Qi Xiu Hua holds many important offices in organizations that support the Chinese folk arts, including the Paper Cut Artist Association of Weifang. She was born in 1963 in Jinggou and now lives in Gaomi, both in Shandong Province. Gaomi is well known for its excellence in making paper cuts as well as Pu Hui New Year’s pictures and clay sculptures. Because the town excels in these areas of expertise, Gaomi is called the “Hometown of Folk Arts in China.” Among the three art forms, paper cutting is the most popular.
Beginning at the age of eight, Qi learned to make paper cuts from her grandmother. She later became a student of master artist, Jiao Yan Feng. Because Gaomi is known for its paper cuts, she had the opportunity to learn from many other skilled artists, who came to town to do workshops. Working from traditional forms of Gaomi paper cuts, she invents new ways of expressing her characters, making them her own. Everyday life and important Chinese novels also inspire her designs. She explains that many of the images also come from traditional embroidery designs found on both clothes and insoles. In 1997, the Year of the Ox, the government commissioned her to make ox patterns for their postage stamp.
Some patterns are placed in windows, Qi explains. This is a tradition that is over 300 years old. Other paper cuts are made to cover steamed bread during wedding ceremonies. All the patterns have lucky meanings, like having a long life, bearing many children, or living a harmonious life with one’s family. The red colored paper she uses is also chosen because it is a lucky color.
Lamenting the fact that so many paper cuts are made by machine today, she explains that only handmade paper cuts have life in them. In her mind, there is no life in the machine made copies.