Phase 1: Posing Real Questions
While going to this one month trip far, far away, I will be working on an Inquiry Project, on a specific topic, That topic, chosen in the prequel, is textile production in the Xizhou area. This is the sequel step of Phase 0 of my inquiry project. It is called Phase 1, where I will determine specifically what I want to find out in my inquiry project.
I do not know a lot about textile art in Xizhou, but I do know that they can be categorized into two groups: embroidery, and tye dye. Some of the pieces will have an image representing something, some will have a pattern, some will not have anything but a solid color. I remember one time my family visited Kyoto, and we took a class, then made our own handkerchief with interesting designs. Sadly, I don't remember much of the process of making the handkerchiefs or much of what it looked like when we were finished.
When I get to Xizhou, I want to research three concepts of textile production. The process of making the material, the process of selling the material, and how having the job of creator, cashier, and salesman affects the lifestyle of the person. I hope to learn about these specific points by experiencing them, spending time talking to textile producers as well as being with them, seeing things from their point of view.
At this point in the project, I did a little pre-research on my topic, which you can find in Phase 3, in order to begin the next step, posing real questions. These questions are based on two major topics, Other Stores, and Inspirations.
1. Who makes the decision to take the job of a producer or maker of textiles? Is it decided by someone of authority or ownership, or by the individual?
Perhaps the profession of creating textiles has been chosen as a person's fate once born into a family of textile producers. If that is the case, then the line of work could be traced back through that family for generations. The designs, procedure, and quantity of products made would be evidently consistent for a long period of time.
2. How old is the individual when the decision to take the job is made? Is it the same case in other professions?
The individual's future would be panned out the minute that he/she is born into a family with a profession relying on tradition. Maybe the skill of embroidery or dying was taught to them at a very young age as a hobby, and inclined the individual to want to become a textile producer.
3. Does a teacher, family member, or internet teach the maker that skill, is it the same case with other skills in the village?
Usually the skill of tie-dyeing is tought by family or friends. It is a fairly easy process, something that most people learn when they are still children, so it could by taught by a brother, sister, mother, aunt, anyone in the family, or friend. By the time that someone is old enough to have a job so easy and simple, they would already know one way or another how to use the needle and thread to keep parts white during the dying process. In the slight chance that they do not, the Lao Ban or other workers there will teach them.
4. Does the preference of design shown in customers change between tourists and locals?
I would imagine that tourists would buy cloths with great designs and symbols as a token of their stay in Xizhou, however a local would just buy a cloth with plain colour and no decoration if it's purpose was to be worn. If the purpose of the cloth was to decorate, then both would buy cloths with designs, but tourists would buy ones with designs representing Xizhou, while locals would buy cloths with designs just for looks with no meaning behind it.
5. Are the designs traditional and learned from generations before, or original and created by the artist?
It is a valid estimation that in all the cloths selling in Xizhou, most would be traditional or the base of a design found consistently in many cloths, and a fraction of them would be the result of creativity from the creator of the piece.
6. What are the designs based off of, is there a story behind them?
If the designs are traditional and passed down in the family, then there most likely will be a story behind the figures. If a story is not assigned to a design, the customer will find and make a story out of the symmetrical shapes.
7. 'What is the most popular design?' used to be one question, but was replaced with, What designs represent Xizhou and the Bai Minority?
8. Is there competition in the textile production industry serious enough to have to export goods or lower prices? Does it cause conflicts?
There are probably conflicts between the organizations planting factories in the area and the local textile making community. The local stores probably do not export their goods, but they probably arrange the prices of the cloths to make them slightly more attractive to customers than other stores. The factories obviously already export their goods, but probably do not adjust the prices of the goods.
9. Are most of the customers true to one store when buying cloths?
It depends on if all the stores sell the same goods. If a trend was starting in the village with cloth from one store, business would increase at that store for a while. If there was no trends in cloth but all the stores sold the same goods, the customers will go to the store with the lowest price. However if there are varieties and major differences between goods from different stores, the customers will go to whichever store has the most appealing-looking goods.
10. 'Where do textile stores fit in with general stores in terms of tourist attraction, local customers, and yearly income?' used to be one question, but was replaced with: Is the yearly income barely enough to get by? Or does the business have the chance to expand?
The information of different stores in the village are still out of reach now, so the answer is unclear, but I would imagine that textiles have less in all terms when compared to a restaurants or a barbers, because cloths do not need to be purchased as often as food or haircuts.
To see the answers to these questions, please see Phase 3 for details.
This is where Phase 1 of my inquiry project ends. With less than 5 days left before departure, I will work on my next steps of finding helpful resources in Phase 2 soon.