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Embroidery inheritor promotes 'ethnic chic'

XINHUA | Updated: 2022-12-23 08:45
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Lan Lin works on her embroidery. She is an inheritor of Zhuang embroidery from the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. LIANG SHUN/XINHUA

NANNING — Wearing an apron with intricately embroidered patterns and bright colors, Lan Lin, an inheritor of such intangible cultural heritage, skillfully sketched several children's portraits with strong ethnic characteristics on a piece of cloth.

"I always wear the old apron when I create new works as it has inspired me and made me more confident in carrying on the traditional techniques," said the 48-year-old from the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

From designing, drawing and choosing materials to fabric cutting, stitching and sewing, Lan said making a new embroidery product usually takes at least 15 days.

As a handicraft featuring rich ethnic culture, Zhuang embroidery skills have been passed on and are widely spread across the communities of Zhuang people in Guangxi. The crafts are now listed as a regional-level intangible cultural heritage.

Born into an embroidery family of the Zhuang ethnic group, Lan has a natural gift for designing.

At 16, she designed her first piece of clothing. However, in the late 1990s, facing the impact of machine embroidery, the traditional crafts of the family were almost lost.

Lan thus developed a strong sense of responsibility to preserve the family tradition and inherit and expand Zhuang embroidery, so she established her own workshop with the support of her sisters and brothers.

"It would be a great loss if the craftsmanship were not handed down," she said.

To blend the modern aesthetic with the time-honored Zhuang embroidery, Lan is constantly improving the stitching techniques and is becoming bolder in choosing colors and designing patterns.

"We invited young artists to bring their understanding into the design as the tradition could only flourish with the passion of the younger generation," Lan said. "Daily life has always been our inspiration."

Her studio has developed a wide range of products, including tea towels, handmade bags, pillowcases, dresses, embroidered shoes and pillows with patterns such as water ripples, flowers, birds and animals.

Riding the waves of more Zhuang embroidery works going global, Lan said she felt more motivated to do business with both domestic and international clients.

"Moreover, the more complicated and challenging the work is, the more fulfilled I am," she said.

Over the past 20 years, Lan has also trained over 2,000 local embroidery craftswomen, with the job opportunities enabling them to seek a balance between work and life as they could bring their semi-finished works home while looking after their children.

"It is my lifelong pursuit to not only create Zhuang embroidery works of artistic value but also bring the art into daily life," Lan said.

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