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PostPosted: Thu Dec 21, 2006 5:31 am 
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Joined: Mon May 10, 2004 7:12 am
Posts: 143
Location: Bristol, England
Below is a selection of 5 Rao Jia baby carriers which I hope will be of interest. Some time ago, Steven (Frost) told me he had seen a fine Rao Jia baby carrier in an exhibition he visited at the Birmingham Museum of Art (in the States rather than central England) this summer. Unfortunately, he was not allowed to take photos, so he couldn’t show me what he thought constituted a “fine” carrier. Anyways, I reckon this group is a fairly good representation of their work.

The first uses appliqué, with the popular red woolen cloth as the base material and a piece of shiny black cotton cloth with the patterns cut out and stitched on top. The next 2 use vibrant coloured embroidery on shiny cloth and the last 2 are batik.

Unfortunately, I know very little about these carriers and even the 70 and 80 year old women (including those in the last 2 photos) I’ve spoken to haven’t been able to tell me very much concerning the age of these pieces or the meaning of the patterns. However, all of them (except no.5) have the swastika motif, together with various bird and butterfly “dragons” (that old catch-all description), butterflies and flowers. Like the Ge Jia, the Rao Jia seem to like using the spiral pattern on their batik, I wish they could tell me why.

Well, wishing you all a Happy Christmas and a successful 2007.


Attachments:
File comment: Rao Jia baby carrier 1
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File comment: Rao Jia baby carrier 1
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File comment: Rao Jia baby carrier 1
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File comment: Rao Jia baby carrier 2
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File comment: Rao Jia baby carrier 2
Rao-Jia-baby-carrier-31.2.jpg
Rao-Jia-baby-carrier-31.2.jpg [ 62.63 KiB | Viewed 12445 times ]
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 21, 2006 5:36 am 
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Location: Bristol, England
Rao Jia baby carriers continued.


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File comment: Rao Jia baby carrier 3
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File comment: Rao Jia baby carrier 3
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File comment: Rao Jia baby carrier 3 (detail)
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File comment: Rao Jia baby carrier 3 (detail)
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File comment: Rao Jia baby carrier 4
Rao-Jia-baby-carrier-36.1.jpg
Rao-Jia-baby-carrier-36.1.jpg [ 65.09 KiB | Viewed 12453 times ]
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 21, 2006 5:45 am 
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Joined: Mon May 10, 2004 7:12 am
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Location: Bristol, England
Rao Jia baby carriers continued


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File comment: Rao Jia baby carrier 4 (detail)
Rao-Jia-baby-carrier-36.2.jpg
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File comment: Rao Jia baby carrier 5
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File comment: Rao Jia baby carrier 5 (detail)
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File comment: Rao Jia old women, Majiang County, Guizhou
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File comment: Rao Jia 80+ years old woman, Maajiang county, Guizhou. Note the batik head scarf,
Rao-Jia-old-woman.jpg
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 21, 2006 10:51 am 
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Andrew

What a truly splendid finale from you in 2006!

I don't think that I have ever seen any Rao Jia baby carriers. It is great to see this group together and get a sense of their unified style as well as differences. Fascinating to see the links between applique and embroidery. The - I suppose - more work-a-day wax resist baby carriers are more restrained and yet have such assured flow and technical quality in the wax application. I like the way that there is an echo of the applied strips of points trim from the applique/embroidered carriers replicated in the wax resist. Sort of like a black and white photo of a subject in colour.

Thanks very much for ending with the atmospheric photo of the old ladies and the close-up of the one and her wax resist head covering. Do you have one of these and, if so, could you post a photo showing it flat so that we can see the shape. (Trust me to be greedy!!!!).

These are a very fine set of baby carriers. Each individually is an excellent example but seen together it really does give such a sense of the group style. They 'speak' quite loudly demanding attention. Individually, the actual shape and size is very pared down yet all the surface is filled with pattern. One can imagine the first three being worn at festivals and perhaps even prepared as part of a set of textiles that a young girl would make for her wedding. I feel that the last two would be used more every day.

Thank you very much indeed for sharing these gems from your collection and also for giving us all the detail shots so that we can understand them better. Can I just confirm what you say about the first applique carrier that the red material has been inserted behind the indigo layer i.e. is reverse applique with raw edges secured by couching? In the photos, especially the close up, it looks to be the reverse of this. However, I know that this is often a trick of how the eye perceives the photo.

