One of the best part about having access to the internet these days is having near endless access to sources of inspiration. So, one of the things I wanted to start doing on this blog is sharing some of the things that have been influencing me lately.
One of the rabbit holes I’ve been going down recently is searching for more and more intense examples of handcrafted and locally sourced making. I’ve been searching for examples of what it might look like to live in a way that is hyper local, craft based, and sustainable.
The most extreme example of this handmade lifestyle is in the videos of Chinese YouTuber Li Ziqi. It started when I clicked on a video about making a silk quilt. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting, but it was not to have Ziqi start by raising a bunch of silkworms with mulberry leaves she gathered by hand. I mean, that is a level of commitment I hadn’t even dreamed was possible.
All of the videos are shot in the same cinematic style. They rely nearly entirely on visuals, with little or no attempt at explanation or instruction. These videos don’t expect the viewer to replicate the project. Rather, the viewer can just enjoy the journey. For me, this also means that it really doesn’t matter that most of the videos don’t have English subtitles.
For example, in another she goes to visit a shepherd and gets some raw wool to make a cloak. They talk a little but the volume is low on the conversation, signaling that what’s being said isn’t important to the story. Ziqi then combs the yarn, spins it using a small hand wheel, dyes it using some kind of berry from her garden, then makes a textile by sewing together long braided strands. It is a level of handmade I aspire to, but I also know that my handspun project will be different than hers because we are different people living in different parts of the world. The how-to isn’t as important as the inspiration value.
There also is an assumption in most of these videos that Ziqi knows exactly what she is doing. They’re presented as if the viewer is just watching her go about her daily life, making things that are needed for the farm where she lives. One of the few exceptions is a video where she learns how to embroider in a traditional Chinese style with the help of am instructor. This takes months and you can see the seasons changing in the video. The teacher corrects her work and you see Ziqi unpicking and redoing some sections. I love this because sometimes handmade things take a lot of time and practice, and that doesn’t always come across in YouTube videos.
Ziqi’s other videos primarily focus on food, with the occasional craft or construction project thrown in here and there. At this point I’ve watched most of them purely for the inspiration value. If Ziqi can make a blanket from silk worms or a cloak from a pile of raw wool, I can certainly take on a new knitting or sewing project!
What’s inspiring you?