About President Xi's "Guardian" Bentwood Box

September 23, 2015

Although I'm known for my relatively unique merger of Chinese/Northwest Native artistic influences, I never imagined that representatives of the Mayor's office would visit my studio in the International District to ask me to create a gift for the President of China! When they did so two weeks ago, I immediately set aside major projects with looming deadlines (including my October 1st show at ArtXchange Gallery and management of my critical crowdfunding campaign supporting Eighth Generation's wool blanket launch) in order to focus on creating what I thought would be the perfect gift to represent Seattle:

To create this gift, I collaborated with my Uncle Peter Gong, who makes bentwood boxes in his shop in Mission, British Columbia. Can you find him in this photo?

To make a bentwood box like the one gifted to President Xi, Uncle Pete used a single plank of yellow cedar, steaming it to make the wood pliable, then bending it into four sides. The corner where they meet is joined with pegs, and the top and bottom were cut to fit from red cedar and added separately.

Here's a shot of Uncle Pete carving a mask. You can read more about him here.  Want a bentwood box? You can email him here: ptrgong@gmail.com.

Once Uncle Pete finished the box, I spent many hours hand-painting an adapted version of the Guardian Lion (Fu Dog) design on the body of the box. Each profile of the Guardian Lion faces one of the four directions. The result displays my unique Northwest Native (mix of Coast Salish and Northwest Coast) and Chinese-influenced design in a medium typically used in Northwest Native ceremonies and special gifts.

On Tuesday afternoon, I put on some uncomfortable clothes and dropped by City Hall to hand the finished product to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray in his office:

In turn, he presented the gift to President Xi on Wednesday.

I'm thrilled that after years of local community service, I was chosen to create this unique gift. It's an honor to be able to represent Seattle with a gift that reflects my own cultural identity by blending contemporary Northwest Native and Chinese art.




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