How King Lear Was Embroidered?
Picture a portrait of an old man with bushy white hair and a tidy white beard. His creased face with vivid and natural expression. What’s more, a striking Chinese character of “王 ” ( the king) is stitched on his forehead and his glaring eyes force viewers to hold him in awe. We dare not to look at him for long, completely forgetting this is just an art of embroidery.
It is King Lear, a brilliant handcraft by Yang Xiaoting, a master of Han Embroidery in Hubei Province.
Both Yang’s maternal and paternal grandmothers were good at embroidering. Influenced by them, Yang was interested in embroidery when she was very young. As time went by, her interest turned to a deep love for embroidery. She has devoted herself to Han Embroidery for thirty years.
Yang’s mother, who is a Christian, often brought her to the church in her childhood. Seeing the furnishings there, she gradually fell for Western art. Afterwards, she received a systemic education on traditional Chinese painting and oil painting at an art college in Hubei and mastered Eastern and Western aesthetic theories. Along with an open attitude towards pursuing art, Yang has learned a lot from both Western and Chinese cultures. As a cross between Chinese and Western art, most of her works show extraordinary beauty.
Yang Xiaoting and her talented team created King Lear in 2014. It took almost eight months to finish it. The prototype of this embroidery is a staged photo of Wu Xingguo, the Taiwanese playwright of the Peking Opera
Lear Is Here , which was adapted from Shakespeare’s drama King
Lear . Wu innovatively interpreted this drama in the form of Chinese Peking Opera.
At that time, Yang Xiaoting was striving to figure out how to combine Han Embroidery with fiber art. She came across the stage photo of Wu in a magazine
and she was inspired to transform it into embroidery.
It took a lot of time and effort to complete the primary design of this work, including adoption of stitches and adjustments of color and brightness, according to Yang Xiaoting. In order to highlight the characteristics of King Lear, Yang used free stitching to embroider his face, so that threads can flow along his facial outline and create a visual effect of oil paint. Given the costume style of Peking Opera and avoiding his face being overshadowed by the pattern stitched by gold threads on his clothes, Yang embedded black threads into the gold ones properly to adjust the brightness of different parts. Traditional circling gold stitch and modern free stitch, a figure of western drama presented as a Peking Opera character, along with fiber art—every detail of this seemingly simple work manifests the creator’s originality.
Yang Xiaoting has created a number of embroideries on the basis of paintings by Monet and Van Gogh using different stitches, as well as a series of works based on portrayals of Western musicians, which she hopes to show the world when her daughter holds piano concerts overseas in the future.
Yang likes reading Shakespeare’s dramas and she often reads with her daughter, playing different roles. Yang said the poem NineTunes by Chinese poet Qu Yuan is also rich in such splendid and romantic scenes, and she wants to bring more Chinese cultural elements to her embroideries to share with more people outside of China.
Yang Xiaoting insists on the idea of fusion of Chinese and Western styles during her creation, which gives Han Embroidery, with a history of over 2300 years, a new life. So far, she has received visitors from dozens of countries, and her embroideries have been presented to foreign celebrities many times, including Theresa Mary May and Bill Gates.
Wallet embroidered by Yang Xiaoting presented to Teresa May, British Prime Minister, as a gift 英国首相特蕾莎·梅对“龙凤呈祥坤包”爱不释手
Yang Xiaoting explaining Han embroidery to overseas Internet celebrities 杨小婷在给海外大V讲解汉绣作品