Friday, October 26, 2012

Chinese Patchwork (Part Two)

Two weeks ago, the American Quilt Study Group held their annual seminar right here in Lincoln, Nebraska. My colleagues and I at the IQSCM had a great time giving behind-the-scenes tours of our facilities to 180+ of the seminar participants. In addition to giving a tour of the "Indigo Gives America the Blues" exhibition, I showed our special visitors a number of new acquisitions -- including this beautiful patchwork robe from China. It's a ceremonial robe -- a longpo yi, or "dragon wife's robe" -- from the Yi people of Malipo County in Yunnan Province. It would have been worn during a funeral ceremony and was probably made around 1940. It features patchwork pinwheels made from a variety of brocaded and plain-weave silks as well as printed cottons; these pinwheels are all appliqued to an indigo-dyed ground fabric.

In this photo (sorry for the excessive cropping) you can see the cutout for the wearer's head. This is an image of the piece lying flat, so the portion at the top is the front of the garment, while the larger portion at the bottom is the back side (it's sort of like an enormous poncho).
Here's a close up of the garment with Xenia Cord, IQSCM acquisitions coordinator, myself, Robert James, IQSCM benefactor, and Carolyn Ducey, IQSCM curator of collections, standing behind it.

So what does this robe have to do with One Hundred Good Wishes Quilts (OHGWQ)? Well, I think it's important to have a full understanding of Chinese patchwork in order to gauge what kind of an impact it had on the recent development of a quilt made for adopted Chinese children, the OHGWQ. Admittedly, these robes were made in relative isolation, in far southwestern China, but the concept of patchwork having spiritual power is clearly a strong theme across Asian textiles.

To read more about longpo yi ("dragon wife's robes") visit the site.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Patchwork in China (part One of Many)

In my last post, I wrote a bit about the Han Chinese tradition of making bai jia pao (白家袍), or "One Hundred Families Robes." These silk patchwork robes were made for hundreds of years as talismanic, or spiritually protective garments for young boys.

Other Chinese ethnic groups besides the Han, however, have used patchwork and applique in their domestic textiles. Here is a photo of me showing some VIP visitors a quilt top from the International Quilt Study Center & Museum's collection. The piece is attributed to the Maonan people of Guangxi province in southwest China.

Quilt top attributed to the Maonan people of SW China, 20th c., International Quilt Study Center & Museum, photo courtesy of Jonathan Holstein.

The piece consists of the top, decorative portion of what would have been a quilt cover (sort of like a duvet cover) -- the back has been removed. The individual blocks were constructed in what today's quiltmakers might call "potholder style," in that they were fully appliqued, embroidered and quilted on a foundation fabric before all of the completed blocks were then sewn together.

Here is another beautiful example of a Maonan quilt top from the IQSCM collection.

Quilt top attributed to the Maonan people of SW China, 20th c., International Quilt Study Center & Museum, 2011.026.0001