Central Student Yiran Duan Leads Traditional Chinese Bai Tie-Dying Session | The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Central Student Yiran Duan Leads Traditional Chinese Bai Tie-Dying Session

A representation of the traditional stitch-resistant tie-dying methods used by the Chinese Bai people, as demonstrated in a making session at Central with Costume Construction student Yiran Duan.

Representation of Traditional Chinese Bai Tie-Dye

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

On 31 July, Costume Construction student Yiran Duan led a special making session at Central to share her practice in the traditional Bai methods of stich resistant tie-dying.

The Chinese Bai people have more than one thousand unique tie-dye patterns which reflect their culture and incorporate the use of flowers, plants, fish, insects, birds, butterflies, mammals, folk characters and symbols.  The completed textiles are used for a variety of purposes, including clothing, scarves, bedding, tablecloth and curtains.

The concept behind tie-dyeing is to restrict dye (which is typically made from indigo plants) from reaching certain areas of cloth, thus creating a unique pattern.  In the Bai method, this is achieved through the use of knots, threads, rocks, sticks and rubber bands.  Cloth is tied and sewn into various patterns by hand and then dyed; the parts of the fabric touched by the dye change colour whilst the restricted portions remain untouched.  This results in a pleasant colour contrast and produces an artistic effect that cannot be achieved by painting alone. 

Originally from Yunnan Dali, Yiran Duan has a strong interests in crafts, textiles and their role in cultural communication and learning. She has built up a broad experience in costume making, design and supervision for performance having recently completed Central’s Costume Construction course with a First Class Degree. 

Yiran’s practice focuses on combining embroidery and traditional elements from Chinese costumes with Western techniques in order to explore intercultural connections. As a member of southern China’s Bai minority ethnicity, Yiran is particularly interested in the conservation of ethnic minority craft techniques.

Caroline Townsend, Senior Lecturer in Crafts, Costume Construction Course Leader and BA (Hons) Theatre Practice 1st Year Leader at Central, said:

“It has been a pleasure teaching Yiran for the last three years and amazing for me to learn new skills from her today which can be integrated into my teaching on the course.  Here on the BA (Hons) Theatre Practice course, it is important that the students choose their area of practice when they graduate.  Yiran has made excellent use of the course to develop her skills and applied this to her heritage crafts.  She is now entering a new and exciting business venture, using these skills and knowledge to share with a diverse audience.”

Karin Schuck, Central’s Wardrobe Manager, said:

“It was a fantastic opportunity to learn about this traditional Chinese tie-dying method from Yiran today, and we have already planned a project for the autumn term incorporating these techniques.  We are looking forward to working on a range of collaborations with Yiran in the future.”

The Costume Construction course at Central develops students’ skills in costume interpretation and creation.  During their time on the course, students learn pattern drafting, women’s and men’s costume making, hat making and accessories.  They also undertake costume supervision and have the option to take up placement opportunities with professional companies and designers.  To find out more about Costume Construction at Central, please visit the dedicated course page.

Yiran Duan's Theatre Practice Exhibition piece

Here on the BA (Hons) Theatre Practice course, it is important that the students choose their area of practice when they graduate.  Yiran has made excellent use of the course to develop her skills and applied this to her heritage crafts.  

Caroline Townsend