Suzhou Trip Photos posted on March 31 2016 in Chinese Embroidery, embroidery, Suzhou Embroidery, travel
Pics from a few days in Suzhou~
A Dream Dress posted on January 26 2016 in Chinese Embroidery
I've been meaning to share images of this incredible Qing dynasty dress from a family friend's collection for a long time but have not gotten around to doing it... Apart from the profusion of embroidery motifs, the copper red background fabric, somewhat transparent and loosely woven with a pattern, also seems like a kind of fabric that has been lost in time. I am not sure but I would think the dress belonged to a Manchurian noble woman in the 19th century. Below I share images of the dress and some historical photos showing women wearing its like.
The dress on a Ming Dynasty bed
Mother of the last Empress (朗贝勒府五格格爱新觉罗·恒馥)
Lady Zhen, the favorite of Emperor Guanxu（珍妃）
The last empress (center) (婉容)
The last empress (婉容)
A cousin of the last empress (完顏立童記)
While cleaning up the files on my computer, I came across my stash of favorite images of people doing embroidery which I thought I would share with you :) I hope this will also motivate me to finish up a few projects this Fall!
Embroidering in the Tang Dynasty
Mending Cloak by or attributed to Han XiMeng (韓希孟) from the Ming Dynasty, my favorite ancient embroiderer. You can see more of her works at my post here: http://www.gossamerie.com/blogs/embroidery/17049803-lady-han
Embroidering in the Qing Dynasty
Shen Shou (沈壽) (1874-1921), probably the most celebrated embroiderer in Modern China, not long before her death. In an embroidery manual she dictated during her illness, she said （or I think she said): "Since my teenage years, I worked on my embroidery day and night, often past midnight, with the aid of my lamp light. This continued until my marriage without interruption. Tasked with my household duties, I was further pressed for time. Due to this, I fell into an illness. These days I stop and walk around every two hours of sitting at my embroidery. This is my earnest advice to you. （余自笲齡,畫夜有作,嘗過夜分,炷燈代燭。及於為婦,未懈而續。中饋之餘，晷催漏促,
Jin Jing Fen (金靜芬) and her student Mo Zhi Hong (牟志紅), probably in the sixties. Jin Jing Fen is a student of Shen Shou above. Around 1955, due to a series of personal calamities and the general tumultuous situation in China, Jin Jing Fen, now in her seventies, despite an illustrious embroidery career, was working as a servant in her nephew's Shanghai home. When her friends in the newly established Communist government learned of her troubled situation, they helped her return to her native Suzhou to assume a teaching position there.
Jin Jing Feng and Xu Zhi Hui (徐志慧), a student at the Suzhou Embroidery Research Institute probably in the sixties. I love the relaxed attitudes and how you can perceive the gleam of the silk thread even in this black and white photograph.
Lee EYing (李娥英), a former pillar at the Suzhou Embroidery Research Institute (SERI) and Suzhou embroidery in general, and my favorite modern embroiderer :) Born in 1926 in a village near Suzhou, she began to study embroidery with her mother since 10 years old and in 1954 was recruited into an organization the PRC organized in Suzhou to study and produce embroidery, which organization later became the SERI.
Xu Zhi Hui (pictured above) some decades later. I like her jovial expression here.
A really small photo of Ren Hui Xian (任慧嫻)(a master of random stitch embroidery) but I love the image.
Zhao Ming Zhu (趙明珠) my Chinese embroidery teacher visiting Canada in the eighties.
I like how the embroidery looks on the frame here.
Tang Hui Qing (湯慧琴), a student of Lee E Ying above, finishing up a four year project, Music at Court
Tang Hui Qing putting last touches an embroidery reproduction of a Sung Dynasty painting, Listening to the Qin Under A Pine Tree
I think this lady might be an actress but I like the picture anyways.
Yours Truly 15 years ago :)
A more recent photo :)
My Grodnertal Doll posted on August 07 2015 in 19th century fashion, dolls
Hello! Here are a few pics of a doll I modeled after grodnertals, peg wooden dolls that were made in Germany and the Netherlands around the early 19th century. She is here posed in front of my dollhouse. I made her dress from a pattern from Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion called Snowshill Manor c. 1795-1800. The description noted that "This half robe has been altered from a gown of c. 1780 and is interesting as an example of a transitional style." I can definitely see the 18th century in the pleats in the skirt, and the coming 19th century in the empire waist! Bon Weekend!
