How Su Embroidery Rejuvenated the "Embroidery Man" to Explore the Way for Ten Years

  One day at the end of June this year, at Suoshanqiao West Station, the country’s first intangible cultural heritage-themed subway station for Suzhou embroidery, an interactive installation "Starry Sky" that uses two stitches, trocar and pan gold embroidery, and fusion of Suzhou embroidery and digital media technology , Attracted many young people to stop and experience.

  Zhang Xue, the designer of "Starry Sky", stood in the crowd and explained how this work simulates the trajectory of the starry sky.

Not far away, the stop sign work "Suoshan Bridge West" embroidered by Zhang Xue and his mother, the Jiangsu master of arts and crafts and the representative inheritor of Suzhou embroidery intangible cultural heritage, Xue Jindi, is on display.

  In the summer of 2011, Zhang Xue, a male student who just graduated from Nanjing University of Finance and Economics, returned to Suzhou Zhenhu and learned to be a "Gu Su Xiu Lang" with the slightly surprised eyes of his hometown people.

On November 1, 2016, the headline of the 12th page of this newspaper reported his entrepreneurial story under the title "Embroidery Lang Zhang Xue: Let the World Cultural Heritage Su Embroidery Return to Life".

  Today, Zhang Xue's career as a professional embroiderer has reached its 10th year.

In the past 10 years, he has explored the way that Su embroidery integrates into life from the perspectives of design, decoration, and carrier. He also used Su embroidery as a window to witness the process of traditional culture and young people's "two-way rush" in recent years.

Exploration of Su Embroidery's "Younger"

  In September 2018, Zhang Xue took the derivatives of Su embroidery elements to Beijing to participate in the youth entrepreneurship program "Entrepreneurship Hero Meeting".

Among the 12 investors on the show, some were willing to invest 1 million yuan in his project, while others threw him a question: "Anyone can put the embroidery pattern on the headset, saying that this is the inheritance, then your product What is irreplaceable?"

  In this regard, Zhang Xue's answer is: I have an original design.

  Traditional Su embroidery works focus on techniques, and Zhang Xue is more willing to "break through" from creativity.

Since 2013, Zhang Xue has started a "Possibility Experiment of Su Embroidery" that has lasted for several years, from a series of minimalist style embroidery products to daily necessities with Su embroidery elements such as earphones, watches, and pencil cases. "World" and "Minimalism" have always been Zhang Xue's key words to expand the application scenarios of Su embroidery.

  However, when the products designed by Zhang Xue first appeared in their hometown, they also encountered doubts.

As the main birthplace of Suzhou embroidery, Zhenhu's history "every family has an embroidery stretch, and every household has an embroidery mother", the embroidery tradition is thick.

In the eyes of many Zhenhu people, Zhang Xue's works have too much white space and modern designs that run counter to tradition.

"Even my mother was not optimistic about my design at first, saying that you embroider so simple, why would anyone like it?" Zhang Xue said.

  Faced with pressure, Zhang Xue still chose to continue her style. “When I first returned to Zhenhu, I found that there were very few young people in the Suzhou embroidery industry in my hometown. Mainly. If you can start with the styles and fields that young people are interested in to make new attempts, it is also a way for Suzhou embroidery to become younger."

  After several years of exploration, changes are also appearing little by little.

First, young people noticed Zhang Xue’s work through the media. Then, some brands started to contact Zhang Xue to launch cooperative products. Since then, the industry span of cooperative brands has grown wider and wider, and even car brands have asked for the addition of Su embroidery in the interiors. element.

  At the same time, Zhang Xue found that more and more young people returned to Zhenhu to do Su embroidery.

  "Many seniors who were not optimistic about the innovation of Su embroidery, now let their children come back and follow them to learn from the beginning. The young people have big brains and many new ideas. Together, they make Zhenhu Su embroidery more energetic." Zhang Xue said .

  Of course, Zhang Xue did not ignore the reasons behind these changes. "In addition to the influence brought by the youthful exploration of Su embroidery, this generation of young people’s high recognition of traditional culture is also an important factor. It can be said that this is a two-way journey. '."

Remember the people, remember the brand

  There is an embroidery street in Zhenhu. There are hundreds of shops, large and small, all of which operate the Su embroidery business. Zhang Xue's company and offline shops are located on this street.

