Cut by Hand and Shaped by Palm, a World in the Fabric
Noises of children filled the big campus. “Hello Principal! Hi Principal!” can be heard here and there. The place is Wenhua Elementary School in Miaoli City and the principal is the always-smiling Zhou Meichun. Born in the countryside of Tongluo Township of Miaoli County in 1945, she is endowed with a pair of skillful hands and has create one after another piece of fabric sculpture rich in color and elegant in essence. Anyone who sees it cannot help but want to keep it. Fond of painting since childhood, Zhou meichun started fabric sculpture ten years ago. “I remember glancing at a pile of laundry by the washer. The scattered patches of color and the rhythm of the patterns at that instant formed an interesting design, sultry like a beautiful lady coming out of a bath, extremely attractive with a bit of tired sexiness.” The inspiration presented itself and she began to use different fabric scraps to cut out little animals, females from different eras, and features in aboriginal and Hakka lives to collage on cards accompanied by some sensible wording. She gave these cards to the teachers and students at the school she was working. To her surprise, they were so popular and she found it impossible to quit. As a result, she plunged right into the world of fabric sculpture.
Continuous inspirations soon made the greeting cards too small to display what Zhou Meichun could achieve. She found a picture framer who had similar tastes for art and started to create larger fabric sculptures. She stressed: “Fabric sculpture is just like painting, except the brushes and colors are replaced with scissors and glue.” She often sits back and stares at a common-looking fabric scrap for some time, like there’s a whole world of possibilities inside the fabric, before she picks up the scissors and cuts out the product in one go. It is usually one entire piece and she seldom fails. Her sense of care for things can be noticed in her works; even threads could be used to wind out “An Entanglement of Life”. The same material can appear in various pieces showing different effects. Discarded fabric scraps are given a new life in her hands. She believes everything has its purpose and even the tiniest scrap can have its function if it’s put in the right place. “Doing what can be done with what’s available” and creating endless variations based on the color, pattern and material gives Zhou Meichun the greatest pleasure.
When she was working at Zhaonan Elementary School, some supervisor from the Bureau of Education came to visit and saw some works hanging on the wall in the principal’s office. Out of curiosity, the supervisor asked about them and was surprised to hear she had created them herself. The praises and encouragement from the supervisor gave her a lot of confidence and she organized a fabric sculpture exhibit with some teachers and students. Cheering criticisms swarmed in and encouraged her to carry on. In 2001 under the invitation of Miaoli County Cultural Bureau, she had her own first exhibition entitled: “Fibers, Beauty and Spirit” – Zhou Meichun Original Fabric Sculpture Exhibit. This officially put her artworks in the spotlight. Ever since, she has made great efforts to promote fabric sculpture through displays and seminars to have it become rooted in Miaoli as well as seek development in other places.
Walking through the rackets in Wenhua Elementary School, it is obvious that the interactions between the kids and the principal are spontaneous and have no distance. Zhou Meichun’s creativity can be detected in everywhere. “The 24 hours in a day for others I have to use them like there are 48 hours.” She is always pressed for time. Besides running the school, she has to take care of the small vegetable garden in her backyard before it gets dark. Apart from plants, she also likes rocks. A plain-looking rock can become a unique decorative item under her skillful hands.
Certainly, there are also the cooking duty of a housewife and looking after her grandchildren and her mother-in-law, who’s over 90 years of age. When it’s finally all quiet in the deep of the night, she brings out her toolbox containing tailor’s chalks in all kinds of colors, scissors, glue and fabric scraps, and begins to shear, glue and assemble under the light. She gallops in the vast space of imagination and cuts the bits and pieces of life into the picture. “Fabric sculpture allows scraps to have art expressions. It can be artistic or it can be unsophisticated at all.” In her world, everything in life has a meaning. She invites everybody to join her to explore the world of fabric sculpture, learn the Midas touch and experience the beauty of art. (Written by Qi Shifang)