Saturday, May 26, 2007
Quick with scissors
With a few dozen rapid snips of scissors, Hou-Tien Cheng can transform a paper plate into a dragon hat or an ordinary sheet of white paper into SpongeBob SquarePants.
The New Jersey man is one of the best-known masters of ancient Chinese, freeform paper cutting, who demonstrates his skills at schools and conventions across the United States.
He boasts that he “will create any subject you can think of in paper cuts ... quicker than two bites of a cookie.” And, he can.
Historians believe paper cutting was born in North Chinese houses where people once felt a need to dress up their dull, paper windows coated with tung oil with red cutouts of flowers.
Cheng learned this artform from his grandfather as a child before immigrating from Taiwan to the United States.
He drew a steady stream of visitors to his booth at the Pittsburgh Folk Festival over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. He also has made a string of television appearances since 1970, including a role in a 2003 Citibank commercial.
Slovenian folk dancers spun in circles on the main stage, wearing colorful, traditional costumes, while Cheng worked his magic before a young couple who were amazed by his skills.
And, I broke out my wallet and gladly paid $4 for a matted black and white Cheng design of two panda bear. Without notice, he slipped a small, cool paper cut of a unicorn into my bag.