The description also noted: "Small loops from the inside of the bodice fasten over buttons on the rightside of the garment to give the neckline shape."
Antique Chinese Bag posted on July 17 2015 in Chinese Embroidery
Here are pictures of a lovely embroidered 19th or early 20th century Chinese purse/pouch from a friend's collection - Hope you like them! Bon Weekend!
Four Seasons: My Japanese Embroidery Phase IV posted on June 30 2015 in embroidery, Japanese Embroidery
Here are some pictures of my Japanese Embroidery Phase IV. The piece, a Japanese Embroidery Center design, is called Four Seasons and focuses on couching and padding techniques. The four leaves are supposed to symbolize the four seasons transitioning into each other. Hope you like the photos!
My Phase IV next to My Phase VII ( :) )
A Sublime Example of Suzhou Embroidery posted on May 26 2015 in Chinese Embroidery, Suzhou Embroidery
I came across a really neat article in Chinese by Suzhou embroiderer Tong Hui-Qin (湯慧琴) about her experience in creating an embroidery reproduction of Music at Court (宮樂圖), an Tang Dynasty (618-907) painting depicting twelve women in the Tang Dynasty court playing music, drinking or engaging in general revelry around a long table. I thought her essay about the creation process was very informative, so I translate some highlights from her essay below, as well as some pictures of this sublime example of fine Suzhou embroidery. And If you are ever in Taiwan at the right time, you might be able to see the original piece at the Palace Museum!
Full view of Music at Court, completed in 2006 (48.2 cm by 69.5 cm).
The original painting
The embroiderer recounts:
" In May of 2001, a business man who loved Suzhou embroidery and his wife visited my teacher Chinese embroidery master Lee E-Ying with a copy of the late Tang Dynasty painting Music at Court. They told Master Lee that it was their wish that she recreate this beloved piece with the techniques and style of Suzhou embroidery. At that time I was embroidering the Sung Dynasty painting Children at Play in an Autumnal Garden at Master Lee's home. After they had a look at my work, they decided to leave their copy of Music at Court with Master Lee for me to embroider under Master Lee's artistic direction.
Music at Court is a famous painting from the late Tang Dynasty. The original is currently in the Palace of Museum in Taipei, Taiwan. The work depicts the culture of banquets and music in the Tang court, and shows buxom and elegant Tang court ladies each with their own poses and expressions. Seated or standing around a table, the twelve court ladies in the painting drink tea, play drinking games, with four of them playing instruments to create merriment and the two standing figures setting the rhythm with the clappers in their hands. A variety of tableware are set on the table. Due to its old age, the painting had lost much of its color and details, with substantial portions being blurry and it was difficult to distinguish the original textile patterns on the ladies' robes. Looking at the painting, I had a lot of doubts in my mind, because I had not yet embroidered a painting involving human figures in such a complex scene. In addition, the image itself was not clear due to its age, which added to the difficulty in execution. However, I thought it was also a new challenge and test for me, so I quietly decided that I would do a good job.
Then, how would I achieve that goal? I thought that the first thing was to gather some background information on Music at Court. Luckily, I found a book that provided more detail of the figures and objects in the painting. After a certain amount of research to fully understand the composition, I then set up the fabric on my embroidery frame to begin. When I was preparing the embroidery threads, my teacher noted: ancient paintings are different from its modern counterparts. We are neither producing a painted copy, nor [insert conserve] the original work. Instead, with Music at Court as a guide, we are using our needle as our paint brush and recreating the piece in the style of Suzhou embroidery. Due to the age of the painting, the colors are clearly not what they were over a thousand years ago. Therefore, when we are choosing our threads, we do not necessarily have to use the same colors as appears on the painting, but we should consider the bright colors preferred by the Tang court. Therefore, with my teacher's instruction, I prepared a set of threads that included vermilion, jade, ochre and citrine in some tens of shades for each color. After everything was ready, I started the actual embroidery in June of 2002.