A very happy Christmas and New Year to you and your family and thank you so much for all the pleasure and information that you have given to this forum throughout 2006. It has been a privilege to be able to share your superb collection and widen our understanding. I am, of course, hoping that you will keep up the good work in 2007 and I am sure that other forum members endorse this plea!

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Pamela

http://www.tribaltextiles.info
on-line tribal textiles resource


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2006 5:53 am 
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Location: Bristol, England
Pamela, yes, I really can confirm that it is reverse appliqué. It looks like there is a single piece of red cloth beneath the indigo cotton cloth. The cut out patterns are very neatly couched onto the red cloth with either a brown or red thread running around the edges of the couching. You can see what I mean on the left side top edge of the detailed photo where the thread has been broken.

The batik carriers would have been used more often than the embroidered ones (though I’m not sure whether every girl would have had both- probably not), being washable, but it’s possible there would have been an even more basic carrier used on a daily basis (I’ll try and find out). It must be remembered, however, that although embroidery looks more impressive and was more costly in terms of coloured dyes and silk thread and more easily spoiled, batik was a harder skill to master and making a spiral pattern batik carrier of the quality of no.4 would have required years and years of practice. The batik carriers were therefore often made by older woman for their daughters to use with their children. The Ge Jia will tell you that the spiral pattern is the hardest, most soul destroying textile work they had to learn, causing much heart-ache and tears when things went wrong, both during the waxing stage and the dying process. There couldn’t have been anything more upsetting than to have a perfectly waxed piece ruined during dying. So I appreciate all spiral pattern batik and consider great pieces should be hung with the very best art!

I do have some head scarves. There are two types, the everyday type like the one the old woman is wearing in the photo above, and a more formal type used for special occasions. The first type is long and narrow with quite simple batik patterns and is wound around the hair/head like a simple turban (If I get my scanner operational again, I’ll post photos). The second is shorter and wider and has a more complex pattern in either batik or embroidery, and is draped over the bound head (Note, some are longer than others, this is because the longer scarf is folded in half giving two squarer sides for use, the shorter version gave only the one side for use). For the second type, see below.

The first three are batik. No. 1 is probably the oldest, having the most traditional style of pattern, no. 2 also has more traditional forms, including the ox-head spiral dragon. No.3 is very new and the two embroidered scarves; 4 and 5 are also newer with each including modern versions of spiral birds and bird-headed dragons. Embroidered scarves seem to be comparatively new.


Attachments:
File comment: Rao Jia batik scarf 1.1
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File comment: Rao Jia batik scarf 2.1
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File comment: Rao Jia batik scarf 3.1
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File comment: Rao Jia batik scarf 3.2
Rao-Jia-head-scarf-19.2.jpg
Rao-Jia-head-scarf-19.2.jpg [ 66.06 KiB | Viewed 12421 times ]
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2006 5:58 am 
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Location: Bristol, England
scarves continued


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File comment: Rao Jia embroidered scarf 4.1
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File comment: Rao Jia embroidered scarf 4.2
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File comment: Rao Jia embroidered scarf 5.1
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File comment: Rao Jia embroidered scarf 5.2
Rao-Jia-head-scarf-22.2.jpg
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2006 6:28 pm 
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
Andrew-
Thanks so much for sharing another facet of your collection. Could you elucidate a little more on your knowledge as to when each type of carrier is used. I take it your answers would apply to all of the Ge Jia. I am especially interested as to when they would use the complicated died pieces ve4rsus the complicated embroidered pieces. This question is for you too Pamela as you seem to have a remarkable memory as to where there are appropriate comments in the literature for any question.

Thanks in advance,

Bill


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2006 7:41 pm 
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Andrew

I am SO glad that I asked about the headscarves as your 'answer' brought forth such very interesting textiles! Fascinating to see the wax resist and the embroidered head scarves (imitating the wax resist) and to compare them. Personally the wax resist 'talk' to me loudest but that is a personal fascination. The skill level in each is high but I agree with you (and the Rao Jia women themselves) that the skill and control required for wax resist and dying is very high indeed. The Rao Jia are certainly some of the very best waxers based on the wonderful textiles in your collection - these baby carriers, head scarves and, of course, the superb bed/coffin covers that you have shown us over several threads. As I have mentioned on at least one earlier thread, I have tried some wax resist at a workshop taught by Ge Jia using their style of wax knife and it certainly reinforced for me the awareness of the huge amount of skill required and years and years of practice.

