Saturday, March 30, 2013

Book Review - Chinese Lattice Designs CD-ROM & Book by Dover Publications, Inc.

Chinese Lattice Designs CD-ROM & Book by Dover Publications, Inc.
Softcover 2008.  $16.95

Chinese Lattice Designs is a compilation of 191 royalty-free images of centuries old Chinese window grids.  While some patterns have a distinct oriental feel to them, others do not.  Many of these patterns may be seen today in stained glass windows, architectural ornamentation, mosaic tiles and in textiles of all kinds.  The needleworker may look to these intricate and harmonious patterns to provide inspiration for embroidery.

In 1909, Daniel Sheets Dye traveled to China in order to establish a medical school.  In his spare time, Dye traveled throughout western China and recorded the geometric shapes he saw in the windows of Chinese homes, temples and businesses.  Dye spent more than two decades collecting over 1000 designs from windows constructed between 1000 BC and 1900 AD.  These windows, made from a decorative wooden lattice with a sheet of rice paper glued to the inside, let in light, but not the sights - there were no glass windows.  Carpenters created these lattice windows from folk designs passed down through generations, and as such they were not considered art.  However, these windows testified to a Chinese craft design which excelled in creating a balanced geometric space.  

Dye’s ability to see the beauty in the abstract shapes in Chinese windows and his passion to record the designs provides us today with a wealth of inspiration as needleworkers.  Many of the designs may be directly translated into a stitch pattern.  The lines may represent vertical or horizontal stitches, as well as diagonal stitches.  Other patterns may provide a whole design area that needs to be filled with stitches.  From simple to complex, the needleworker may use these lattice designs to create a stitch pattern or a whole design with an oriental style. 

Dover Publications has a wealth of books with patterns and designs in many different styles.  Needleworkers may peruse their large list of books as a kick start to creativity.  It is interesting to note that similar patterns are viewed as folk designs in many different cultures, perhaps springing up independent of each other.  For instance, the interlace pattern found in old Celtic artwork is similar to the Chinese interlace designs.  Did one culture influence the other, or were they created without interaction between the two peoples?  These answers may never be known, but is an interesting conundrum to consider.

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