The Process

A Fan of Trees, Wind

A Fan of Trees, Wind

One hot day last summer I was looking at the sale table outside one of those Chinatown shops full of interesting things. I found some traditional folding and some traditional solid fans in a box. I tried a few of the folding fans for snap and air flow, but. I didn’t like any of them enough. So I looked at the solid fans, and chose one with an image of a young Asian woman playing a stringed instrument. I didn’t like it much either, but I figured I could paint over it.

Traditionally, the images on fans have been idealized – pastoral landscapes, beautiful young women dressed in flowing robes playing musical instruments, or birds in groves. I decided to apply an urban image to this fan: I painted it blue sky with power poles and lines, and printed one crow on it. I liked it, so decided to make more. I didn’t want to have to paint over commercial fans, so I decided to figure out how to make them.

“How hard can it be?” I thought. I knew that someone, somewhere, must have made closed fans, but I wasn’t able to find instructions. I had to figure out my own process for making them.

  • As I worked on the fan project, I kept a list of the processes/materials that I figured out:
  • A material that could be shaped, but was rigid enough to hold fabric evenly taut, for the fan frame;
  • A material for handles;
  • A way to attach the fan frame to the handle;
  • A fabric that would work;
  • A way to print on the fabric that would allow acceptable transfer of detail of the image;
  • A way to adhere the fabric to the frame;
  • Finish – a  way to trim the edges of the frame, and finish of the handle and the frame;
  • Presentation: After I finished the first I realized that these artifacts were delicate, so I wanted to find a way to present the fans that would protect them, yet not take away from the beauty and craft.
  • The construction of each fan is a simple process, but not easy – bamboo strips are soaked then bent, silk is printed with images, the silk is then stretched over the bent bamboo frame. The making of each fan has something to teach about the process of fan-making: the bamboo often breaks, but when it does bend, the shapes are organic – unpredictable yet beautiful, the urban images are bold, and each fan is unique. Each of these fans is mounted inside a frame/box which contributes depth and dimensionality, and confers a sense of these pieces being precious, like artifacts on display in a museum or institution.

    I am very excited about the series of work that I am currently making – three groups of fans, “A Fan of Trees”, “Thought and Memory” and “Aerial Perspective”. I have received many compliments on the fans and many interesting comments. For example, during the Eastside Culture Crawl, one studio visitor said “It’s so peaceful – it’s like a zen palace”, which pretty much sums it up.

    ~ by thiscassandra on Thursday 10 March 2011.

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