It is interesting to see that the Rao Jia are using embroidery to replicate textiles previously made in wax resist, a decorative technique which will take many years of practice to perfect - more than embroidery. Also, I think it is much easier to pick up and put down embroidery than wax resist. In other minorities embroidery is superceding weaving for similar reasons.

Bill, I cannot think of any helpful references in the literature - there isn't really that much good stuff (well researched and well expressed) on Chinese minority textiles written in English - to help us. Certainly wax resist will stand up to wear and washing very much better than embroidery. However, I think that a new, fine wax resist baby carrier might well be shown off on special occasions almost as much as an embroidered one. There can also be historical reasons for the use of indigo wax resist where there may have been laws forbidding the use of colour and periods when it may have been politically sensible not to use bright colours or when they were just not available. I would use a wax resist babycarrier in the rain (and it rains a lot in SW China) where I would not use an embroidered one.

Thanks again for feast of textiles and the lovely photos of the old ladies.

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Pamela

http://www.tribaltextiles.info
on-line tribal textiles resource


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 Post subject: Thank you Andrew!
PostPosted: Sun Dec 24, 2006 5:40 am 
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Posts: 393
Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Andrew-
Many thanks for all the wonderful eye candy! I really am developing an appreciation for these batiks- both the lovely blanket covers and the baby carriers, and now the headscarves. I find it really interesting to see the transition from batik to embroidery in the headscarves as certain skills are replaced with others. I think that Pamela's point about embroidery being more portable and easy to put down and pick up is a very valid one, especially compared to batik. In China, I have found numerous small bits that were embroidered and obviously intended to be sewn onto something, or combined with other bits to form a whole, because it's easier to carry the small pieces and work on them. And of course, mastering the skill of batik is more difficult than embroidery, especially when using an embroidery pattern.

It's also very educational for us to see all these wonderful Rao Jia examples- to my knowledge there is very little of their work represented in the literature available. You have quite a collection! Thank you too, for the lovely 'people' photos- context is so important. We busily collect the items created by women, but because of the separation from the source for most in the collection process, we often do not see who created the pieces, how they lived, how the pieces were used. My most meaningful pieces are not necessarily the most beautiful, but the ones I have acquired directly from the maker, in her village. They have soul. You have been very lucky to visit and collect at the source, and we thank you for sharing all of this with us.

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Susan Stem

http://www.tribaltrappings.com
http://tribaltrappings.blogspot.com/


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 Post subject: Rao Jia head scarves
PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2007 2:33 am 
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Location: Bristol, England
As promised some months ago, I am now able to post a couple of examples of the long batik turban style head scarves worn by older Rao Jia women (as in the photos above and below). Young women generally don’t bother to wear this type of head scarf, although some 45/50 year olds sometimes do for formal occasions. The first one uses traditional motifs including groups of 4 connected bird-dragons seeming to make up the popular swastika pattern and surrounded by fairly abstract birds and fish (and also sometimes referred to as dragons! It is very difficult to find out exactly what constitutes a bird and what makes it a bird-dragon). The second one includes 2 spiral dragons (definitely dragons) with 4 additional spirals coming off each (meaning unclear). These two scarves were said to be 70+ years old (but I’m in no position to verify this).

The photo of woman 1 shows a 60+ years old wearing a set of clothes she made 30+ years before, indicating her generation was still making batik head scarves. Whereas Rao Jia woman 2 shows a 45-50? years old woman (I’ve lost my notes!) wearing her set of clothes, presumably made around 20 years ago, which includes an embroidered turban type head scarf and embroidered formal head scarf. Also, a photo of a new turban style scarf being embroidered (they seem to favour green coloured thread these days).

The transition from batik to embroidery is supposed to have started to take place around 30/40 years ago (can't be sure), but it can be seen on young children's clothing as well as these head scarves. I'll put some examples on the Rao Jia batik clothing thread of last year. It does help to show that batik is a difficult and time consuming medium to master and is becoming a lost skill.


Attachments:
File comment: Rao Jia batik turban style head scarf 1
Rao Jia batik turban 1.1.jpg
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File comment: Detail
Rao Jia batik turban 1.2.jpg
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File comment: Rao Jia batik turban style head scarf 2
Rao Jia batik turban 2.1.jpg
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File comment: Detail
Rao Jia batik turban 2.2.jpg
Rao Jia batik turban 2.2.jpg [ 70.85 KiB | Viewed 12043 times ]


Last edited by Andrew Dudley on Wed May 30, 2007 2:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2007 2:41 am 
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Location: Bristol, England
More photos of Rao Jia women and their head gear.


