I chose this topic because cross stitching is a hobby of mine, and I know that embroidery is the original idea and advanced version of cross stitching, therefore this topic seems very interesting to me when I first looked at the list of selections.
My sources are Ms. Li, Ms. Shi, Ms. Yang, Ms. Gao, Ms. Dou, Ms. Zhang, Mr. Tafel, Ms. Mai, Xiao Tang, Fay, Audrey C., and http://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/arts/embroidery.htm.
I chose these sources because Ms. Li is a professional embroiderer, Ms. Shi has an embroidery shop next to the Linden Centre, Ms. Yang embroiderers at home, Ms. Gao sewed all of the embroideries on the cushions at YZR, and Ms. Dou and Ms. Zhang sells embroideries at the same house. The SAS chaperones helped a lot when they were being interviewed for the 3-5's (see Phase 3), and the local chaperones knew a lot of locals who specializes at my topic. Audrey C., a former Microcampus student that also studied embroidery, used her research and taught me a lot of interesting facts about the process of making embroideries. The website talked a lot about the history of embroidery in the different dynasties, although it did not really help my research on the whole, it was still fascinating, to see the development of embroidery over thousands of years.
I was trying to answer the Big Questions I listed in Phase 1 and Phase 3, and they fall into the categories of History/Life of a Embroiderer, Techniques/Skills, Symbolism/Designs, and Economics/Finance.
My thesis statement for this project is: To completely absorb enough information to get a full understanding about the embroidery of Xizhou, it is necessary for one to consider its history, techniques, symbolism, and economics.
Sharing My Learning
Refer to the video I posted above.
My local sources are Ms. Li (from Happy Embroidery), Ms. Shi (from embroidery shop next to te Linden Centre), Ms. Yang (chef at YZR), Ms. Gao (housekeeper at YZR), Ms. Dou [from place that make cheese chips and sell embroideries (ask Ms. Mai for more information)], and Ms. Zhang [another vender from place that make cheese chips and sell embroideries (ask Ms. Mai for more information)].
I took a lot of experience away from this project. Not only did I learn about embroidery, but I learned about the past of the embroiderers, which was very interesting. I also learned that in order to dig deeper into people's answers, I have to ask more answers, and those questions could replace questions that were not as interesting in the whole list. I also learned that we should always exchange the information we get with something, so a common trick I used was asking the questions and getting answers, and depending how profound and helping the answers are, I buy an item from their shop with an equivalent price that I think make sense.
My topic did not change throughout the topic, but I did narrow down my focus a bit. I started out with just Yunnan Ethic embroideries, and I have four quite general categories. But for my final product, I talked about everything I learned about in my movie, and made a double sided embroidery of a blue hummingbird, so I guess my craft has narrowed down to double sided embroideries.
The most difficult part of my research was looking for experts online, and emailing them. For my topic, there are not a lot of famous experts for it. All of the experts that I do find, the consequence is that I cannot find their email address. The only email address I do find, I emailed him, but he did not reply. So basically I got nothing in return for all of my hard research when I was looking for the people. But one trick I discovered was looking for authors of books about the topic. But I still cannot find the several authors' email address, and some of the books were very old.
One "a-ha" moment I made during my research happened when I was going around asking the question about if embroidery was a local tradition or not. My assumption was that it was brought in by some other Chinese ethic group, and that they might have influenced the residents of Xizhou to flourish this skill into what it is now. I thought it was true because there are not specific shops or homes specializing in this skill in the first few days at Xizhou (except for Happy Embroidery), and the market and business of embroidery is not particularly popular here, a fact I got from my 3-5's. But when I started my interviews with the locals, all of their answers were the same- embroidery is a local tradition, with quite a history. As I dig deeper, I found out that not a lot of people expertise in this skill because all who knows about this skill are the old generation. The new generation all went to school, get a job in the city, and left this village. So this skill is eventually dying out with the older generation. If a young person do know about it, it is either that their mother taught them this, and they have to maintain the shop, or simply because of personal interest. It was quite a astounding founding.
