation. In that respect, I think that my work follows what the Loewe Foundation seeks.”
Below, a look at the rest of the finalists’ submissions for this year’s Loewe Foundation Craft Prize.
TikTok Phenom-Turned-Model Dewy Choo, Thespian Tess Pang And Musical Star Prasheela Ramesh Give New Meaning To Performance Art
Things To Do In Singapore: A Burberry-Themed Beach Club, A Photography Exhibition On Iconic SG Buildings & More