I used a irregular long and short stitch, at the thickness of one filament (an average silk floss is comprised of sixteen filaments), for the outer edge of the woven mat table, the legs of the stools shaped like crescent moons and the dark outlines of the table, applying different shades of brown to create the appearance of wood. For the woven mat center of the table I used several traditional Chinese stitches (e.g. diagonal satin stitch, battlement filling, split stitch) to further illustrate the woven quality. For the tableware, I laid down layers of silk threads, at the thickness of one filament (see picture below) and half a filament (respectively, one-sixteenth and one-thirty-second of one silk floss) and at the edge of the dark outlines of the jade colored tableware, I further added a thin line of white, so that the curves in the tableware appear even more three-dimensional.
The pink circle in the picture shows the thread at the thickness of one filament (1/16 of a silk floss)
During the embroidery process, I paid particular attention to three aspects, as set forth below:
The fashion worn during the Tang dynasty has become an icon of ancient Chinese clothing. Before working on the robes of the court ladies, I did a fair amount of research on Tang fashions, as well as the colors and designs of the fabrics that would be used at court. Since the painting has deteriorated considerably through the ages, it was difficult to make out the patterns of the textiles used in the robes, so the best thing I could do was to reconstruct, based on my research of Tang dynasty textiles and what I could make out from the painting, a set of patterns to be embroidered on the robes. I traced the patterns onto transfer paper and stitched guidelines based on the patterns. Then I used irregular long and short stitch and, following the contour lines of the robes, I stitched the robes, leaving empty the parts covered by the guidelines I previously laid down. After the robes were completed, sans the patterns, I then completed the patterns using the appropriate stitches. After completing this, I was not really satisfied with the results. The robes and the textiles comprising them appeared heavy, with no sense of movement or billowing that I had imagined. After some additional experimentation at the side of my frame, I decided to restitch the robes without leaving any empty space for the patterns, and then I used extremely fine threads to re-embroider the patterns on the robes, taking care that the fine threads have sunk between the threads for the previous layer. I was quite happy with the results this time, seeing that the patterns on the robes now have a woven quality and the robes had a much lighter and airy look to them.
For the faces, I used a light red and a rouge red at the forehead, nose and chin areas. I took care to not emphasize the contour lines within the faces, in order to prevent the appearance of pockets of light and darkness on the ladies' faces. Such pockets of light and darkness are prone to appear as the silk threads travel along contour lines that have more dramatic movements. Another important point was to embroider the features accurately, with not one iota of deviation, and to convey the delicateness and colors of the ladies' complexions and cosmetics. I went about this by laying a fairly sparse foundation with rather thin threads, and then laid additional layers in different colors and increasingly thin threads, which were as thin as one sixty-fourth of a silk floss, or even a tad thinner. I concluded by leaving one line of empty space on the bridges of the noses, and sparsely stitching around the hairline. As I arrived at the hair, I used threads of various colors and thicknesses for the hair, and where the skin met the hair, I used a color that was closer to the skin and with very thin threads, I lightly went over the hair line with irregular long and short stitches again, so that the hair would look like it grew out of the skin, and perhaps add to the spontaneity of the facial expressions.
Third, to use a popular expression, eyes are the windows to the spirit, conveying a myriad of feelings and emotions. The execution of the eyes have a direct correlation with the success or failure of the entire embroidery piece. The eyes of the ladies in the painting are tiny, and quite difficult to handle. In the beginning, I used different shades of the same color to embroider the eyes, but after I finished, I found that the eyes looked dull, with no animation. So I decided to try redoing the eyes in the same fashion, but did not see any improvement in the results, so I was getting increasingly anxious. For a while my mind was completely consumed by thoughts on how to do the eyes; even as I walked on the street or while I was waiting for the bus, I would try to pay attention to the surrounding people and their eyes. On one occasion, I happened to see photos of some movie stars in a magazine, and I ended up using their eyes as a guide to do some additional experimentation around the outer edges of my frame. Finally, I used a fine thread to do the white of the eyes in sparse and short stitches. Then I did a thin foundation layer for the pupils, on which I added more layers of different shades until the pupil areas were fully stitched. Then, depending on each lady's expression, I used a fine thread of varying colors and added a few stitches, and found that those few stitches of other colors made all the difference in creating the character's expression. As I embroidered, I examined my own eyes in a mirror and observed the way in which they changed as I altered my own expressions, and thus I embroidered several eyes around the outer edges of my frame that seemed to be saying various different things. At that point I felt I had begun to grasp the key to embroidering eyes. Thereupon, I completed the eyes of the twelve court ladies in this manner, and my conclusion is that when embroidering eyes, the ultimate coloring described above cannot be off by even one filament, a mistake of even one filament can create a world's difference in the message conveyed by the eye.
