Chinese New Year is one of the biggest celebrations of the year in Chinese culture – a time that is packed with customs and rituals to welcome new beginnings. Passionate about preserving traditions and local artistry, Lane Crawford has adapted a print from Yuet Tung China Works, to create a festive wrapping paper and capsule collection featuring dinnerware sets and candy boxes.
Established in 1928, Yuet Tung China Works is the first (and last!) hand-painted porcelain factory in Hong Kong, with the factory’s creations sought out by the likes of royalty and government officials.
We sit with Joseph Tso, and his daughter, Martina – third and fourth generation owners of the factory – who offer a glimpse of the storied past and insights into the latest collaboration designed to be treasured for generations to come.
LC: What is Guangcai?
MT: A cultural gem with a history dating back to the Ming Dynasty, Guangcai (廣彩) is a type of Cantonese porcelain painting adored for its unique artistic style. Traditionally loved for its ornate composition and brilliant colours by Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong emperors of the Qing Dynasty, the art has gradually evolved over centuries. Contemporary Guangcai today is a fine blend of traditional Western elements with Chinese classical paintings.
LC: How is it produced?
MT: The latest collaboration uses the transfer printing technique: a print used in the 1970s is carefully transferred and painstakingly stamped onto plain white porcelain by hand. The porcelain is then then fired in the kiln after which, one of the two artisans – both in their eighties - will hand-paint and fill in each design using a thin brush. The porcelain is then fired again once it has been painted to finish the process.
LC: What is the theme behind this collaboration?
JT: “Fung Yi Juk Sik” (豐衣足食) which means to have abundant food and clothing is the central theme of the collaboration. The collaboration includes bone china dining set painted with the “Yu-i” border and sprays of peonies symbolising good wealth and fortune, a His and Hers gift set featuring a traditional Chinese costume motif, and a newly designed candy box and candy plate, exclusively available at Lane Crawford.
LC: What are Yuet Tung’s memorable moments with Lane Crawford?
JT: I used to go to Lane Crawford all the time in my youth. My foreign clients would request custom designed dinnerware, and Lane Crawford was the only store back then that sold European dinnerware. I couldn’t afford to buy the dinnerware, but I would go to Lane Crawford to buy books printed by Sotheby’s. I would use these books as inspiration for my works, the traditional design of Guangcai were too gaudy for Westerners so Guangcai evolved and fused artistic elements from the West to cater to the market’s needs. Lane Crawford was an integral part of that creative process.
LC: What is considered good Guangcai?
JT: Contrary to traditional pigments used in porcelain painting, Guangcai uses overglaze, a method where the craftsman paints over a glazed surface and decorates with colours that are more translucent and less saturated.
Modern techniques rely on machines to print the illustration and colour directly onto the ceramics, resulting in designs that lack depth. Hand-painted designs can achieve a distinct aesthetic that transforms into a textured unique art piece.