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Xinjiang’s Craftsmanship | Excellence achieved in embroidery

Photo taken on March 1, 2022 shows Ma Qingjie sits in front of the embroidery rack absorbed in embroidering. (Photo by Reporter Gan Xinghua of Shiliuyun - Xinjiang Daily)

On the morning of March 1, 2022, Ma Qingjie, the founder of Shengshihuaer Culture and Technology Co., Ltd. and the master of arts and crafts in Xinjiang, with her head bowed, the corners of her eyes smiling, and her lips raised slightly upwards, sat in front of the embroidery rack absorbed in embroidering. Colorful silk threads fluttered up and down, and a lifelike embroidery work picturing birds and flowers was completed.

Ma Qingjie’s mother would make some embroideries that require simple skills when she was young, growing up under the influence of her mother, Ma Qingjie was fond of needle work. While other children played with dolls, she would play with embroidery needles and silk threads. In the year when she was seven, Ma Qingjie embroidered an austere flower on the white gauze dress her sister made for her, accomplishing her first embroidery work. Maybe that was when the seed of embroidery craftsmanship was planted in her heart.

After graduation from junior middle school, Ma Qingjie and her sister ran a tailor’s shop. There was a time when she removed stitches for eight times just to make a perfect collar for a perfect pure silk shirt. Others removed stitches with scissors, she did it with her hands, trying her best not to bring the least damage to the clothes. After she was done, her fingers were all swollen and turned red. However, in spite what happened to her hands, she was completely lost in the happiness brought by what she had achieved at the sight of the collar that she expected to make. Seeing this kind of strain in her, more and more customers were inviting her to be their tailor.

When she was 18, Ma Qingjie was admitted to a costume design school, where she learnt professional knowledge on tailoring. After finishing her school, she continued tailoring in the tailor’s shop. During all this time, she continued learning embroidery from her husband’s aunt after work perseveringly.

Photo taken on March 1, 2022 shows Ma Qingjie takes care of an embroidery work. (Photo by Reporter Gan Xinghua of Shiliuyun - Xinjiang Daily)

At the beginning, Ma Qingjie didn’t know the quintessence of embroidery, and her fingers suffered greatly. Nevertheless, she kept on practicing, and in two years, she mastered the stitching skills of traditional embroidery. Every time when she saw the excitement on the costumers’ faces seeing the unique embellishments on the clothes’ cuffs and collars, she would feel a great sense of achievement.

In 2007, Ma Qingjie, who enjoyed a small reputation in the tailoring business, met her mentor of life, the First Master of Chinese Embroidery Art, Qian Meirong, who changed her life once for all. When she first saw the master’s works, she was greatly amazed by the superlative craftsmanship embodied in them.

At that time, Ma Qingjie pined to be an apprentice to Qian Meirong, and she asked Qian Meirong for permission several times but was turned down every time. ‘The master Qian Meirong was concerned that I couldn’t be wholeheartedly devoted to study because there was a shop waiting for me to run.” said Ma Qingjie.

To show her determination to be an apprentice, busy as she was, Ma Qingjie would spare two hours every day to go to Qian Meirong and learn the stitching skills of embroidery and share what she had learnt about embroidery. As wished, Ma Qingjie earned Qian Meirong’s trust and became her apprentice.

Qian Meirong did not let Ma Qingjie start her apprentice journey right from the beginning by learning disordered stitching embroidery, but by studying embroidery drawings. ‘He Yun’, meaning the lasting charms of lotuses, was the first task she accomplished by her own. To better finish the task, Ma Qingjie dived herself into the embroidery drawing unremittingly day and night, indulging herself in studying the layout and structure, color matching and patterns of the drawing, and deliberating on the stitching. Eventually, a week later, Ma Qingjie found the law and pattern of disordered stitching embroidery and embroidered ‘He Yun’ in accordance with her comprehension, which won Qian Meirong’s recognition, although she only finished half by the deadline. In the following eight years, Qian imparted everything she knows.

To refine and perfect her skills, Ma Qingjie would always practice till late night, with her hands swollen and rough with callus due to twisting cords out of silk threads. Once, Ma Qingjie was too tired and sleepy that she fell asleep while making clothes, and the sewing needle on the sewing machine penetrated her nails. That night was the only time in the last eight years she didn’t practice embroidery.

As the saying goes, ‘all efforts will pay off’. In 2013, on the Second Skills Contest held by the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Women’s Federation, Ma Qingjie triumphed with an embroidery work of peony as the best. Subsequently, she was titled as ‘the master of arts and crafts in Xinjiang’.

Photo taken on March 1, 2022 shows that Ma Qingjie instructs a new employee in clothes making. (Photo by Reporter Gan Xinghua of Shiliuyun - Xinjiang Daily)

With the support of the government, Ma Qingjie founded Peasant Embroidery Professional Cooperative and established her own company later. ‘All the way, I have come across many generous people who have assisted me selflessly in various ways, and without them, I will never be where I am today. While inheriting what I have learnt from them on embroidery, I would carry on creating more distinct and unique embroidery works featuring ingenuity.’ said Ma Qingjie.