During the four years of embroidering Music at Court, I worked in front of my embroidery frame for about eight or nine hours each day. Whenever I encountered any difficulties during the embroidery process, Master Lee always provided guidance and support to me without fail, so I was able to reach a new level in my command of the traditional techniques and my understanding of contour lines and the use of color. In August of 2006, I finally completed my Suzhou embroidery version of Music at Court. My teacher was very pleased with the final product She said it was precise, delicate, elegant and pristine--in other words, the essential characteristics of traditional Suzhou embroidery."
The embroiderer during the final stage of the piece
The embroiderer at home
More Pics From My Trip posted on May 19 2015 in Chinese Embroidery, Suzhou Embroidery, Taipei
Here are some other pictures from my trip :)
Back in Taipei
The cafe cat in Shenzhen
A pretty embroiderer (from Shenzhen)
Wedding robe of a Chinese warlord/politician (袁世凱)'s fourth daughter (at Suzhou Museum). This came with a red embroidered skirt.
I was pretty blown away by this set of embroidered cuffs
A blurry picture of the detail of the cuffs
A rabbit ornament. This would be perfect for my sister, a bunny.
A Gleaming Lotus
Embroidered gold fish
Bamboo Fans with woven tapestry centers
An embroidery of famous calligraphy in process
Early Mother's Day
Happy Mother's Day! posted on May 10 2015 in Chinese Embroidery, Suzhou Embroidery
Two stems of Carnations I did recently in Suzhou technique
My Trip to Suzhou posted on April 30 2015 in Chinese Embroidery, Suzhou Embroidery
Thought I would share some pictures from my recent trip to Suzhou that was filled with local culture and many beautiful embroideries...
Embroidery at Suzhou Museum
Pond at the Suzhou Museum
A Beautiful Painted Fan
My mom and me in the bamboo grove at the Suzhou Museum designed by I.M. Pei
In the cafe that had wisteria growing from above
Local Suzhou Scene
Home of a Tapestry dealer
This past December I visited the Peranakan Museum in Singapore. The term Peranakan, in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, refer to native-born people of mixed local and foreign (Chinese, Indian etc.) descent, and the Museum explores the culture of Peranakan communities in Southeast Asia. Among the various interests in the museum, I thought the pièce de résistance was this magnificently beaded tablecloth.
The Museum's description dates the piece, composed of over one million European glass beads on cotton, to the early 20th century and from the Malaysian state of Penang, and notes that it was probably commissioned from professional beadworkers in special workshops locally or in China for the purposes of the elaborate 12-day Peranakan wedding. The combination of pink and yellow on a turquoise ground is apparently characteristic of Penang Peranakan beadwork, but the design of various European and South American birds and flowers, with only a few Asian species, is considered highly original.
My favorite bird on the tablecloth
I believe this is a Peranakan wedding couple.
And here's the reason why we were in Singapore: my husband's roommate's wedding!
Game of Thrones! posted on April 12 2015 in
Here are some images of embroidered costumes from the studio of Michele Carragher for Game of Thrones! Enjoy the start of the season!
Can you identify who was wearing this? :)
食養山房 (A Cool Restaurant in Taipei and a Fine Place to Do Embroidery) posted on April 07 2015 in Dining, Japanese Embroidery, Taipei 1 Comment
When I was visiting Taipei a few month ago, my mom took me and two guests from the embroidery city of Suzhou to a restaurant tucked in a mountainous part of the Taipei suburb (http://www.shi-yang.com/), and then a tea room associated with the restaurant located a stone's throw away. I thought the food was gorgeous (and pretty delicious) and, what's more, I felt that both location would make an ideal location for Japanese Embroidery!
As you will see below, I took a ton of photos but due to my faulty memory some of the description of the food might not be entirely accurate.
One of the first rooms upon entering the restaurant
A flower arrangement
A view of the Second story
Our Table Upon Our Arrival
A starter course of passion fruit vinegar garnished with a daisy
Peanut (?) tofu and chilled corn soup (?)