Attachments:
File comment: 60+ years old woman wearing her batik head scarf
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File comment: 45-50 year old wearing her embroidered head scarf
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File comment: From the back, including silver hair pin
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File comment: With formal scarf draped over the bound hair
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File comment: Embroidering a new head scarf
Rao-Jia-woman-doing-embroid.jpg
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 Post subject: Rao Jia head scarves
PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2007 10:43 pm 
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Andrew - your photographs are very interesting. Do you happen to know what stitch is used in the embroidered pieces? Possibly a satin stitch? Is the design first drawn on the material with chalk? Thanks for sharing your pictures - Martina Lively


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu May 31, 2007 10:37 am 
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Martina

The embroidery stitch used on baby carriers to replace the reverse applique is satin stitch. I would be surprised if the design is drawn on. I would expect it to be stitched over paper cuts. This is what you frequently find with Miao embroidery and I see no reason for it to be different for Rao Jia given the way that all the different groups are influenced by each other. The embroidery designs on these Rao Jia baby carriers look to me as if they have been created in this way. See http://www.tribaltextiles.info/Gallerie ... PMCE38.htm for an example of this in Pao Ma Cheng village, Teng Jiao township, Xingren country, Guizhou province by the Miao.

However, this is not the way that the wax resist designs in the head cloths would have been created. These are drawn freehand with the wax knife with hot wax and no pencil drawing or template is used. (I don't know if the Rao Jia use bees wax or tree resin or a mixture of both. Perhaps Andrew can tell us.)

Sorry Andrew, I don't mean to push in!

best wishes,

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Pamela

http://www.tribaltextiles.info
on-line tribal textiles resource


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu May 31, 2007 12:32 pm 
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Location: Bristol, England
The Rao Jia predominantly use basic satin stitch. Actually, they do not use paper cuts, but draw the pattern (in the past using a piece of dry clay earth, nowadays I’ve no idea what they use) onto the cloth. You can just see on the photo of the new head scarf being embroidered above, there is an outline of the pattern on the black cloth just above and to the right of where she is embroidering. Also, they would sometimes draw the outline of the pattern for their batik using clay (these days they even use ball-point pens, which can show through the indigo dye). I have several pieces where you can see the drawn patterns, I’ll try and get them posted.

The Rao Jia also sometimes used chain stitch in their embroidery, but it is not particularly well done compared to the Ge Jia and some other minorities (photos will follow eventually).

Rao jia batik is made using maple-tree resin mixed with ox fat, a much more difficult medium to mix and use than bees wax. They also never got around to developing or using bronze waxing knives like the Miao and Ge Jia, but continued to use small bamboo pens, which are also incredibly difficult to use. So, all-in-all the Rao Jia made life difficult for themselves when doing their batik! Another reason to marvel at the quality of their finished batik pieces.

There are pictures of Miao waxing knives somewhere on the forum, but I’ve not been able to locate them!


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 Post subject: Wax/resin identification
PostPosted: Thu May 31, 2007 12:48 pm 
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Posts: 315
There appears to be three different kinds of wax used amongst the Miao: beeswax, paraffin wax and resin wax. The latter is commonly produced from the resin of Liquidamber orientalis Mill.. The common Chinese name for this tree is 'feng' whilst common English names include liquidamber, styrax, storax, Oriental sweet gum and Turkish sweet gum. The formal English name for the resin is 'storax'. In Chinese this resin is known as 'fengxiangzhi'.
The resin is obtained from the tree trunk and forms both in internal cavities of the the bark as well as being naturally exuded. Some research indicates that resin production may be stimulated by beating the trunk in the spring prior to the common autumn harvest (See: Bown. D. (1995). Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. London: Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 0-7513-020-31). In literature available the Miao are said to regard these trees as sacred which bodes well for the trees survival - their natural range now severely curtailed. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that plants do not particularly well on shallow soils overlying chalk/limestone (See: Brickell. C. (1990). The RHS Gardener's Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers. London: Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 0-86318-386) - a common soil type in Guizhou and that seed germination is not particularly robust.
More specifically related to textiles there are several brilliantly illustrated chapters on wax-resist indigo dyeing in the book "Imprints on Cloth: 18 years of Field research among the Miao People of Guizhou, China" by Sadae Torimaru and Tokoko Torimaru (ISBN 4-8167-0592-9) - a gem of a book for explanations!
Regards
Iain


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