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Pao Hui Kao: A Journey of Material Development

Mar 19, 2020

Pao Hui Kao is a designer, researcher, and artist based in Eindhoven. She explores ‘ordinary’ materials in the creation of extraordinary aesthetics. TLmag caught up with her to talk about her work and presentation with Spazio Nobile Gallery.

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Pao Hui Kao is a designer, researcher, and artist based in Eindhoven. Having an educational background in Industrial Design, in addition to Contextual Design, Kao has an interesting focus on material and traditional crafts. She explores ‘ordinary’ materials in the creation of extraordinary aesthetics. Her work was also presented with Spazio Nobile Gallery last Brussels Collectible design fair. TLmag caught up with her to talk about her work and presentation with Spazio Nobile Gallery.

TLmag: How would you describe your work? Do you see your bachelor for Industrial Design and master’s contextual design channeling back into your current work?

Pao Hui Kao (PHK): My work is like a demonstration of a never-ending process of experiments concerning the raw materials. My Industrial Design background taught me about the manufacturing process and practical knowledge of materials I use. And during my master’s in Contextual Design, I’ve learnt to develop my own methodology of material analysis. And base on the skill I have, I am able to translate the relation between my thought as a maker and the materials into design objects.

TLmag: How would you describe your used aesthetic? What is the narrative you want to bring forward?

PHK: During the journey of material development, I’ve learnt to respect the quality and properties of materials by understanding what it wants to be, instead of killing it with the wrong design proposal. Like my paper works, the material is made of fiber and maintains biological features of trees. Water is a perfect trigger to prompt its self-shaping ability. By controlling key elements of the papermaking process -such as humidity and drying temperature- I try to push paper to achieve certain shapes and textures. It’s almost like I’ve learnt how to team up with the material to design the object.

TLmag: Seen you’ve exhibited with Spazio Nobile Gallery during Collectible, how do you see the relation between your work and Spazio Nobile? What are the divergences and similarities between the gallery and your work?

PHK: It is really exciting to see my works being appreciated and supported by a gallery-like Spazio Nobile. The gallery has a strong connection with material-oriented artists and makers internationally. It is great to see those beautiful works with my own eyes and to realize I am also a part of this collection is such a thrilling experience. All these talented artists humble but encourage me at the same time, so I take this opportunity as a challenge to be more creative and productive as an object maker.

The style of Spazio Nobile Gallery is really playful and not afraid to show the texture of materials. I can definitely see that quality in my work. However, there’s one extra layer in my work – the sense of conflict. I think this is due to my presence in the Western design world, where I have been since 2014. Meanwhile, I am lucky enough to collaborate with craftsmen from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan. Based on all these experiences, it is an opportunity for me to push my material research methodology to another level, which originally developed mostly upon western experience, by merging together with Asian traditional craft techniques. I am looking forward to seeing what it would bring to me in the near future.

COLLECTIBLE took place at theVanderborght building in Brussels from March 5th to 7th, 2020.


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Last fall, Pao Hui Kao spoke with Oscar Duboÿ for our A/W 2022 issue: TLmag38: Origin. She is currently showing a selection of work, including pieces from the Original Paper Pleats series and the Urushi Paper Pleats series, as part of the exhibition, “Interlude”, at Spazio Nobile Gallery.

Spazio Nobile presents Season XXV— Interlude, a Group Exhibition highlighting new contemporary applied art works from more than 20 artists and designers from the gallery. The exhibition is on view through April 23, 2023.

COLLECTIBLE, the international fair for 21st century collectible design, opens its sixth edition running from 9-12 March, in the Sheds of Tour & Taxis in Brussels.

Sarah Myerscough is a pioneer in the promotion of contemporary applied arts and has succeeded in raising creative craft to the level of recognition it deserves. For the A/W 2022 issue of TLmag38:Origin, Lise Coirier spoke with the gallerist and collector about this dedication and passion for craft and the artists with whom she works.