It has taken a long time, but I have finally created some space to write about China. In fact, you just might be hearing from me on a regular and predictable basis, wouldn’t that be organized?
This past summer, the China Patchwork Color & Arts Research Specialized Committee invited to me to participate in the China International Patchwork Invitational Tournament & Patchwork Arts Show in October of 2016. They asked if I might want to exhibit my work, help judge their show, and teach a workshop. In exchange for my services, I would be paid to teach and all travel expenses would be taken care of.
Never in my wildest dreams did I believe that I would be invited to CHINA.
YES was the answer to that request.
Everything in this post is about how I perceived the experience. With the language and cultural barriers, I may have gotten some things completely wrong. Still, this is what I think happened.
We flew Delta which I highly recommend for their TV service. Unlimited free movies and television certainly does make 22 hours of travel pass quickly.
My BFF for the trip was Georgia French. Here she is checking into our hotel in Beijing.
Any pictures you see of me were taken by her. (Some times she cut my feet off, but that’s okay. )If you don’t know Georgia, I hope you some day get to meet her. She is the BEST, and I consider meeting her one of many wonderful things that happened on this trip. When we arrived it was close to midnight, but the hotel staff prepared us a totally yummy late night meal. In fact, the food was so incredible the entire time. Nothing like American Chinese food and oh so good!
The next morning, we arrived on the campus of what might be considered the Beijing version of the Parson School of Design. The show was part of Beijing Design Week, and was hosted by the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China. This was serious business. The Chinese government has decided they want to cultivate a Chinese Patchwork tradition, and we were there first hand to watch the begin of their cultivation.
The first day involved two major tasks. First, the gallery workers wanted to hang our art work. Each artist/educator had each been invited to bring a sampling of their work and/or other quilt artists work to share with the Chinese audience. I brought a red suitcase filled with my work. (I also brought my SAQA auction quilt collection to share with my students.)
The staff worked together to make sure that each quilt was properly documented and taken care of.
I was very impressed with how they handled the quilts and the hanging process.
The second task was to judge the show.
The judges included European, American, and Asian artists and educators.
We gathered in one of the staff meeting rooms to discuss what was expected of us. Isn’t this space beautiful?
Judging was a difficult thing to do at the very beginning of our trip. We were not used to working with translators, and we had had very little time to get to know our environment—we didn’t even know where the bathrooms were yet.
I should stop here and introduce Minglu Chen whom everyone calls Madame Chen. In this photo of all the judges for the show, she is the third individual from the left. And from what I understand Madam Chen is the force behind this show.
She teaches at the school (which I unfortunately do not remember the name of–but it is something like the Beijing School of Color, Design, and Textiles) and is the powerhouse bringing patchwork to her county. I should say two other things here while I show you her work.
I think the proper way to say this is that Madam Chen belongs to a Korean ethnic minority who live in China. Her work references traditional Korean patchwork pojagi.
But at the same time is wildly original and kind of mind blowing.
While I could not understand the language and know little first hand about Chinese culture, you can tell by the way others treated her that she is kind of a Chinese version of Nancy Crow.
Quilt royalty in other words.
While many Chinese cultures have handwork traditions—and you will see them in the show images—they do not have a patchwork tradition. This was confusing to me, and it took me all week long to suss out. It started with the fact that the show is called the China International Patchwork Invitational Tournament & Patchwork Arts Show. For the Chinese, patchwork simple means quilt. It does not mean pieced work.
And further more, their quilts—being influenced by pojagi and Madam Chen’s work need only to have two layers.
And finally, because the Chinese do not have a quilt making tradition, the entries into the competition were wildly different. Here is a peak.
I tell you all about it tomorrow—or maybe the next day, or for sure on Saturday. That is my goal Wednesdays and Saturdays.