  “In 2015, I founded Suzhou Miwei Culture and Art Co., Ltd. Now the company has more than 30 employees, and there is also an offline store, which mainly sells the Su embroidery products I designed. In addition to venue costs, labor costs It is the bulk of the expenditure, in addition to the cost of tools, materials and daily expenses. From the start of the business to the present, at least 6 million yuan has been invested." Zhang Xue said.

  In the first two years of starting the business, Zhang Xue focused on product polishing, and the company was not profitable.

In 2017, with the increasing variety of Su embroidery products, and the popularity of Zhang Xue as an "embroider" on social networking sites and media, his Su embroidery brand gradually opened up the market.

  "In 2017, the company began to make a small profit, and has maintained a profit growth rate of 20% every year since then. In terms of revenue, in addition to product sales revenue, there are also revenues from project fees for brand cross-industry cooperation." Zhang Xue said.

  Product creativity is the key to Zhang Xue's entrepreneurship.

In order to protect creativity, Zhang Xue has applied for two invention patents, five utility model patents, 32 appearance patents and more than 800 copyrights. “The e-commerce platform and Zhenhu Embroidery Association also have corresponding measures to deal with infringements. Said the situation is still optimistic."

  In addition to building the "moat" of intellectual property rights, Zhang Xue is quite confident in the uniqueness of creativity: "Embroidery patterns can be'borrowed', but the overall style created by embroidery patterns cannot be taken away by others. In terms of details, Some embroidery patterns seem simple, but they incorporate patented stitches, or embroider a seal in an inconspicuous place. These are not easy to imitate."

  In addition, the protection of intellectual property rights by young people also impressed Zhang Xue.

  "There was a brand that published a product I designed on a social platform. The original intention was to announce the cooperation. However, many young people mistakenly thought that the other party was plagiarism, and left a message at the bottom of the article,'This is Zhang Xue's style. The work is Zhang Xue's.' , I made a clarification at that time, but I was a little happy, which proves that my works are recognizable." Zhang Xue said.

Skills can't be lost

  Zhang Xue pays attention to finding the subject of embroidery in his life. Whenever he sees a moment worth recording, he will think about a question: How to embroider this picture?

So, Zhang Xue embroidered "Prisoner" with an eagle trapped in a net in a farmland; he designed a group fan "Phoenix Yu Fei" based on a cloud with a unique shape.

  In the process of developing themes, Zhang Xue gradually realized that if he wanted to accurately present ideas on embroidery, observation and creativity are one aspect, and skillfulness is another.

  In Zhang Xue's work, the Su embroidered watch is quite a test of needle skills.

On a 38 mm dial, Zhang Xue would split a piece of silk thread into 32 parts, and use one part of the silk thread to embroider the pattern. At the same time, the "run-in" relationship between the pointer and the cloth should be considered.

  When it comes to the practice of embroidering skills, his mother Xue Jindi is a role model for Zhang Xue.

"One stroke and a thousand threads" is a jargon in the field of embroidery in Suzhou, which means that the artist's handwriting is one stroke.

Xue Jindi is good at "substituting needles". She spent several years completing paintings and embroidery works such as "Han Xizai Night Banquet" and "Gusu Prosperous Picture". In her hands, a single silk thread can be split into 32 or 64. Even 128 copies.

  Zhang Xue used to go to his mother's studio to play when he was a child, and he also helped the adults divide the needles and lead wires, but he didn't really understand the value of Su embroidery skills until he joined the industry.

  During the new crown pneumonia epidemic in 2020, Zhang Xue saw a photo of medical staff and patients watching the sunset in the news. “If we can use Su embroidery to record such a realistic subject, it must be very meaningful, and it is also a challenge for testing skills. ".

It took 4 months for Zhang Xue and his mother to use fine flat embroidery and random stitch embroidery to complete this embroidery together.

  "Innovation is by no means abandoning tradition. In fact, it is the opposite. The more I explore in the direction of life and youth in Suzhou embroidery, the more I can feel the vitality of Suzhou embroidery for 2000 years. If I want to go further along the road of Suzhou embroidery , Polishing embroidery skills will be a compulsory course that will last a lifetime." Zhang Xue said.

  Photos and videos are provided by interviewees

  China Youth Daily·China Youth Daily reporter Li Xuan Source: China Youth Daily