After many months of research, language study, and proposal writing, 2019 MFA graduates Cat Liu and Isabella Myers have been awarded Fulbright fellowships for research in, respectively, China and Cambodia.
Cat will go to paper mills and the Jinling Scriptural Press in Nanjing, China, to study the processes of creating different types of handmade paper and to understand their application in handprinted books. Because the primary use of Chinese book crafts are in Buddhist scriptures, Cat is interested in both the technical aspects of these processes as well as the relationships and meanings the materials hold. During her 10-month stay in China, Cat will be hosted by Nanjing University, where she will work primarily with Dr. Zhiqiang Zhang, a professor in the Publishing Science Department. She is confident her experiences in China will have a significant impact on her future practice as a book artist.
Isabella will conduct a material analysis of kraing, which are Cambodian Buddhist paper manuscripts. Her earlier investigations have shown that handmade paper is part of Cambodia’s cultural heritage and yet there is no thorough analysis regarding the history of the craft. Because hand papermaking is no longer an industry in Cambodia, Isabella feels that “it is imperative to record its oral history while it is still circulating and while we still have access to handmade paper manuscripts.” Her research project will expand beyond papermaking because it is representative of the erasure of craft heritage more generally. “Embedded within the processes of handicrafts,” Isabella writes, “is the narrative of traditional Cambodian life.” Her investigations of Cambodian kraing will result in a research paper detailing the history and spread of paper technology throughout Mainland Southeast Asia. She will also organize an exhibition of creative work supporting her research, public lectures, and hands-on workshops she will hold in Phnom Penh.
Images from University of Iowa International Programs