Phase 1: Posing Real Questions

Updated 2 years 4 months ago

Previously, in Phase 0, I worked on selecting my final Inquiry Project topic. Eventually, I narrowed my list of choices down to Textile Production and will be focusing specifically on the production and technique of multiple art media. (tie-dye, batik, embroidery, bamboo weaving) Here in Phase 1, I will be gathering background knowledge on Textile Production and will raise questions that will further deepen my understanding of the overall topic.

What I Know:

Currently, I have an overall idea and understanding on what Textile Production is and how it may impact Chinese traditional culture. According to the Inquiry Project descriptors, the area in and around Xizhou has a long traditional history of hand-made items. Artisans have had these skills passed down over many generations, and must understand the practice of their complex tools, process, and different textile skills. I also understand the importance of textile artwork, textiles are not only used for decorative purposes but for functionality as well, like clothing or handmade baskets. The process of creating a textile takes time and patience, one piece must go through many stages before it can be sold to the many tourists and locals around the world. Textile artwork can be a type of cloth or woven fabric and is probably hand-made considering the lack of technology within most rural regions. That being said, advances in manufacturing technology may allow fewer textile designers to produce their traditional textiles, greater imports may compete with domestically made textile products. China influences the world when it comes to global production, taking an enormous toll on how it may affect developing rural communities. Textiles have been a fundamental part of human life since the beginning of civilization, and the methods and materials used to make them have expanded enormously. Overall, I plan to focus and research on the production and technique of traditional textiles, as well as learn the benefits/impacts that Textile Production has on its rural community.

How I Know:

Previously, there have been several occurrences where textile arts have intervened or have taken a part in my learning. For example, one of my elementary field trips consisted of going to a traditional Chinese art museum. Other than the paintings and sculptures, I still remember the amazing color of the many unique fabrics scattered throughout the rooms. I have also heard about the increase in manufacturing technology, so I can infer that the local artists producing those textiles may find it hard to compete with the thousands of highly technological machines. I have been living in China my entire life, and throughout my experience, I have seen, heard about, and come across many local villages that display these beautiful textiles. As for my knowledge on Textile Production in Xizhou, what I know is currently limited to Mr. T's advice, inquiry project descriptors, and previous Microcampus students' reflections. Lena L.'s reflection, in particular, was very helpful, as she had answered some of my unsolved questions and has given me feedback before I had started the process. She shared her learning experience and reflected on the entire journey, I am very grateful for the advice she has given and the lengths she has taken to help others. I am at the beginning of this amazing journey and cannot wait to explore what lies within Textile Production. With the knowledge I know, I can easily generate questions on what I want to discover and to find out where my path will lead...

What I Want to Know:

The spectrum of things I could explore within Textile Production is very broad, but I have narrowed my options down to the technique and production. These elements may sound different, but it is my goal to question and research them both, to find out how they may connect to reach a common goal. I would like to learn more about the actual textile making process and dive deep into the certain techniques used to produce such an amazing work of traditional art. I would also like to learn about what each technique is specifically used for, and if each family has their own style of completing the process. Other than that, I would like to compare how the overall production may affect a finished textile. My goal is to understand how the action of making or manufacturing Chinese artwork is completed using raw materials, focusing on each step of the process. I want to figure out how each stage may benefit the overall product, and what would happen if one step was missed of done incorrectly. However, before I move into the components of Textile Production, I must first research the basics and the overall history of textile artwork in Xizhou. Personally, I feel this will help me get a better understanding of my topic and will make researching easier when I am gathering information about the technique and production of textile artwork. Above all, I am truly hoping to connect with the local artisans, as well as 

Big Questions (with possible answers)

The next step to further prepare for the Microcampus experience is to pose questions about my inquiry project. Before I begin, however, I have to build a solid foundation of background knowledge by conducting research, which can be found in Phase 3. After thoroughly compiling background research, I started the next step, which was to come up with ten major questions I had about my overall topic. These ten questions, or my "Big Questions", are very significant to this learning process, as they will fuel the research once we arrive in Xizhou. You can find my list of ten questions and ten possible answers written down below.

