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  • Writer's pictureClaudio Fibonacci

Preserving Tradition: Meet the London-Based Artisan Reviving Centuries-Old Chinese Crafts

Preserving Centuries-Old Chinese Crafts: The Journey of Yiran Duan and Yi Crafts

Preserving Centuries-Old Chinese Crafts: The Journey of Yiran Duan and Yi Crafts

The Rich Tapestry of Chinese Handicrafts

When one thinks of Chinese craftsmanship, the mind often goes straight to the intricate works of silk embroidery. However, Yiran Duan, the visionary behind Yi Crafts, is on a mission to showcase the vast array of traditional handicrafts that her homeland, particularly her birthplace Dali in southwest China, has to offer. From weaving and indigo dyeing to pottery and wood carving, Duan’s roots in the Bai ethnic minority have deeply influenced her appreciation for these ancient arts.

From Indigo Farms to London Studios

Growing up on an indigo farm that has been in her family for five generations, Duan’s early life was intertwined with the rhythm of traditional dyeing and weaving. Despite this, she initially viewed these practices as mere labor, a sentiment common among the youth seeking opportunities in larger cities. Her perspective shifted dramatically upon studying costume design in London, where she found a unique voice by blending traditional Chinese techniques with Western fashion design.

A Cultural Bridge Through Crafts

In 2019, Duan established her studio, Yi Crafts, as a platform to celebrate and share traditional Chinese craftsmanship and culture. The onset of the pandemic presented challenges but also opportunities, as Duan adapted by offering online workshops and sewing kits, helping people worldwide connect with the tactile joy of crafting and slow fashion.

Experiencing Shibori and Beyond

Yi Crafts offers a variety of workshops that not only teach the art of indigo dyeing, known as Shibori outside of China, but also other traditional crafts like embroidery, natural dyeing, and woodblock printing. These sessions not only serve as a creative escape but also deepen participants’ understanding of the cultural significance behind each craft.

  1. Shibori: Stitch Resist workshops

  2. Embroidery techniques

  3. Sashiko stitching

  4. Natural dyeing practices

  5. Woodblock printing

  6. Paper cutting

Reconnecting with Our Textiles

Through her work, Duan is not only sharing her culture and keeping traditional crafts alive; she is also fostering a deeper connection between people and their clothing. By understanding the labor and love that go into each piece, we learn to appreciate our garments in a new way. Yiran Duan’s journey with Yi Crafts is a testament to the power of preserving heritage while inspiring a modern appreciation for the craftsmanship of the past.

For more stories on traditional crafts and cultural preservation, stay tuned to our blog.

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