Tucked around a curved hallway on the second floor of Vancouver’s International Village Mall is Inglenuk’s vibrant showroom. Atop the white surfaces throughout the space sit contemporary Cloisonné works from design company Piling Palang, all part of Inglenuk’s modest pop-up exhibit, Modern Cloisonné: The Evolution of a Dying Art.
Cloisonné, an ancient Chinese technique of creating intricate designs on metal vessels, is a vanishing tradition. Inglenuk founder Daniela Ang, who conceived the idea for the global art and design store with husband Leandro Ang after living and working across the globe, affirms that the complex artisanal tradition may not last much longer. “After an industrialized way of developing these pieces came to be, the younger generation stopped learning the handmade skill. Unfortunately today’s artists just don’t seem interested or invested in carrying on the art form,” she explains.
Indeed, the process for creating cloisonné works by hand is lengthy. Copper or bronze wires are bent or hammered into patterned enclosures, known as cloisons (French for “partitions”), after which they are pasted or soldered onto a metal body. Glass paste, or enamel, is then coloured with metallic oxide and painted into each sectioned area of the design and the piece is fired at 800 degrees Celsius. Due to the enamel commonly shrinking during the firing, the sections must be filled and fired repeatedly. Once the process is complete, the body is rubbed until the edges of the cloisons become visible, after which the interior and base may be gilded. All in all, an arduous process, but in Piling Palang’s case, one that produces a bright and modern final product.
Chalk it up to Piling Palang’s Parisian roots or the talent of its cloisonné artist Bingbing Deng, but whatever the reason, the collection certainly feels au courant. While inspired by traditional oriental motifs, the pieces have a decidedly contemporary feel, and after showings at MaisonObject, Ambiente Frankfurt, and Shanghai Design Show they are drawing worldwide attention. So much so, in fact, that Piling Palang has created a lower-priced cloisonné-inspired ceramic line that includes tea caddies, wine vessels, bowls, vases, and cups. All of the inspired treasures are available at Inglenuk.