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Paper-cut Folk Art Now in Vogue
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The holiday atmosphere is everywhere. At the prestigious shopping destination Plaza 66, a bamboo shoot "Vogue Wish Tree," decorated in traditional red and gold, has been set up next to the celebrity-spotting Atrium cafe, showcasing a magic combination of traditional Chinese paper-cut arts and modern global fashion.

The bamboo shoots are considered a symbol of fortune, suggesting that prosperity will spring as fast as bamboo shoots in the coming year. The unfolding "leaves" or shoots feature the magnified paper-cut silhouettes of elegantly dressed modern ladies.

They were created by Wei Yiping, one of the very few paper-cut masters in China and the only student of paper-cut master Ku Shulan.

Based on the images provided by Chinese Vogue magazine, Wei "carved" 10 of the most "in" looks of today's fashion world with plain red paper. Figures in skinny pants and virtually see-through tops are set against backgrounds of auspicious plum blossoms, chrysanthemums, peach blossoms and willows.

The images are magnified and reproduced in gold-colored metal to form the enormous bamboo shoot installation. The small original paper works, about four inches by six inches, are displayed at the site, together with two paper dresses designed by Wei using scissors and scalpels.

On her first visit to Shanghai, the Shaanxi Province native has also brought her larger award-winning art piece shown in Germany, "Long Feng Cheng Xiang" (dragon and phoenix), to wish all the lovers in the city a sweet and merry New Year. The dragon and phoenix represent the emperor and empress in ancient China.

In her thirties, the deft craftswoman started to learn paper cutting at the age of seven from her mother and grandmother, both renowned folk artists in Xi'an in western China.

Her works have been incorporated into the archives of the Central Academy of Fine Arts and the National Art Museum of China, and exhibited in Canada, France, Germany and Australia. Her extraordinary skills amazed visiting Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi last year.

However, Wei says she seldom leaves Xi'an where she works in a small studio near the Drum Tower day and night.

"I'd like to create as much work as I can when I'm still young and my eyesight is still good," she explains. "Art has no boundaries. I feel it's the responsibility of our generation to introduce China's great folk arts to the world."

The petit woman embodies great ideals in her works, too. She changed her name the day when she learned about the Iraq War: the word "yi" represents Iraq and the word "ping" means "peace." She says: "Culture only thrives under peaceful circumstances."

According to her, the most traditional things can also turn out to be the most avant garde. That's why she agreed to work with Vogue magazine, and she is satisfied with the result.

The "wish tree" has also been decorated with all kinds of holiday gifts from international fashion houses such as Prada, Celine, Fendi, Lagerfeld and Anna Sui.

The exhibits have been collected under the theme "the art of giving." A cosmetic brush set has been made especially for the event by the 145-year-old Shao Zhi Yan Writing Brush Workshop in Hangzhou. A series of hand-made silver jewelry pieces inspired by Vogue's classic illustrations, created by local jewelry workshop PH7, are also on display.

(Shanghai Daily February 16, 2007)

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