CDC x UAL Chelsea College of Arts: Reimagining Xiabu
Previous Stories / 12 Mar 2018

‘Reimagining Xiabu’ was an exciting project as result of collaboration between China Design Centre and Chelsea College of Arts, University of the Arts London. The project is also supported by ADC and Jin Shan Yi Ku Creative Industry Park from Chongqing.

‘Reimagining Xiabu’ Private View at China Design Centre, London, on 17/03/2017

Reimagining Xiabu invited BA Textiles lecturers, students and recent graduates from Chelsea College of Arts to participate. Students from four different specialisations – knit, print, stitch and weave – used a variety of techniques to rethink how the ramie fibre and cloth could be constructed and applied. The design approach was open-minded and ad-hoc and combined traditional craft skills with contemporary textile practice to create original and experimental outcomes.

Zheng Qu, Executive Director of China Design Centre, selected the winners at Chelsea College of Arts in November 2016. Two graduate winners (Mary Ashcroft and Fiona Faumuina) and one student winner (Ying Yu Tan) were chosen to travel to China to meet the Xiabu weavers and attend the opening of the Reimagining Xiabu exhibition at the ADC, Chongqing, in December 2016.

Research and design process, students from Chelsea College of Arts

The collaboration offered a unique opportunity to marry an alternative UK design perspective with Chinese artisanal tradition in order to create fresh and surprising ideas and begin a dialogue between the participants. Student winner Ying Yu Tan said that the project emphasised “the important of tradition in the future of design” and created an opportunity “to connect different generations of craft workers and designers”.

The award certificates are given by David Crow, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Head of Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon colleges; Jamy Yang, founder of YANG DESIGN; and Qing Yang, founder of CHINE.

David Crow speaking at Chongqing Liangjiang Creative Events

Exhibition in Chongqing, China


Winning Designers

From left: Student Winner, Ying Yu Tan; Graduate Winner, Mary Ashcroft; Graduate Winner, Fiona Faumuina.

Mary Ashcroft

Mary Ashcroft was inspired by the way in which xiabu fibre is farmed. Using a contemporary colour palette and simple printing methods (such as masking tape, pens, paint rollers/brushes, screen-printing), she reimagines agricultural workwear and imperfect lines and stripes as modern patterns for urban living.

Fiona Faumuina

Xiabu means "summer cloth" and Fiona Faumuina wanted her exploration and reinvention of xiabu to reflect its rich cultural history and relationship with nature. She chose to direct her research toward the I Ching or Yi Jing Book of Changes, an ancient divination text, saying that it seemed “appropriate to reference something that is a part of Chinese history, but alludes to change”. Each of Faumuina’s woven samples is based on a hexagram from the I Ching and all of the colours used refer to the elements used in the I Ching – wind, fire, earth, lake, heaven, water, mountain and thunder.

Ying Yu Tan

Ying Yu Tan focussed on “Qi” as a fundamental of good health, rapid urbanisation and declining air quality. Her hand-woven, rust-dyed dust mask is affordable and effective and combines Chongqing’s trademark xiabu with China’s domestic silk to create “an environmentally-friendly product that gives people a fuss-free way to protect their bodies and reimagines xiabu as a textile for daily wear”.


Press cover

Xiabu team - BA Textile Design, Chelsea College of Arts

Creative Directors

Lisa Bloomer
Senior Lecturer – Weave

Kathryn Round
Senior Lecturer – Print

Featured Designers

Melanie Bowles
Senior Lecturer – Digital Textile Design

Julia Pines
Senior Lecturer – Knit

Graduate Winners:

Mary Ashcroft
Fiona Faumuina

Student Winner:

Ying Yu Tan

2016 Graduates:

Olivia Barnes
Mila Harris-Mussi
Mimi Kerpel
Georgina Wood


Florrie Andrews
Michaela Carpenter Olson
James Frost
Alice Gordon
Nanako Kobayashi
Emilie Lynch Williams
Nadya Prajoga
Tawa Raheem
Bryan Lam
Connah Riess Lamb
Orie Takashige
Xiaotong Wang
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