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Artist celebrates stars with Suzhou embroidery

Xinhua | Updated: 2021-04-27 08:09
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Folk artist Chen Yinghua creates images of the cosmos with a needle and fine silk threads, bringing new life to the traditional craftsmanship of embroidery. [Photo/Xinhua]

NANJING-Chen Yinghua, an embroidery artist, has brought her own "universe", created with needles and silk threads, to the opening ceremony of the Space Day in China on Saturday.

Based in Suzhou, a city with time-honored embroidery arts in East China's Jiangsu province, Chen's studio outshines other works with a series of cosmos-themed artworks. The dreamy celestial bodies in her studio are skillfully knitted with the help of silk threads and a needle, and just look like pictures captured by satellites in space.

Chen has created 26 such embroidery pieces since 2006, including the Milky Way, a sunspot, Neptune and the Leonid meteor shower.

"The Crab Nebula is the most difficult one. It took me six months to knit," Chen says.

It was no easy task for Chen to use traditional stitching to bring out the heavenly bodies in the art, featuring hazy sketches and irregular lines.

"I embroidered and took out stitches again and again. I even lost my appetite in the beginning," she says.

After a few months of painstaking trials, Chen gradually developed her own approach to creating a miniature universe.

She even split a normal thread into 64th of its width to accurately present color gradations of heavenly bodies.

"Science and art are as inseparable as two sides of the same coin. In Chen's work, we can see how the interaction of the two helps to catalyze interest in each other," says Pang Zhen, secretary-general of the Suzhou Association for Science and Technology.

The artist fell in love with mysterious stars when she was young, sitting in her yard and listening to folk tales about the Milky Way on starry summer nights.

In 2006, Chen happened to meet astronomer Mei Bao from the Purple Mountain Observatory, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The researcher showed her pictures of various galaxies and asked her if she could depict the images in her artworks. And that was when Chen's childhood dream began to turn into reality.

Suzhou embroidery, one of China's four famous embroidery varieties, has always focused on themes such as figures, animals and landscapes, while Chen opened up a whole new world for the old craftsmanship.

"The universe-themed embroidery employs innovative stitches and patterns. It is a modern interpretation of the intangible cultural heritage," Chen says.

Recently, Chen completed her latest work, based on a star chart carved in stone from the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The circular inscription from 1247 displays about 1,440 stars in nearly 300 constellations as well as the Milky Way.

"I plan to bring this embroidery work to various international exhibitions in the future, so that I can show the world the past achievements and ingenuity of ancient Chinese people in exploring the cosmos," Chen adds.

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