This project is based on the research of Japanese Temari ball history. The Temari ball originates from the Chinese ancient football game, Cuju. It spread to Japan, where only men of the royal family had the privilege to play the game. The women in the palace weren’t allowed to participate, so they started claiming the ball for themselves, by doing intricate wrapping and embroidery on it. Through the craft, the functionality of the ball gradually changed: now it exists as a purely decorative ornament and is regarded as traditional Japanese handicraft.

During the same period in China, the game became so popular that both men and women were allowed to play it. It gradually became eroticised, because prostitutes would play the game with their guests in order to attract and please them. Due to this association, since the Ming dynasty, when the game was banned, it has gradually vanished.


Shown at Dutch Design Week 2019

There continues to be a conservative expectation set for women by Asian society. But in this history, many women have fought this expectation. Sometimes it’s obvious, like the Chinese women participating in the game, creating a certain level of equality, sometimes it’s subtle, like the Japanese women using their feminine craft to subvert the original purpose of the ball. I ask how we can continue to fight against the persisting expectations of women in contemporary culture, using the already set conservative expectation of textile embroidery. In this project, I applied the Temari technique on three contemporary objects which are traditionally associated


with women, domesticity, and performed femininity: a rice cooker, a sewing kit, and a pair of high-heels. By applying the Temari technique, the intricate decoration completely takes away the functionality of the three objects. In my position as an Asian female, the choice to use this embroidery technique is not accidental. I have no background in this craft, it does not require a high level of skill, but it takes a huge amount of time and is very mundane. Giving the time to this process is an empowered act, in an age where everything can be instant, the slowness of textile demands attention and subverts expectation of functional objects in design.

History of Cuju and Temari, source images and videos from the internet.


© Weixiao Shen 2021 All rights reserved