A highly acclaimed artist from Vernon has been invited back to China for a second year to exhibit her jade sculptures alongside the work of Chinese masters.
Last year, Deborah Wilson became the first woman from the west to participate in the Chinese Jade Carvers and International Jade Artists Exhibition in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, China.
Her work was so highly thought of by Chinese jade carving masters that she won a gold medal for her life-size carving of a western painted turtle.
“The turtle has special significance in Chinese mythology. It is one of the four sacred animals. The others are the dragon, Chinese unicorn and the phoenix. The turtle is considered as a symbol of wisdom, endurance, wealth and long life,” said Andrew Shaw, a former BBC journalist, who is now an award winning carver with a gallery in Shanghai and a studio in Suzhou.
Shaw is serving as liaison to the visiting artists in China as he has a strong command of the Mandarin language.
Wilson is returning to Suzhou, which is known as the “Venice of the East,” with its beautiful gardens and many canals, to compete yet again for a coveted gold medal.
“It was an exciting first visit to China, where I felt very much at home,” she said before leaving. “The people involved in the exhibition were gracious, and very professional. We learned at the end of the show that we had received medals for a number of our entries. Needless to say, I was thrilled to have won gold for my western painted turtle.”
Most of the exhibition takes place in a modern museum, which is located amongst artist studios and galleries on the outskirts of Suzhou.
Last year, the carvers were kept busy after the show, touring the many studios belonging to masters in the field.
“This was the most intriguing and instructive of our missions and forays,” said Wilson. “Shopping for diamond tools was also a priority for our entire group.”
The artists that invested in new and classic equipment from Suzhou have clearly benefited in the ensuing months, added Wilson.
“There has been a ripple of interest and appreciation coming from the global jade carving community after seeing the results on social media pages,” she said. “This is only the beginning of a new era where new ideas and exotic jades from all over the world will be viewed and celebrated by those that carve and collect jade in China.”
The competition is an important component as well.
This year, participants from New Zealand, the U.K., Europe, Mexico, Russia, and the U.S. as well as Canada will travel to Suzhou to take part in the exhibition and competition.
“Deborah is blazing a trail for female artists,” said Shaw. “Last year, she was the first western woman to exhibit. This year, at least three other women will also show their work.”
The exhibition is organized by the Suzhou Arts and Crafts Association. Suzhou is one of the main carving centres in China.
“Thirty thousand people in the city, which has a population of about 10 million, work in the jade industry. It is estimated that there are approximately a quarter of a million people in China involved in the jade trade,” said Shaw. “China is also the biggest customer for Canadian jade. Tons of it are exported to China every year.”
Every year, hundreds of carvers from around China exhibit in Suzhou at what has become one of the main jade festivals. Last year, a dozen westerners also exhibited.
“This year the number of foreign artists will triple,” said Shaw.