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  • Aodan

Challenging patriarchal norms through traditional crafts

1. Please tell us something about your background and your art journey so far.

My name is Aodan, and I see myself as both an artisan and an artist, blending craftsmanship with artistic expression. My journey into art began with a set of fairy tale books gifted by my parents, whose enchanting illustrations captivated me. I drew on any available surface, created doll clothes, and experimented with embroidery. I attended a liberal arts college, majoring in visual arts, which allowed me to draw inspiration from various disciplines. Later, I turned to fashion design during graduate school, where I began incorporating traditional craft techniques like embroidery into my work. Over time, my focus on ancient crafts evolved naturally, driven by a deep-seated passion.

2. Describe what a normal day looks like as an artist. 

My days are a blend of inspiration, creation, and dedication. I often start with a quiet evening (yes, I’m a night owl), reflecting on new ideas sparked by nature, music, or other forms of beauty. I then spend hours meticulously working on my craft, whether it's thread wrapped flowers, embroidery, or Liuli glass jewelry. Each day involves a balance between artistic exploration and the precise techniques required for my traditional crafts.

3. Can you tell us more about the theme in your art and your inspiration?

My art delves into the complexities within femininity and the female gender, exploring themes of beauty, struggle, and identity. The traditional crafts I use, such as embroidery and thread wrapped flowers, were historically practiced by women and often dismissed by the art world. My work aims to challenge these patriarchal norms and bring recognition to the cultural and social significance of these crafts. I am inspired by the courage of women who, despite limitations, continued to create and pass down their artistic legacy.

4. How does your art life impact other parts of your life? 

My art life is deeply intertwined with my personal life. The dedication and focus required for my craft teach me patience and resilience, qualities that permeate other aspects of my life. The cultural heritage I explore in my work also connects me to my roots, giving me a sense of identity and purpose that impacts my everyday interactions and perspectives.

5. Could you share any difficulties and hardships you had to face in life and how or if you managed/overcame them? 

Working with traditional ethnic crafts as a diaspora artist presents significant challenges. These crafts are often seen as too crafty for modern art, too feminine for men, and too unfamiliar to foreigners. Despite these obstacles, I remain committed to perfecting these art forms because they hold precious cultural significance. Overcoming these difficulties involves a deep dedication to my craft and a willingness to educate and bridge cultural gaps through my work.

6. Tell us about your best experience in the art world so far. 

One of my best experiences has been seeing my work appreciated by people from diverse backgrounds. Witnessing my Liuli or thread wrapped flowers adorning individuals from different cultures and seeing my traditional Forbidden Stitch scarf complementing an African kaftan brings me great joy. It affirms the universality of art and its ability to transcend cultural boundaries.

7. Share your worst experience in the art world. 

The worst experiences often stem from the struggle of being recognized and taken seriously within a Western-centric art world. Traditional crafts are sometimes dismissed as mere crafts rather than true art, which can be disheartening. However, these challenges have only strengthened my resolve to preserve and promote these art forms.

8. What practical advice can you give to fellow artists? 

My advice to fellow artists is to never be afraid to start small and always speak for yourself. Embrace your unique perspective and use any challenges, including stereotypes or lack of understanding, as opportunities to reinforce your dedication. Trust in the art itself and remember that your work, no matter how small, is a step toward gaining recognition.

9. Is the artist life lonely? Please share your thoughts and experiences.

The life of an artist can indeed be lonely at times, especially when working with traditional crafts that require long hours of solitary focus. However, this solitude is also a source of deep reflection and creativity. It's a time when I connect with the past and the cultural heritage embedded in my work, making the solitude a meaningful and enriching experience.

10. What are you working on at the moment and are there any upcoming events you would like to talk about?

I am currently focused on revitalizing ancient beauty by incorporating traditional crafts like Chanhua and embroidery into modern life. My studio, Not Kimono Studio, celebrates the beauty and craftsmanship of traditional Chinese arts. We aim to counter mass production and ensure these techniques thrive in contemporary society. Stay tuned for upcoming exhibitions and collaborations that continue to highlight these beautiful and intricate art forms.


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