January 1, 2012

As the year came to a close the final order of parts arrived from China on the afternoon of December 29, a late but very exciting and welcome Christmas present! So as you can imagine it was a mad dash to finish up by the end of the year. Luckily the last stage of the process, embellishing, is also in some ways the quickest. A lot of time was spent cutting rabbit pelts into strips and sewing the bristle hair attachments onto the head, and I pulled an all-nighter on December 30-31, but overall it was much less intense work than the other stages. Even something as repetitive as gluing on the 263 silver scales was much less tedious that the papering stage. In many ways this was my favorite part since you can really see everything coming together in the last few weeks.

Click any picture for a larger version.

Here’s what it looked like after all of the painting was complete:
Painted Front Painted Horn Painted Forehead Painted Cheek Painted Side
Here’s some shots of the embellishment process:
Eyelid Pattern Gold Rope Bristle Hair Rabbit Fur Mirror
Creating a paper pattern before cutting the eyelids out of cloth can save you from a costly mistake. The gold rope is traditionally made from paper rope covered with gold foil. Using this gold braid was a time saver. Bristle hair is attached to several different areas on the lion head. Rabbit fur is glued on to accentuate the curves of certain parts. The lion’s mirror is usually surrounded by a single strip of rabbit fur. I’ve always thought it would look nice with a second strip of a contrasting color for emphasis.
And here’s the finished product!
Finished Front All done! Finished Top
Finished Side Finished Back

Initial Front Initial Back
Looking back at the state of this lion before the project started you can definitely see a restoration that is true to the original yet has some enhancements that make it stand out even more from the cookie-cutter lions prevalent today. Even still, there are some things that just can’t be replicated. For example, greater range of color choices aside, for sheer volume there’s just no beating the old pompoms. It’s things like this that keep me waxing nostalgic for the heyday of lion craftsmanship.

Old and New
On the left, the original nose pompom–approximately 13cm diameter. On the right, one from the new set a mere 8cm. No comparison.

Although this project is now complete, there is still a lot I need to learn and I can definitely use practice on everything Corey taught me so far. I am very grateful to Corey and ACTA; especially Amy Lawrence who patiently guided us through the process, Suzanne Hildebrand who was instrumental in getting this blog going, and Russell Rodriguez for spending a day documenting our work and facilitating fruitful discussion on the history of the lion dance and it’s role in Chinese culture. And of course a very special thank you to my wife and kids for all their support and understanding while I was working on this! I know it has been an awesome and life-enhancing experience for me and I hope it has inspired a new generation of lion dancers take the time to repair and build lions with the love and care they deserve.