Artworks by seasoned spring-flower maker Chen Hui-mei (陳惠美) — whose entwining art is a traditional Taiwanese folk craft that combines paper-cutting, wrapping, twirling, twisting, and embroidering techniques — will be showcased in a special retrospective exhibition running from Aug. 13 through Oct. 16 at the Taipei branch of the National Taiwan Craft Research and Development Institute.
Chen, who is turning 70 this year, has committed over twenty years to perpetuating the art of silk-wrapped flowers. She was mentored by Aunty Hsieh Chen Aiyu (謝陳愛玉), whose style is of the Minnan discipline from southern Fujian, but Chen's own techniques and forms were of the northern Taiwanese style, as evident from her earlier works. Her individualized style today takes inspiration from also the Hakka "thread flower (纏花)" and Kinmen's "auspicious flower (吉花)" traditions.
Chen has dedicated years to combining this traditional craft with modern cultural elements to help them become part of contemporary life and keep pace with the times. People generally think of silk-wrapped flowers as traditional items used just for special events like weddings or festivals, but Chen creates flowers of a variety of styles suitable for much more than just that. They can pair just as easily with everyday clothing as with a fancy qipao, naturally blending in with daily life.
Now, Taiwanese silk-wrapped flowers are slowly becoming a common sight at creative markets. Many of Chen's own students have also gone out and started their own classes, helping spread the art and make a growing number of people aware of its contemporary potential. Despite being one of the fountainheads of this renewal, Chen remains humble and says that this new blooming of silk-wrapped flowers is all thanks to Aunty Aiyu.
Chen's lifelong exploration of and devotion to her entwining crafts will be presented in three stages at the exhibition, from learning the trade to extending the heritage and innovating the art. Come by the National Taiwan Craft Research and Development Institute’s Taipei branch for a stroll through Chen's world of silk-wrapped spring flowers.
‘Seventy Heyday: Chen Hui-mei’s Entwining Art and Spring Flowers’