Photo shows that Lan Lin, a 48-year-old inheritor of Zhuang embroidery, helps train craftswomen at her workshop in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. (Xinhua/Liang Shun)
NANNING, Dec. 20 (Xinhua) -- Wearing an apron with embroideries of intricate 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 inspired me and made me more confident in carrying on the traditional techniques," said the 48-year-old Lan from south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
From designing, drawing, choosing materials, and fabric cutting, to stitching and sewing, Lan said a new embroidery product usually takes at least 15 days.
As a handicraft featuring rich ethnic culture, Zhuang embroidery skills have been passed on in their own veins and are widely spread across the habitations of Zhuang people in Guangxi. The crafts were 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 clothes. However, in the late 1990s, facing the impact of machine embroidery, the traditional crafts of the family were almost lost.
Lan thus grew a strong sense of responsibility to preserve the family tradition and inherit and expand the 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 constantly improves the stitching techniques and becomes 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."
Nowadays, Lan's 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.
And riding the waves of more Zhuang embroidery works going global, Lan said she felt more motivated to run her 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 the 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.