So far I visited two beautiful museums, but really, I like movement, people. I have met with arts students, but really I want to meet artists, makers… My translator, Peter, who has spent 1 year in Manchester and loves goat cheese and Belgium biscuits (what a small world!), has organised for me to meet someone at Yihui Creativity Silk and Embroidery Art. I think to myself this is going to be another museumified place. But when we arrive, we are warmly welcomed by the sunny face of Yihui herself, and I feel creative energy shinning at me straight away. This place is absolutely AMAZING. There are people everywhere, families with children running around, noise, lots of people making stuff everywhere.
Yihui’s organisation is a charity aiming to preserve what she calls the endangered specie that is silk embroidery. She explains that young people are not interested in learning this trade, as it is time consuming. So they teach this ancient skill to deaf young girls, who proudly show us their creations. I think this is so wonderful. People can watch them at work and talk to them. One of them kindly tries to unwind a piece of thread she is using to show me that it is made of 16 strands of silk thread. What they are making is beautiful, their designs shine as they move their creations under the light.
All around, makers passionate about what they do, make and sell their creations, demonstrating traditional skills such as bamboo weaving, wood sculpting, umbrella making… through contemporary creations. The government funds this place and the rent is free. Makers sell their objects, but Yihui tells me that the pay is quite small, they do it because they have a passion for what they do.
As I look up I can see we are in a very old building. This is an old silk warehouse, situated by the Grand Canal, a huge man made canal that used to connect HangZhou all the way to Bejing. This building is probably where the early silk trades, and the Silk Road, stemmed from. We are near the Dongxin Bridge, which is situated where the old city used to end.
I feel at home here. I’d love to stay here for a while… Oh, and people dance in the street here!
Next meeting: CAA art gallery. I meet the director and the curator. No direct words can be spoken without my translator but hands are shaken and eye contacts are made. They like my ideas of linking people from England to China through a digital piece of work… They tell me that their Art Gallery brings artist from all over the world for temporary exhibitions. The current exhibition focuses on drawing, all in black and white. Interesting to see that groups of students gather around the most unusual drawings rather than the more traditional ones.
I love Chinese Fashion, and I finally get to see some interesting looks here, you can spot the artists with their unexpected combinations of clothes, often linking traditional patterns of swirls and dragons with more contemporary cuts.
Despite having drunk three cups of coffee in a row during my last meeting, tiredness is catching up again. I could not sleep last night. My body has gone back to UK time. I am tired now but I bet I can’t sleep tonight. Can’t trick a brain with a clock! A trip to West Lake is what I need.
There, I see a girl posing in a beautiful white dress for a photo-shoot. There is a local legend here, of a white water snake who fell in love with a human and turned herself into a beautiful lady to seduce him. Like most Chinese love stories, this turns into a tragedy, but I have forgotten the end of the story, I will find out.