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Stitching together a better life

Updated: 2021-02-22 09:11 ( China Daily )
Huayao cross-stitch works are shown to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo (right) at the China pavilion during the 2019 Foire de Paris. [Photo provided to China Daily]

They formed a design team to develop cultural and creative products based on intangible cultural heritage projects, including Lunar New Year paintings and the cross-stitching skills of Huayao people.

As well as the more than 140 cultural and creative products the team designed, they also established a stitching design studio for tiaohua and an exhibition space for Huayao culture.

"We used to just design special packaging for local products, but that doesn't add value to the products themselves, and is neither sustainable nor recyclable," Wang Xile, a member of the team, recalls.

When she came to Baishuidong several years ago as a bachelor student majoring in visual communication, she was attracted by the unique Huayao cross-stitching skill.

After spending time in the village, she decided to set the research direction of her master's study toward the inheritance and protection of intangible cultural heritage.

"Now, we want to innovate and make a collaborative effort to change. We are responsible for understanding the customers' requirements with regard to the quantity and the sizes," Wang says. "Then we let the women create the patterns they see fit, so that each product is unique."

Yang Liaohua, a villager from Baishuidong, draws a small income from growing honeysuckle. The Hunan University's team reached out to her and asked an inheritor of Huayao cross-stitch to teach her the skill for free.

Yang learned very quickly and the needlework now brings her an extra income of more than 10,000 yuan ($1,550) each year.

The team also developed an app to educate children about the Hauyao cross-stitch skill and Huayao culture.

"The women use colorful threads to make many small cross-stitches that form bigger patterns and create unique pieces of work, but regarding the inheritance of the skill, there are many difficulties, such as the language barrier," Wang says.

"So, we want to design a game to let the children learn about Huayao culture and the cross-stitch skills by raising their interest and lowering the difficulty," Wang says, adding that the inspiration to create the app came from her field research in Longhui county.

According to Zhang Duoduo, associate professor at Hunan University's School of Design, as well as developing the app for preschool children, their team is also designing a board game about Huayao culture.

"People are the key to inheriting intangible cultural heritage, and our idea is to develop digital education products which are designed to attract users from an early age," Zhang says.

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