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Talent Series XXIX: Lin Kuang-i

  • Date:2020-02-27
Talent Series XXIX: Lin Kuang-i

Preserver of cochin ware

The history of cochin ware (also known as koji pottery) in Taiwan can be traced back to the 19th century, when Ye Wang (葉王) of Tainan became Taiwan's first master of the art. For his help in restoring and preserving historic cochin ware works, as well as replicating and teaching the techniques used by Ye, Lin Kuang-i (林洸沂) was named by the government as a national preserver of cochin ware and its techniques in 2010.

Lin's glazes are bright and colorful, with rouge reds, emerald greens, amber yellows, and crystalline purples that make the usually simple cochin ware vibrant and energetic without losing any sense of tradition and history. His pieces are pure and simple in form, yet brimming with character and creativity. The colors are bold but not kitschy, with a focus on the historical background of each piece.

Discussing the development of Taiwanese crafts, he points out that cochin ware wasn't without commercial value or a future, the problem was simply that Taiwan lacked sufficient people to take on orders. "The market has always existed, it was just a matter of whether we were ready for it," he stated.

Lin remains grateful for Taiwan's efforts in promoting the cultural and creative sectors in the past decade or so, but he notes that there are still no creative brands that can represent Taiwan the way Japan and South Korea have, especially specific souvenirs that can only be obtained in particular places.

In Taiwan, he said, one can find the same souvenirs from Taoyuan International Airport to Sun Moon Lake, and even all the way down in Kenting. Taiwan needs to develop uniquely local or personalized craft products, for "Taiwanese industries are usually top-heavy, there's no sense of symbiosis — it's easy to take a sales-oriented approach to crafts, but that overlooks the producers' ecosystem."

Lin believes that Taiwanese cochin ware is a distinctive local craft with a future in the international market. There is much room to grow, he said, as long as the craftspeople keep striving for personal breakthroughs.