The other day I was lucky enough to have fellow lion restoration artist Ryan Au and UCLA ACA Lion Dance team member Andy Ta come over for a visit after dinner. On their previous visit we were able to spend a couple of hours talking about the art of lion building, discussing techniques and sharing issues. Ryan blogged about it on his own Lionblogs website. Check it out and show him some love.
This time around we were getting together for the sole purpose of celebrating the completion of Ryan’s latest project, the restoration of a Liu Bei lion named Ace for the Southern Young Tigers, a lion dance team based at UC Irvine. Being a full-time student, it’s taken Ryan several years to complete the job which was a complete restoration similar to the project I was working on when I started this blog. He needed to strip the old lion down, repair the frame and build it all back up again. His work is all documented on his website so I won’t repeat it here. What I do want to do here is take a closer look at some of the features Ryan built into Ace and give you some food for thought as you consider how you want your own lions to look.
Click any picture for a larger version.
The first thing I noticed was Ace was super shiny. There are many different finishing products you can use after you paint a lion and the level of glossiness is a personal preference issue. It’s best to experiment with products from different companies and even different finishes from the same company to see which will give you the results you want. I really like the hihg-gloss finish that makes the painting seem all the more bold and brilliant.
From this side view you can also see that while most of the lion’s main hair is traditional bristle, the lower eye lashes under the eye are rabbit fur instead. By using a type of fur with a shorter pile not as much of the painting patterns get hidden underneath. It also gives the lion’s look a bit of variety to keep things interesting.
Moving back along Ace’s side we come to the soy are and find a double soy each with it’s own shape of fins and a red side ball. It’s different than the double soy Lo An Kee made so it’s interesting to see how different lion makers build the same features in different ways. You can also see the metal discs glued on and incorporated into the painting pattern. Many times these discs are glued on haphazardly with no rhyme or reason so it’s nice to see some thought put into this. Ryan says there are over 200 discs on Ace. They’re slightly smaller than normal which allows them to blend into the pattern better than large ones which tend to stick out and call attention to themselves. I would’ve liked to have seen pompoms attached to the triangular fins of the inner soy as well, but costs can be prohibitive and it’s a minor thing.
Taking a closer look at Ace’s ear you can see that instead of leaving the rabbit fur strips plain Ryan added a layer of gold trim. The thicker, 1/2″ gimp trim really makes the gold shimmer and creates a good transition border between the fur and the painting.
I really like the colors on Ace’s hero balls (pompoms), they pull from the colors used on the painting and are a deep rich color that photos just don’t do justice to. You’ll have to see them up close in person to really appreciate them. Ryan also did a great job on the many background blends, orange, pink and green ones are visible here.
Here’s a nice shot of Andy and Ryan demonstrating stances and movements with the lions. Ace is sporting a really long silky white beard. In traditional lion design the color and length of the beard indicates the age and maturity of the lion. In this case it’s very fitting for a Liu Bei lion to have a beard befitting his age and wisdom as the first emperor of China.
Andy has his own lion project going on as well so next year I want to see three lions in this picture!
Let me know what you think by commenting below or drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org, I appreciate it!