These questions will help lead my inquiry project throughout the beginning of the research process once I arrive in Xizhou. The answers to my questions are written in italics, and I hope that these questions/ answers can help others in the future. These possible answers are based not on research but on my own thoughts. I have also grouped the following questions into different categories that describe their overall theme. But first, it is important to describe the relevance of why my questions are separated the way that I have chosen. The first category I have included is all about current local status. These questions are specifically about how Chinese local communities deal with textile production as part of their lives. The second category I have made deals with questions related to culture technique. Based on Chinese culture, the questions in this category cover the overall technique on how/why textiles in rural China are produced. Lastly, my third and final category is all about the style of specific textile art forms, to find my questions please scroll down below:

 
Current Local Status:
 
1. How has the local textile industry been affected considering the increase in textile machinery?
From what I have researched in Phase 3, I know that the local textile industry has been impacted because of textile machinery developments. The need for textile products are now increasing because of
our constantly growing population. China is the largest and most developed textile producer throughout the entire globe and with the more and more locals moving into cities, I can imagine that many rural
communities are being affected negatively. Some of the effects may include a decrease in local artisans wages and less artwork being bought because of the machinery-produced alternative.
 
2. How are the daily lives of the local artisans affected when having a textile occupation?
For all the local artisans that are part of the textile industry, I can imagine that their lives are consumed with producing quality pieces of traditional in the quickest amount of time possible. I know that from
the ages as early as 5 years old, local artisans assist their children to become skilled craftsmen, some of these skills are passed through so many generations that it becomes a family tradition. Once the artists in training had mastered his/her skill, they must learn to make a living on their own. I can infer that an average day would be spent going through the process of planning, designing, and producing their skilled handicraft. In order to survive, a typical artisan must learn to make a business out of what they can make, selling their products (at an affordable price) to both tourists and locals.
 
3. What does it take to become a local textile artist/manufacturer?
From what I have learned and from what I can infer, it takes quite a lot of time and patience to become what is known as a skilled textile craftsman/women. As I have mentioned earlier, children with a specific textile skill in their bloodline learn the ways of their parents at a very young age. It is said that it takes three years of daily training to be able to master a craft of the textile arts. However, those who plan to pursue in their textile craft must practice for many more years in order to truly understand the ways of their craft. (their way of survival)
 
Cultural Technique:
 
4. Are there any specific textile techniques that relate to the culture in Dali, and if so, how?
According to my research, I have only studied the basics of textile technique within rural China. Becuase of the sources I have found, none of my knowledge is narrowed (yet) down to what lives and culture within Dali. However, I do know that the basic artistic textile techniques of China include spinning, dyeing, weaving, and embroidering. Each of these techniques are broad and are yet to be narrowed down while I uncover what makes these techniques different from the rest of China. I will pursue this question when interviewing locals and investigating the culture around me, I can't wait!
 
5. What is the difference between using natural and chemical based fibers when producing textile artwork within Xizhou?
I am very curious to find out the answer to this questions, but currently, I have no idea what to expect. Later, I will do some more background research which can be done on the side and will surely help me in the future...
 
6. What are the different ways of handling textile quality control?
I can currently only infer the answer to the question above, for I can "guestimate" how Chinese textiles are kept clean, safe, and organized. First of all, the color of the fabric must be checked regularly for changes in color can represent stretched or moldy fabric. To make sure the natural fibers are in good condition, one must also monitor the condition of the raw materials such as fabric, thread, bamboo. The stitch strength and fabric durability are key concepts in order to make textile products in great condition and in the best quality possible. Finally, I also have conducted early research that has said fabric exposed to ultraviolet rays and/or the sun’s rays must be monitored more frequently than the fibers kept indoors. It is said that when natural fibers are exposed to radiation, the durability could decrease depending on its overall quality to start off with.
 
