Last weekend I tried out a revised design for a Chinese character door mat, this time using just two characters, 欢迎 meaning welcome. I also went for larger sized characters than in my previous design.
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.
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.
This is my second film star lino cut print in a couple of weeks. This time the subject is Ruan Lingyu, 阮玲玉. Ruan was a big star of the Shanghai film industry in the 1930s. She has become an idol partly due to her suicide at the age of 24, which is attributed to a combination of abusive relationships with her lovers and pressure from the press. I discovered Ruan through Liu Ye’s beautiful paintings of her, and then went on to watch her films and admire her work as an actress. Her films are fairly easy to get hold of, especially her most famous film The Goddess, and also check out the Stanley Kwan film about her Centre Stage featuring Maggie Cheung.
Two years ago me and Phil were lucky enough to be in Hong Kong during the mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节). Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the major lunar festivals and there were a wide variety of celebrations taking place while we were in Hong Kong. I’ve included some pictures at the bottom of the post of some of the lantern festivals and the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance which I managed to visit.
To celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival this year I decided to make some mooncake (月饼) cards to give to classmates at the Mandarin evening class I attend each week. I tried two different linocut print designs, my favourite of which is pictured below. This card is available to purchase on either a white or recycled brown card from my Etsy and Folksy stores. Cards are priced at £2.50, with free postage to any location.
If you’re not familiar with mooncakes, they are pastry cakes which typically contain red bean or lotus seed paste and yolks from salted duck eggs. This type of mooncake is very high in calories (typically around 1,000 calories per cake) and filling, so they are usually eaten in small pieces with tea. You can also get more modern variants on the mooncake, including Häagen-Dazs ice cream mooncakes. I was dying to try a Häagen-Dazs moncake while I was in Hong Kong but didn’t manage it as they sold out too fast.
I had some decoupage glue arrive from Fred Aldous a couple of weeks ago and have been going a bit crazy with it. Even the shoe-rack in the hall ended up getting decoupaged.
I also used it to cover two boxes which I use to hold bits & bobs – brooches, hair pins, etc.
One was a nice wooden box but I wasn’t crazy about the images painted on it. Plus, I’ve had it for a long time so I thought a change might be nice. I used a number of Chinese Mao-era photographs taken from a magazine article – mainly pictures of rallies – to decorate the box. These were glued on and then given a couple of coats of garnish for a secure finish.
The second box was a cardboard box with drawers purchased cheaply for the purpose of decoupage. I covered this one with images from an anthology comic which I picked up last year at an exhibition of comic art at the Design Museum in Helsinki.
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:
From the Young Pioneers series:
From the Vision magazine cover series:
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….
I attended a linocut printing workshop at the Barber Institue today (there was an old fashioned gender divide in our house as I did some chores and went to a craft workshop, while Phil went into Liverpool to watch football!).
This is the second printing workshop I’ve attended at the Barber. They’re more relaxed than other workshops I’ve attended, as they allow time for an overview of the art form, a gallery tour and time sketching within the gallery. Having said that, once the actual crating starts they’re less serene (for me at least) as I tend to create designs that take a while to cut-out so need to put my head down and work fast to finish on time.
Alex Jolly who runs the workshops uses basic/low cost tools and materials so that it’s easy to purchase the same supplies and carry on at home. I’m thinking of ordering some supplies and having a go at printing onto fabric. We don’t really have any space in the house where I can risk making a big mess, so I might take over some space in the shed (traditionally Phil’s domain) for a printing workstation. I’ll have to wait until it gets a bit warmer though as I don’t fancy sitting out there for many hours at a time at the moment.
To give us some ideas and inspiration we went on a tour of the gallery’s Chinese artifacts, which include a jade cup and wooden box created for use by emperors. Apparently the Barber has had the artefacts in storage for years but, no doubt due to the recent boom in the Chinese art market, has recently re-evaluated their worth and realised their significance. Personally I can never help thinking about the ransacking of the Summer Palace when I see imperial treasures in British museums. Not that that affects the beauty of the artefacts themselves, but it’s an important part of their history & personally I think galleries ought to make more effort to acknowledge it.
For my print I decided to sketch a 福 (fu) character, which means ‘good fortune’ in Chinese and is commonly displayed in homes in paper cut form, especially at Spring Festival time. It’s usually displayed upside down, due to a play on words: fu dao le means ‘good fortune has arrived’, but ‘upside-down’ in Chinese is also pronounced ‘dao’ so displaying the character upside down is a play on words and also implies that good fortune is on it’s way. I actually have two 福 paper cuts stuck to my landing window, and I used the style of these as a model for my print. Around the character I printed some prunus blossom, which is featured in Rossetti’s ‘The Blue Bower’ which the Barber own and which I sketched during the gallery tour.
Below is my original sketch. I drew over the outline in pen to give a nice solid line, and then traced the image onto a piece of easy cut lino.
And here are the resulting prints, in black ink on red and white card.
To see in the Chinese New Year, me and Phil went to see a traditional Chinese music concert at the Midland Arts Centre (MAC) yesterday evening. The Jasmine Moon Ensemble played a selection of folk songs from across China, as well as more modern songs in the traditional style and a handful of film scores. They also played a piece based on the soundtrack to a propaganda cartoon from the 1960s, called Heroic Little Sisters of the Grassland, which was a particular favourite of mine. The cartoon itself is available on YouTube, the link below is to the dramatic climax where the sisters manage to brave a storm to rescue their collective farm’s flock of sheep:
The ensemble play piano, Guzheng, and a selection of Chinese woodwind instruments. One of the Chinese wind instruments, the húlúsī, was particularly unusual, with a gourd at the top of the instrument. To my (untrained) ears it had a nice folky sound and, of course, it has a nice folky look too:)
The Guzheng (古箏) is also a very traditional instrument. It is a large stringed instrument and, to me, looked abominably difficult to play. But then, to me, any instrument would be!
I’d definitely recommend seeing the Jasmine Moon Ensemble in action if you get chance. If you can’t see them in person you can watch them online (minus the Guzheng) below: