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Graduate Diploma Textile Design student Yifan Yang explores traditional Chinese craft techniques

Woven fabric draped from the ceiling, including red, yellow, and black coloured wool
  • Written byGrizelda Kitching
  • Published date02 September 2021
Woven fabric draped from the ceiling, including red, yellow, and black coloured wool
Weave final piece, 2021
Graduate Diploma Textile Design, Chelsea College of Arts, UAL | Photograph: Yifan Yang

Yifan Yang graduated from Graduate Diploma Textile Design at Chelsea College of Arts this summer.

Her Graduate Showcase 2021 submission focuses on traditional Chinese textile craft techniques developed by the Li people, the largest indigenous group on the island province of Hainan in southern China.

Hainan is among one of the first Chinese regions where cotton was introduced and grown. Yifan has spent her time exploring the techniques developed by the Li people for working with cotton, which includes tie-dying, spinning and weaving. Here, Yifan tell us more.

Research findings, text and images
Development and research work, 2021
Graduate Diploma Textile Design, Chelsea College of Arts, UAL | Photograph: Yifan Yang

The traditional embroidery of the Li originates from their daily life. They use abstraction to draw simple and vivid brocade patterns using points, lines, and surfaces as the basic geometric elements.

I wanted to combine contemporary artworks related to geometric elements in my own work. Through contemporary art, I hoped to raise awareness of the emotional value of these handcrafted traditions that are about to be lost, so that more people in the world will be aware of and practice a simple, sustainable way of living in harmony with nature.

The biggest challenge in designing the new pattern symbols was to retain the characteristics of traditional Li symbols while incorporating abstract design techniques in my own contemporary art.

With this design concept in mind, I chose to retain the form of the traditional Li symbols, enlarge the characteristics of the symbols, and use large silhouettes and compositions to complete the entirely woven pattern design.

Research findings, text and images
Development, research, tie dye process work 2021
Graduate Diploma Textile Design, Chelsea College of Arts, UAL | Photograph: Yifan Yang
Researched images, including work by Anish Kapoor
Contemporary art research, 2021
Graduate Diploma Textile Design, Chelsea College of Arts, UAL | Photograph: Yifan Yang

The project is based on the traditional Chinese textile crafts created by China's ethnic minorities. These techniques are gradually dying out under the strong impact of the modernisation wave, driven by the rapid development of society.

I am interested in the contemporary consumer's emotional identification with traditional craftsmanship. Is it that the more elaborate, time-consuming, hand-made the process, the higher the price of the item is perceived to be?

At the same time, consumers are sensibly inclined to choose decorative objects that are made by machine at a fraction of the cost.

Close up photograph of final threads, black, yellow and red colours
Final threads, 2021
Graduate Diploma Textile Design, Chelsea College of Arts, UAL | Photograph: Yifan Yang
Layered photographic images, showing the tie dye at different angles
Tie Dye, final piece 2021
Graduate Diploma Textile Design, Chelsea College of Arts, UAL | Photograph: Yifan Yang