Friday, March 10, 2006

Nifty hands

I probably don't sound it or look it, but I have pretty nifty hands. I used to enjoy (actually I still do) doing craftwork. I discovered this skill during my secondary school years, during the Art lessons.

I used to handmake pop-up cards and send them to some of my friends. Those
180-degrees type where you need to string parts of the cut-out patterns to the base piece of construction paper. It wasn't often though, for they can be quite time-consuming.

But that's not my favourite type of craftwork. Indeed, I've stopped making them eons ago.

My favourite craftwork is 剪紙. The correct or traditional way to do it is with rice paper and a pair of sharp scissors. I was introduced to it by my Art teacher and the way we did it was with a photostated pattern or design, construction paper and a pen knife. It was very time-consuming too. I remember spending one whole weekend on the one assigned for homework. But finishing it without any mishaps gave me immense satisfaction. That was how I got started on it.

I used to look out for designs or patterns from the newspapers. Sometimes, they'll appear in advertisements, especially during Chinese New Year. I got a set of zodiac signs' designs from one such advertisement. Unfortunately, good designs are few and far between.

My favourite set of designs is, not surprisingly, of
三國演義 characters. I had gone to some chinese culture exhibition at the Chinese Chamber of Commerce during my NS years (NS years very eng, you see) and saw the set there. It was a set of ten of the more famous characters from 三國演義. Very exquisitely cut, and on rice paper too! The original type!

I remember debating with myself on whether to buy it. You see, they were going for $40, that's $4 per paper cutting (!), and NS pay then (and now too) isn't exactly something to crow about. I hesitated, then left the exhibition. After a short walk, I decided to the hell with it and doubled back to get the set. Afterwhich I got each design photostated (with great care!) for my own use. Each character design can sit comfortably on an A4 sized piece of paper.

Then I started cutting. And cutting. And cutting. These were the largest designs I've ever gotten my hands on and they required real patience. In the end, each character took me about one to two months to complete. I would spend about half an hour every day on it. Anything beyond that, my hands would start tiring and I would start getting impatient. That's when mistakes occur.

I have since completed cutting seven of the ten characters. They are namely 劉備,諸葛亮,關羽,張飛,趙云,黃忠 and 馬超. The latter five characters are of course the infamous 五虎將 and are collectively my personal favourite. I'm really proud of these particular five cuttings. Some of these seven designs, I've done multiple pieces and gave them away as gifts for friends (I am not kidding).

Unfortunately, I can't post pictures of the seven here as they are obviously at home in Singapore. You'll have to take my word for it.

I had also on occasion shown my work to some friends and they inevitably will gasp and comment on the patience and care I must have then to complete them without mishaps. I suppose I did.

And maybe still do, for more recently, another person was to make this same comment to me, but on an entirely different matter. It was from my immediate boss.

I had shown him a certain handwritten mathematical proof that ran into pages (for that
recent publication I had mentioned some time back). It wasn't a cheem proof and I was able to summarise the basic steps to him in a few sentences. But it was a tedious long-drawn proof. After seeing my pages of neat and small (keywords) scribblings, he made that comment.

I suspect he never did double-check my workings for possible errors. Actually, I suspect the reviewers didn't as well. Maybe that's how we got it published! :P

35 days to go.

Edit: The pictures below were added on 25th May 2006. They were taken after my return home, thanks to the digital camera borrowed from my sis. Click through to see larger pics of the paper cuttings:劉備 in emperor robes. And yes, that's an eunuch standing behind him and fanning him.諸葛亮 in his traditional fanning pose.關羽 reading a book. Standing behind him is his loyal servant, 周倉. He is carrying 關羽's weapon of choice.張飛, with his weapon of choice.趙云 with spear and sword (plundered from one of 曹操's generals). If you look carefully, you will find again a baby wrapped in his 戰袍.黃忠, who is known for his archery skills, hence the bow.馬超 with traditional headgear. He is from the north-western part of China.


Blogger Little Miss Drinkalot said...

I'm impressed!

Fri Mar 10, 12:12:00 pm 2006  
Blogger Acey Deucey said...

Thankie, thankie. *Big Grin*

Fri Mar 10, 12:22:00 pm 2006  
Blogger ChroniclesofChaos said...

First off:"Hey Thankie Thankie is my word! I own the copyrights to it!" (But secretly, I'm glad some of the influence rubbed off! Even if you are gonna tell me that you didn't 'learn' the word off our conversations.)

Secondly, I have always held the belief that sometimes, it is easy to see how a person will love with the telltale signs they show in every day life.

Your rice paper cutting says a lot. And no, I do not care to share... 'neh neh nee boo boo!'

I have missed the banter but right now, the flesh and the spirit is weakened with boughts of body wrecking cough, amongst others.

Sat Mar 11, 02:06:00 am 2006  
Blogger Acey Deucey said...

First off, yeah right.

Second, you had assumed I would get curious and ask you what you meant.

Third, strangely, my niece has recently been inflicted by a very bad cough herself. This has never ever happened before. I hope both of you recover quickly.

Sat Mar 11, 08:29:00 am 2006  
Blogger ChroniclesofChaos said...

Impressed and Astounded do not begin to describe the pics...

Thu May 25, 11:16:00 pm 2006  
Blogger Acey Deucey said...

Hee hee. Thank you ah, for thy praise. Not many people have seen these, because I've kept them well-protected at home.

Thu May 25, 11:20:00 pm 2006  
Anonymous jade said...

you mean they are only A4-sized??? Gosh.. i din get to scrutinise your talented fingers!

Fri May 26, 01:43:00 am 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


That must have taken you a long time to cut out the designs.

It looks great but maybe you should swtich the background to deep blue or black.

Maybe it's the digital cam but the cuttings doesn't come out promptly enough.


Fri May 26, 09:12:00 am 2006  
Blogger Acey Deucey said...

Yeah, A4 size. Not talented fingers lah, Jade, just patient.

And yes, they took me a long time to cut, CM. About 1 to 2 months per design (as I had written above). I am no photographer and the digital camera isn't mine (returned liao).

Fri May 26, 09:48:00 am 2006  

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