This project helped me understand my topic better because this piece of work made me focus on the subject. Of course this project helped me, because this is the point of this project. By having the assignments of interviewing local experts and creating a list of questions to focus the research, it let me learn about every detail of each category, and comparing what I see here to what I learned about somewhere else. All we did in this project is researching about the topic (of course with other things like interacting with locals and having positive impacts etc.), but the whole point of the inquiry project is learning information about the topic you chose, so I do not get why you would not understand your topic better by doing this project.
This project helped me interact with the community in and around Xizhou by requesting us to interview the locals and maintaining a relationship with them. By interviewing the local interviewees, we will learn about their life, their understanding of out topic, and a new sight from a different point of view. I got particularly close to Ms. Li, since she taught me how to embroider, answered my questions the best with her deep understandings, and talked to me about her life, like how she learned it from her mother, and how her daughter is not interested in this skill, so this shop might not be passed down.
I discovered a lot about myself throughout this project. I figured out that I love doing needle-work, and have a lot more patience than other does, to finish an embroidery that took me a week's time. Compared to Ms. Li, that she was poor when she was young, and cherished a lot of things, my life is luxurious compared to hers. I have the best education in the area I live in, I do not need to share beds with siblings, and I get to see my parents very often. I realized how easy I get money, and how hard it is for them to get the same thing. I see what I have as nothing, but they see what I have as the perfect future for their children.
If I were to do this project again or go back to the beginning, I would choose a topic I can narrow down on, like double sided embroideries, or lives of embroiderers. My topic is still a bit too general compared to the others, although I did make a double sided embroidery in the end. Another recommendation will be to look at not only people who did the exact same topic, but also former students who did similar topics. For example, I am researching about embroidery, so I will look at Alumni who studied embroidery AND Bai minority clothing AND tie-dye, because usually embroideries are found on traditional clothing, and a lot of tie-dye shops here sell embroideries too, so you will get a lot more valuable information and resources. But the most is planning your schedule. When you are done with Phase 4, go straight to completing your final product, because the due date of the final product is a lot closer to what you think. I have to cram all of my final product work into two days, and I still have to do work for Service Learning, because I spent my time unwisely sewing my embroidery before.
If another person were to continue my research but going a new direction, I will suggest he or she to study a specific category, for example, skill or style. It will also help he or she to narrow down their topic, and the hooks will also be a lot more specific. They could also study the embroidery on a specific clothing, like shoes or bai monirity headdresses, although it might collapse with the topic Bai Minority Clothing, it is still possible. If they were to study a lot about the economics, just change your topic to economic case study of small businesses, and they can complete a whole project by just researching everything in Happy Embroidery or a particular embroidery shop. Since my topic is quite general and does not really have a specific focus, other students could use any of the information in any of the four categories I researched about.
Mr. Tafel- for all the help you gave me even though I know embroidery is not really your thing, and the laughter and joy.
Ms. Mai- for all the help in committee updates and the many resources you know about.
Xiao Tang- for doing wellness with me when no one else wants to, and all the help you gave me on my inquiry project.
Fay- for the many specific resources, and trying your best to help me when you do not really know about embroidery.
Annaliese- for coming with me to Happy Embroidery all the time, and the laughter you brought us during the Moon Festival.
Ms. Li- for teaching me how to embroider and even giving me fruits occasionally and you profound knowledge.
To all Dynamite students- for all the laughter you guys brought me, nothing will be the same if you guys are not here.
To Ms. Shi, Ms. Yang, Ms. Gao, Ms. Dou, Ms. Zhang- for all the information I got from you all, it was very helpful.
To the Linden family- for lending us a beautiful place to stay at, and adding two more members of joy to the group on the last week of our stay.
To my friends back home- for listening to me babbling on and on about Microcampus, and the updates from school and home.
Last but not least, to my parents- for sponsoring this trip, I will never be the same anymore without your mental and financial support.
P.S. to everyone who commented on my journals and videos- for letting me know what you think about it from your point of view!