Style:
 
7. How does Chinese embroidery impact the lives of both the locals and tourists?
The overall idea of embroidery is very broad and is yet to be narrowed to the specific craft's culture, process, and technique. From what I know so far, embroidery is the handicraft of decorating fabric or other materials using a needle to apply thread/yarn. Embroidery may also incorporate other materials such as pearls, beads, quills, and sequins. This complex handicraft impacts everyone living within the Xizhou community is a numerous amount of ways... I plan to focus my research on conducting interviews with locals and tourists as well as independently uncovering/investigating the components of this Chinese local craft.  My goal is to also investigate how this Chinese art form is viewed and produced in other cultures, such as communities within China and throughout the world. (this relates to all other art forms within my Chinese textile research)
 
8. How does Chinese batik impact the lives of both the locals and tourists?
The overall idea of batik is very broad and is yet to be narrowed to the specific craft's culture, process, and technique. From what I know so far,  is a technique of wax-resist dyeing applied to whole cloth, or cloth made using this technique. To make a batik, selected areas of the cloth are blocked out by brushing or drawing hot wax over them, and the cloth is then dyed. This complex handicraft impacts everyone living within the Xizhou community is a numerous amount of ways... I plan to focus my research on conducting interviews with locals and tourists as well as independently uncovering/investigating the components of this Chinese local craft.  My goal is to also investigate how this Chinese art form is viewed and produced in other cultures, such as communities within China and throughout the world. (this relates to all other art forms within my Chinese textile research)
 
9. How does Chinese bamboo weaving impact the lives of both the locals and tourists?
The overall idea of bamboo weaving is very broad and is yet to be narrowed to the specific craft's culture, process, and technique. From what I know so far, bamboo weaving is a method of textile production in which two distinct sets of yarn or threads are interlaced at right angles to form a fabric or cloth. This complex handicraft impacts everyone living within the Xizhou community is a numerous amount of ways... I plan to focus my research on conducting interviews with locals and tourists as well as independently uncovering/investigating the components of this Chinese local craft.  My goal is to also investigate how this Chinese art form is viewed and produced in other cultures, such as communities within China and throughout the world. (this relates to all other art forms within my Chinese textile research)
 
10. How does Chinese tie-dyeing impact the lives of both the locals and tourists?
The overall idea of Chinese tie-dye is very broad and is yet to be narrowed to the specific craft's culture, process, and technique. The process of tie-dye typically consists of folding, twisting, pleating, or crumpling fabric or a garment and binding with string or rubber bands, followed by application of dye(s). This complex handicraft impacts everyone living within the Xizhou community is a numerous amount of ways... I plan to focus my research on conducting interviews with locals and tourists as well as independently uncovering/investigating the components of this Chinese local craft.  My goal is to also investigate how this Chinese art form is viewed and produced in other cultures, such as communities within China and throughout the world. (this relates to all other art forms within my Chinese textile research)
 
Before I leave for Microcampus, there are a few things I need to know to make the most out of my time in Xizhou. First of all, I need to consider researching the difference between each of the fibers used to create Chinese textiles. That way, I will not waste time in Xizhou when asking unimportant questions. In addition, I need to know which local artisans I can interview in Xizhou to even further develop the understanding of my topic. Knowing these things will help me gain the most helpful information in interviews without wasting any time at all. This information can be found documented on the previous Microcampus attendees workspaces (listed above), students who completed a similar inquiry topic in comparison to mine. Once I know these things, I will be able to use my limited time in Xizhou to the best of my ability.

The next step is Phase 2, where I will compile a list of helpful resources. This will build upon my foundation of background research and take me further along this learning journey.

Hi Everyone! My name is Holly and I am so grateful to say that I am part of the "Ultimate" Microcampus Group. I am learning so much and am so lucky to experience life outside the Shanghai bubble. Not only am I focusing on a topic that I greatly enjoy, but I am able to make connections with the many locals I will soon get to know. This trip I am part of is an unforgettable experience and will "ultimately" be an amazing trip. See you guys in a month!