Embroidery master strives to modernise craft

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2008, 12:00am

A master Cantonese embroiderer from the mainland has brought her battle to modernise her craft to a Hong Kong shopping mall.

Known for its complex, multicoloured patterns, it is the oldest of the four most famous Chinese embroidery styles, dating back more than 1,000 years.

Chen Shaofang, who founded the Cantonese Embroidery Institute in her home town of Panyu 15 years ago, is showcasing her work at the APM mall in Kwun Tong. She says the craft has a serious problem because embroiderers are sticking too closely to tradition and it is losing its vitality and creativity.

Her institute aimed not only to preserve Cantonese embroidery but develop it and pass it down, she said. But often the embroiderers it trained abandon the craft, said Li Min, Chen's daughter-in-law.

Tempted by opportunities to make more money, fewer city dwellers sustain efforts to learn the craft and carry it forward, she said.

Among works Chen, 71, is displaying at the mall is I Love Chicks, her creation showing a girl playing with 41 chicks which prompted then paramount leader Deng Xiaoping to exclaim, 'Hey, look at the chicks!', when he saw it at the 1978 National Arts and Crafts Exhibition.

The work is valued at HK$1.8 million, though it is not for sale.