Visit to: Scholar Yang Wen Bin Embroidery Collection, China
Words and images by Sharon de Lyster, Cover image by Stephanie Teng Photography
A scholar from Kaili, Guizhou Province, Yang Wen Bin 杨文斌 has been researching and promoting ethnic folk arts, including those of his own Miao community, since the 1960s. His field research has focused on clothing art and craft of ethnic minority groups in southwestern, central, and southern China. He also practices Miao traditional batik, botanic dyeing, and silver decoration. In the 1980s he helped to establish the Guizhou Qiandongnan Region Ethnic and Folk Craft Research Institute and served as its director. His current research focuses on the eco-social meaning and sustainability of botanic dyeing, and he co-authored the books Chinese Craftworks Record Book: Wax Printing of the Miao Nationality (2015) and The Traditional Miao Wax Printing (2002).
In a recent visit, Yang generously showed us his rare and museum-worthy embroidery and batik collection from the wide range of Miao subgroups. In this article, a few detailed views of his embroidery pieces are highlighted, which are working into Yang's new book. His rich collection on batik and natural dye will be covered in a later article.
Weaving stitch: silk threaded needles facing perpendicular angles act like warp and weft, and selectively picks up threads to create a woven pattern.
Switchback darning stitch: Embroider backside up with longer stitches on front side and shorter on the back. Note the way darning stitch switches back to begin each row of design element. Stitch densely to create tapestry-like rich surface decoration.
Double-twist knot stitch: These small, heavily textured knots differ greatly from the familiar French knot. They are made by twisting double loops together without securing with an actual knot, generally used in a cluster. The sample appears to be including double the looping than usual to create a 3-dimensional round knot.
Satin stitch: This luxurious decorative technique uses a single strand of untwisted silk separated from a 2-ply silk thread. Design patterns are created by counting thread. Here is a perfect example of the Miao practice on leaving space in their work, results in an "unfinished" look. Find out why from the Virtues of Miao Culture.
Double pulling stitch: Use two separate threads: one to make overlapping loops and the other on a needle to couch. The sample also contains flat couched braid embroidery (in green), which stitches down a decorative braid laid flat on the cloth according to the design.