China South of the Clouds

Traveling and Cooking in China's Yunnan Province

Yunnan Sketches by Lea Redmond

May 17th, 2013

Last spring, when our friend Lea Redmond, the founder and creative director of Leafcutter Designs, came to visit us in Yunnan, she chronicled her trip in a sketchbook. She chose as her subjects the objects that interested her the most, and by the end of our trip from Kunming to Dali, Shaxi, and Lijiang, she had created a visual journal of everyday items and memorable finds. Here are a few selections. (Above, a photo of Lea working on a conceptual knitting project in Shaxi.)

Lea sketch-1

From Kunming and Dali, this page depicts the chiles at our local noodle shop; the teapot from Native Foods Restaurant (土生食馆, Tusheng Shiguan), which has a dragon’s head for a spout; homemade crackers; a trash basket; some delicious amaranth cakes (sold by street vendors in Dali); and a silly style of paper hat, which was made from colored paper that had been folded so that it would expand to fit on your head (and was clearly meant for tourists).

Lea sketch-2

From our first day in Shaxi, the upholstery on the seats of the car we hired to drive us from Dali; the beautiful mustard plants that were flowering throughout the Shaxi valley; some freshly picked garlic found at the market; and, most interestingly, a set of “activity dice” that allow the player to make a game out of which household chores or fun activities to do. These dice are very similar to the recipe dice and cocktail dice that Lea had previously designed to make a game out of cooking or cocktail mixing.

Lea sketch-5

Also from Shaxi, the wooden and polyester baskets that locals wear as backpacks when foraging in the mountains or shopping at the weekly market; a little girl playing cats cradle; tofu that was tied in handkerchiefs; an old sewing machine; and the shoe print left on a dirt trail that looked like a butterfly. (Lea’s shoes leave marks that look something like a bear’s paws.)

Lea sketch-4

From Lijiang, a cup of oolong tea; a design made on a cobblestone road by setting roof tiles into the concrete; the region’s famous walnut cakes, shaped like walnuts, and the little machine that made them; and an English-emblazoned sweatshirt.

Lea sketch-3

Also from Lijiang, a tube of spreadable butter from the breakfast table at Bruce Chalet, where we stayed; a snack of nut-filled sticky rice balls found in Lijiang Old Town; and a Tibetan stuppa, draped in prayer flags, that we came across on a hike in the hills above Shuhe.