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Art Straws

The straw patchwork is basically an art of "cut-and-paste", just like paper-cuts. There is a series of complicated procedures to make wheat straw a beautiful artwork. With its unique luster, the straw patchwork is of high value both for decoration and esthetics. Human figures, birds and flowers as well as animals on the patchwork are all very lifelike, revealing an elegant and classic demeanor.

The straw patchwork was originally an imperial art craft during the Sui Dynasty (581-618) but later was lost for a long time. It first reappeared in Henan, Guangdong and Heilongjiang provinces. In 1980s, folk artist Liu Limin revived the art form after many failed attempts.

Liu lives in Henan Province, a place teeming with wheat, which provides good resources for the straw patchwork. The village where she lives has a tradition of producing various crafts made of wheat straw for more than 250 years. Here, Liu began to weave up her own dream of reviving the ancient art of straw patchwork. For more than five years, she has endeavored to make all kinds of experiments. With her imagination and artistic knowledge, she finally summed up a set of manufacture procedures, reviving the long-lost art form.

To make the patchwork, the wheat straw first has to be soaked in a special kind of chemicals for 30 minutes, which will make the straw antiseptic, mothproof and more flexible. Then the useless parts are cut off and the straw is split from the middle. The straws are flat when they are dry, but they are still raw materials and can’t be used directly. The inside of the straws needs to be scraped thinner, leaving only the shining “skin” of straws. The straws also need to be colored. The method for coloring is not dye but carbonization, which is depigmentation-preventable.

In order to keep the shape of the straw patchwork for a longer time, Liu has developed a special kind of glue and chemicals used to intenerate the straw after years of research and hard work, which has been patented. The glue and chemicals are epurated from the herbals in the mountain, which makes the straw patchwork totally “natural” and environment-friendly.

The artists of straw patchwork make full use of the natural color and texture of wheat straws. In the deft hands of the artists, the common straws become alluring artworks. The huge straw patchwork made by Liu, Lady of Guo Country Goes Sightseeing in Spring, has been collected by the Great Hall of the People. Five cows, has won the Golden Award of Folk Art at the Second China International Folk Art Exposition.

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