english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England

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Chinese Character Door Mat

Chinese Character Screen Printed Door Mat

Having screen printed some tote bags with Chinese characters I thought they might also look good on a door mat. This door mat features the characters 欢迎你 and lets guests know they are welcome. The door mat itself is shop bought with a screen printed design added by me.

These are available to buy from my Etsy store.

欢迎你 Screen Printed Welcome Doormat

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袋 Chinese Character Totes

袋 Screen Printed Shopping Bag
Last Friday it started snowing here in the UK and it’s been intermittently snowing since. I took advance of an afternoon off work – we were sent home due to travel issues – to do some screen printing. One of the items I printed were tote bags featuring the Chinese character for bag, 袋 (pronounced Dài in Mandarin).

I printed the design on a basic cotton tote and a canvas tote with gusset using blue ink. You can see the bags (and the snow) in the pictures below. They are also available from my Etsy shop.

袋 Screen Printed Shopping Bag
袋 Screen Printed Shopping Bag

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Shrinky Dink Brooches

I’ve been playing around with shrink plastic over the last couple of weeks while working on a few designs for badges and magnets.

Two of my initial designs are printed below. These were printed using Shrinky Dink Inkjet, after an initial unsuccessful attempt using the (not inkjet friendly) Shrinkles paper available in the UK.

The first is a still from the Hong Kong film Rouge, and features the actress Anita Mui.

Handmade brooch featuring actress Anita Mui from the film Rouge

The second features a Japanese Kasa Obake or umbrella ghost. My drawing is based on a toy my friend Emma bought back from a trip to Japan a few years ago, which is pictured below my badge.

Kasa Obake Umbrella Ghost Brooch

Japanese Umbrella Ghost

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Wild Swans at the Young Vic, a review

Wild Swans at the Young Vic, theatre poster

Wild Swans 

I’ve already mentioned that I’m a big fan of Jung Chang’s work, and I booked up months ago to see the first ever stage version of Wild Swans during its stint at the Young Vic, in London. The play starts brilliantly, with the full cast on stage acting out a market scene as the audience enter the theatre and take their seats. It’s a lovely, involving, image and sets the scene for the remainder of the play, which makes the very most of the visual and physical. The stage changes dramatically through the course of the play – with soil and subsequently water covering the stage. The backdrop of the stage is used to particularly good effect – initially covered with a bamboo screen, peeled back to reveal a blank canvas, the blank walls are then physically covered in water by the cast, and (in the same style as children’s magic painting books) images of communist propaganda images appear. Over time the backdrop dries and the images fade, ready for a number of different scenes to be projected onto the backdrop near the close of the play. The physical effort required by the cast to manage the various physical changes had, for me, the effect of conveying the enthusiasm of the early communist supporters, the extremes of manual labour required by China’s peasants, and the hysterical emotion of the red guards. The impressive physical and visual aspects of the play also extended to the inclusion of some interesting set pieces, including a brilliant little puppet scene near the start of the play and a song and flag dance scene later on.

Plot-wise, the play managed to cover the lives of the three generations of her family depicted by Chang in her book. However, in order to do so (and within a relatively short running time of 90 minutes) the play kept very much to the bare bones of the story. I thought it did a solid job of conveying the story – both of Chang’s work and of modern China – but it was very much only the highlights and I would have preferred it to cover less in more detail. Given the short running time they could have extended the play’s duration and captured more detail. I felt that what was lost was the humour and also some of the pathos, as well as the depth of Chang’s Wild Swans. I didn’t feel that we were given time, as an audience, to learn enough about the characters. Nor the actors given enough time – or enough dialogue – to develop fully rounded, complex characters that we could truly care about. Personally I also didn’t think it conveyed the horror or absurdity of life under Mao amply enough. There is one scene in particular, where Jung’s family is attacked by Mao’s Red Guard, which for me didn’t convey how terrifying, and at the same time, how ridiculous such a scene  must have been for those who experienced it.

Wild Swans at the Young Vic, theatre poster

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Jung Chang on Happiness

This evening I went to see Jung Chang give the Baggs Memorial Lecture at the University of Birmingham on the topic of happiness. I love both of Chang’s books Wild Swans and Mao so was very keen to hear her speak in person. She did give a previous lecture at the University a number of years ago & unfortunately I missed it so this was my chance to make up for that.

In person, Jung is very glamorous & rather stately. It might be a sign I’m deeply shallow but how a person dresses makes a big impression on me & Jung dressed beautifully. She wore a large brooch on one shoulder which was almost octopus-like which I loved, it was a real statement piece.

Aside from her clothes, what Jung said also made an impression on me. She spoke about her own sense of fulfilment as a writer, but also touched on happiness more generally within China. She made the simple but essential point that people in China can be happy until/unless they come up against the regime. This is true for those whose professions are liable to put them at risk of censorship (artists, directors, writers, historians, etc) but also for the general public when they come up against the Chinese legal system, for example people whose homes have been repossessed as part of development projects.

Seeing inspiring people like Chang always tempts me to chuck in my job and do something more meaningful and fulfilling, but – although I don’t think I am too materialistic – I do find a good wage/pension/annual leave entitlement/sickness pay hard to give up easily. And I do so want to decorate the rest of my house…

Jung mentioned that her next book will be about the Empress Dowager Cixi who I find enormously fascinating so I can’t wait for that. As she said herself it will be a kind-of reverse from her Mao biography which demonised a figure who had previously frequently been celebrated, this will recognise the strengths of a historical figure who has long been demonised.
Jung Chang signed book

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Chen Man exhibition at the Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester

Me and Phil spent the weekend in Manchester, visiting galleries, shopping & generally wandering around. One of the reasons we made the trip was to see the Chen Man exhibition at Chinese Arts Centre. Chen Man is a leading fashion photographer within China, but this is her first solo exhibition in the UK. I wasn’t previously familiar with her work, but knew it as for me when I saw the exhibition advertised! Chen Man’s work has a very kitsch, stylised look – with her images heavily edited in post-production. I found some of her work, in particular the second image below, reminiscent of Liu Ye. The exhibition is only small (as is the gallery as a whole) but includes a mixture of early and more recent works, including the following:

From the Double Mickey series:

Chen Man Exhibition at Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester

From the Young Pioneers series:

Chen Man Exhibition at Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester

From the Vision magazine cover series:

Chen Man Exhibition at Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester

Chen Man Exhibition at Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester

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Chinese shorts

For Chinese New Year Kino10, a local organisation who specialise in short film screenings, organised a programme of Chinese short film screenings at the Barber Institute. Unfortunately we already had plans so couldn’t get there, but a number of the films screened are available online. Here are a couple of  my favourites:

Hua Yang De Nian Hua, Wong Kar-Wai, 2001

Wong Kar-Wai is one of my favourite directors (Happy Together is my favourite of his films). This short, originally screened at the 2001 Berlin Film Festival, is a montage of clips from films thought to be lost, but rediscovered during the 1990s. After the rediscovery of the lost scenes from Metropolis, something I never imagined would happen, I personally have high hopes for many, many more lost films to be rediscovered.



G.U.4, Nixon Leung, 2009

As a gamer I love this love song to retro gaming. It makes me regret I don’t manage to get more time for gaming. I used to set aside Sunday evening as dedicated gaming time, but don’t even seem to manage that now….