Stitch­ing for yuan

Uygur em­broi­dery is learn­ing how to turn tra­di­tion into pros­per­ity

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By XIN­HUA in Hami, Xin­jiang

Em­broi­der­ers in North­west China’s Xin­jiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion are learn­ing to turn their tra­di­tional hand­i­work into a mod­ern, thriv­ing busi­ness. More than 300 prod­ucts, from pil­lows, bags and gloves to car ac­ces­sories and even em­broi­dery-cov­ered head­phones and books, were on dis­play at an ex­hi­bi­tion that be­gan re­cently in the city of Hami.

“I never thought em­broi­dery could be used in so many ways,” said Ka­teerh Rah­man, a lo­cal farmer who man­ages an em­broi­dery team of more than 100 peo­ple in Hami.

The mar­ket has re­sponded well to their prod­ucts. “We sim­ply can’t meet the de­mand,” he said.

The most pop­u­lar of his de­signs is the head­phone cover, which he said makes cus­tomers feel “soft and warm” while wear­ing the or­di­nar­ily cold elec­tronic de­vices.

His de­signs were in­spired by the “Xin­jiang Hami Tra­di­tional Craft Work­shop”, a pro­ject sup­ported by the Min­istry of Cul­ture.

Launched in March, the pro­ject was jointly es­tab­lished by the govern­ment of Hami pre­fec­ture, the Acad­emy of Art and De­sign at Ts­inghua Univer­sity and the Shen­zhen­based Artron Art Group.

Hami Uygur em­broi­dery was listed as an in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage of China in 2008. Fea­tur­ing col­or­ful pat­terns, it is mainly seen in tra­di­tional Uygur cloth­ing. While China is work­ing to pre­serve this tra­di­tion, lo­cal em­broi­der­ers are try­ing to re­vive eth­nic crafts­man­ship by im­prov­ing their skills and ex­pand­ing the mar­ket.

Xiang Zhaolun, China’s deputy min­is­ter of cul­ture, said the work­shop has pro­moted co­op­er­a­tion in em­broi­dery train­ing, im­proved the skills of lo­cal crafts­men and pre­sented them with busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“The work­shop can turn tra­di­tional tex­tiles into a fash­ion trend and open the doors to the world for em­broi­dery crafts­men liv­ing in re­mote farm­ing and herd­ing re­gions,” he said.

Rah­man is among 50 lo­cal em­broi­der­ers or­ga­nized by the work­shop to at­tend in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage train­ing in Guangzhou, South China’s Guang­dong prov­ince. He was also in­vited to Shanxi prov­ince to learn to in­te­grate mod­ern fash­ion and tra­di­tional em­broi­dery as well as mod­ern de­sign tech­niques.

Artron Art Group, one of the or­ga­niz­ers, sent three teams to help lo­cal crafts­men ex­pand mar­kets for em­broi­dery.

“They help us gain cus­tomers and bring us or­ders,” Rah­man said.

Gul­das Tur­sun, who started learn­ing em­broi­dery at age 10, said em­broi­dery prod­ucts used to be sold only in and near Hami, but now, thanks to the Artron teams, sales chan­nels have ex­panded.

She re­cently se­cured an or­der for 830 prod­ucts with a to­tal value of more than 36,000 yuan ($5,400) from a Shanxi-based com­pany through the rec­om­men­da­tion of the work­shop.

“Now I need to re­cruit more peo­ple,” she said with a smile. She al­ready em­ploys 130 work­ers.

Liu Kuili, an ex­pert on cul­tural her­itage pro­tec­tion, said: “The train­ing, prod­uct de­sign and mar­ket­ing chan­nels of­fered by the work­shop have pro­moted the re­vi­tal­iza­tion of the craft.”

ZHANG HONGCHI / XIN­HUA

Em­broi­derer Ka­teerh Rah­man teaches two women the tra­di­tional craft in Hami, the Xin­jiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion.

ZHANG HONGCHI / XIN­HUA

A Uygur girl learns em­broi­der­ing at a tra­di­tional Uygur em­broi­dery work­shop in Hami, the Xin­jiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion.

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