Plate of Sushi and Sashimi
Red Berries Decoration
Rice Balls with bamboo shoots or mushrooms (?)
The piece de resistance of the meal, a chicken soup that "opens up" a closed lotus flower that the server floats on the soup
The lotus "opens"
Dessert was a taro custardy thing garnished with a stem of little pumpkins
My mom and our two guests (right is my Chinese embroidery teacher Pearl)
Another shot of mommy!
Yet Another Shot!
The little red lanterns in the garden as we exit
Shi-Yang Tea Room
Shi-Yang tea room (I thought this would be a fabulous place to do Japanese embroidery)
Not sure if it's just me, but this looks like it could be a real life model for a Japanese Embroidery design
Queen of the Flowers-My Japanese Embroidery Phase VIII posted on March 31 2015 in Japanese Embroidery
This week I wanted to share with you photos of my new Japanese Embroidery piece. It's a Japanese Embroidery Center Phase VIII piece called Queen of the Flowers, and depicts a branch with three peonies in various stages of bloom by the techniques of fuzzy effect, which technique, according to my Japanese Embroidery textbook, is considered "the most dignified" of all Japanese Embroidery techniques.
My other Japanese Embroidery text book indicates that the technique of fuzzy effect was selected because it best conveys the stateliness and refinement of peonies, long considered the Queen of Flowers.
Here's the piece in its entirety. Prior to stitching this piece, it was recommended that I decide where the source of light is coming from, and this decision would impact the colors and shading of the motifs. I decided the top right corner. To highlight this, I photographed this in the evening with a lamp shining from the top right corner as well.
Peony #1 in Full Bloom
Peony #2 (slightly more faded) in full bloom
Peony #3 in half bloom. Re-did this peony in its entirety twice and various parts of it multiple times ;_;
A multitude of leaves, one fading after the other
The Peony branch in daylight
A Lovely Peacock and Peony Fan from Suzhou posted on March 24 2015 in Chinese Embroidery, Suzhou Embroidery
I thought this double sided embroidered peacock and peony fan created in Suzhou was pretty dreamy. Hope you like the pics!
I've been taking a fun room box class with the uber-talented Liz Lebosse (www.dollhousesbyliz.com), who also did a fabulous job building my dollhouse. I just finished the final details of the box, so I thought I would share the photos with you. Liz is also offering classes from her studio in Poughkeepsie. I would highly recommend it!
A few details about Maison Tulle...I imagined it as the boutique of a couturier by the name of Tulle in mid century Paris (but probably most of the period details here are not accurate). In addition to the room box, I made the painting on the wall, the dress on the mannequin and the black leather handbag on the mantle. The rest of the furnishings I collected throughout the years. Hope you like the photos!
A Cream Satin Gown trimmed with ink-dipped feathers and a black leather handbag with gold clasp
Chandelier. I tried wrapping the chain with beige ribbons. I thought it turned out pretty reasonable.
Close up of the dress.
Josephine's Amazing Gowns posted on March 10 2015 in 19th century fashion, Exhibitions, french embroidery, haute couture embroidery
While I was in Paris last month, I happened to hear about and catch one of the last few days of an exhibition held by the illustrious fabric house Maison Prelle on the fashions worn and favored by Napoleon's elegant first wife, Josephine. The house is tucked discreetly above a court yard of a building off the Place des Victoires and had some of the most beautiful fabrics I've ever seen. The objects on the special exhibition also were dazzlingly embroidered and I was particularly touched by the dedication of their unnamed creators to a high level of craftsmanship, as exemplified by one perfectly even stitch after another. I hope you enjoy these photos!
Josephine in Jacque Louis David's painting of Napoleon's Coronation
A court gown with a lavender embroidered train
The gorgeous train
Josephine's shoes (I think)
White gowns draped with cashmere shawls with Indian motifs, deemed then the perfect accompaniment to the empire gowns
A final look at Josephine in the surroundings of Malmaison, her beloved estate outside of Paris
Children at Play in an Autumnal Garden posted on March 03 2015 in Chinese Embroidery, Suzhou Embroidery
A few months ago when I visited my family in Taiwan, I noticed an exhibition of Suzhou decorative arts on the top level of the Eslite building. One of the artworks on exhibition was an embroidered reproduction of a section of Song Dynasty artist Su Han Chen (蘇漢臣) (960-1279)'s Children at Play in an Autumnal Garden, which depicts an older sister and her brother focused intently on the game of spinning dates. I hope you enjoy the photos!
