Helen Ting ✿ Weaving words for heart and mind

As a Garland perennial, Helen Ting’s writing reflects the power of textiles to connect heart and mind.    

Craft has deep roots for me, not just back to my childhood but to my Chinese ancestry. In China, where my parents grew up, making things by hand was the norm. My ancestral area was known for ceramics and embroidery. Key family members worked with textiles. My mother’s family manufactured ceramics. So growing up in Australia it was natural for me to make things—sewing, knitting and so on. And despite studying neither fine arts nor design, I have always come back to craft.

Writing about craft and tradition lets me think deeply about the past in the present. That’s why a common thread in my writing is living traditions. I don’t want to lose my sense of the past. I feel a deep connection to my ancestry.

Writing about craft has become a portal to help me understand tradition’s ongoing life. But it’s also a portal to other important things like our connection to one another through our shared stories. It’s seeing the world in a blade of grass (to paraphrase the English poet William Blake).

Both writing and weaving are part of my practice. A practice to cultivate my own peace, sanity and, hopefully, wisdom. The American writer and Zen teacher Natalie Goldberg says that writing is a practice of learning to be sane. Inspired by Zen philosophy, I find working with the hands is like meditation: it is good for the heart / mind (xin in Chinese, citta in Sanskrit ). So is writing.

Some of my weaving has been exhibited in galleries in Victoria, Western Australia and Sydney. Increasingly, though, influenced by the mingei movement, I am looking to make objects that are both practical and symbolic.

Helen (Siu Yi) Ting is an Australian born Chinese living in Sydney, Australia. She is a handweaver and freelance writer on handcraft. In her textile work Abundance, the gold colours refer to Chinese concepts of prosperity and good fortune (material and spiritual). They are either wall hangings or door curtains (Japanese style) and reference Chinese door gods who protect people inside the building.

Zhuizi: An ordinary dog’s tale - Were netsuke originally from China? Helen Ting discovers an endearing collection of Chinese belt toggles.
Biophilia: The craft and love of life - Helen Ting presents the evolution of the idea that humans have an intrinsic love of nature.
Erroll Pires ✿ The master of ply-split braiding - Helen Ting and Khushbu Mathur ask Erroll Pires from Ahmedabad how a timeless textile technique became his life's work.
The Kawashima Textile School ✿ Ancient kasuri is alive in Japan - Helen Ting talks to Emma Omote about her role in keeping the ancient craft of kasuri weaving alive and asks: how resilient is this specialist craft skill in the age of machinery and mass production?
A village delivered to your home: Report from the Selvedge World Fair - Helen Ting finds new ways to showcase cloth-making traditions in a pioneering festival.