The older sister (love the blue of her headband)
The baby brother
The siblings at play
Their game of spinning dates on a beautifully lacquered table
The original painting
Lady Han posted on February 25 2015 in Chinese embroidery, Gu Embroidery, Han XiMeng, 韓希孟
This week I thought I would share the work of Han XiMeng (韓希孟), one of my favourite embroiderers. Although very little detail about her life has survived, we do know that she lived sometime in the 17th century and married into a household renowned for their ladies’ embroidery works, otherwise known as Gu Embroidery(顧綉). Through her own training as a painter and her association with some of the finest calligraphers, painters and poets of the day, Han Ximeng further refined the marriage between painting and embroidery championed by her husband’s family, and her works were contemporaneously known as Lady Han Embroidery(韓媛綉).
Cloak Mending (补衮图)
Lakeside Stone and Butterflies (湖石花蝶)
Autumn Song of the Cicadas (络纬鸣秋)
Swimming Fish (游鱼)
Hyacinth Beans and Dragonflies (扁豆蜻蜓)
Aiguille En Fete 2015!! posted on February 19 2015 in Chinese Embroidery, Exhibitions, Indian Embroidery 1 Comment
This weekend I visited Aiguille en Fete, a needlework and craft show held annually in Paris. It was a gigantic room, full of needlework enthusiasts shopping the latest needlework supplies and kits, as well as admiring a limited exhibition of today's textile artists, with Asia being the focus this year. Here are photos of my favorite sights from this weekend. Hope you like them!
Embroidery of the Eiffel Tower from an embroidery firm from Agra, India
Another piece from the same Indian company
A selection of vintage Chinese children hats
An embroidered bird done in the Chinese style by Australian embroiderer Margaret Lee
The piece Margaret Lee had at her booth at the exhibition for demonstration
A horse textile/sculpture?
Assortment of fabric roses
HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!
Chanel Spring 2015 Haute Couture posted on February 03 2015 in Chanel, french embroidery, haute couture embroidery
I seem to post an awful lot from the Chanel haute couture collections, but each season they seem to consistently turn out a ravishing flurry of haute couture embroideries! Below are some pics from last week's Spring 2015 collection. To me, the pics (especially the first several) conjure psychedelic garden grown by aliens that love tropical colors lightyears from now!
A gloriously colorful bolero
Pansies. It would be cool to compare this with the pansies in Phase VII of Japanese Embroidery!
A skirt dripping with crimson petals
A skirt of a field of poppies (?)
The Bride (I read that the train/skirt took 15 petite mains 1 month to complete!)
Here's my new Chinese embroidery project. This was intended as a set of four botanical embroideries. of orchids, cymbidiums, carnations and paradise bird. I decided to do them two at a time and am working on the other two at the moment. Stay tuned!
Orchids + Cymbidiums
Here are two progress shots:
Some closer shots:
I put in a signature to make it look more like a botanical print :)
I'm glad I caught one of the last few days of the Met's exhibition on the history of kimonos, which concluded this past Sunday. Looking through the exhibition, I was greeted by this gorgeous blue satin wedding uchikake magnificently embroidered in a shell-matching game box design.
The Met description noted that this light blue uchikake, dating to either the Edo (1615-1868) or Meiji period (1868-1912), was likely worn by a young woman of the wealthy merchant class. The theme of shell-matching game boxes led the curator to believe that the kimono was created originally for a wedding, since only two properly matching halves of a shell can be paired in a traditional game of matching shells and thus symbolized a married couple.
Hope you enjoy the pictures. I took photos of a couple other exhibited kimonos, and I will post them in due course.
A detail of one of the matching shell game boxes. The description noted that the design of the boxes originated from scenes from the Tale of Genji. Unfortunately, I am not able to identify which scene :)
Full View of the Luxurious Kimono. The blue appears darker than it actually is in this photo.
Another Game Box.
A pair of Shells.
I thought the way this metal ring was done was so charming
The curator noted that the outstanding nature of this uchikake was highlighted by the fact that even the hem was lavishly embroidered. The hem was rarely decorated, as it is the most vulnerable part of the garment.
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