Chinese Folk Art has had a big impact on China’s culture and art heritage. This type of art is recognized by expats around the world and at home. We follow one local Beijinger as he creates a replica of his costumers face using clay.
I'm from Shandong Province. In ancient times my town was called Caozhou, where is the hometown of Dough Figurines, but now it’s called Heze.
Because my hometown is poor.
We didn’t have much money.
As a man it’s hard to find a wife.
If you don’t have money, how are you meant to make your wife happy?
How are you meant to support her?
What you really need to do is learn a skill.
You are the next. You’re next.
The first time I saw dough figurines I think I was nearly 6 years old.
Before I started school.
Because I was a small child.
Just a little kid.
We all wanted to see all the cool stuff.
As soon as we finished dinner, we'd run off.
You have to make sure you get there early to get the best spot.
The best spot was right at the front.
It was only when you were at the front.
That you could see how the it was all made.
When I was little I loved to watch.
Because I grew up like this, I was always interested.
The figurines were pretty great.
You didn’t have to go crazy.
You could carry a small box, and go out to the market streets.
I went off to the big city, I wanted to go somewhere I’d never been.
And afterward I would just go and learn with my uncle.
We would make little characters from stories like the Monkey King and Journey to the West.
Using just our hands and the materials from the town.
We’d mix up the colors and make different things.
The bananas looked just like bananas, the oranges just like oranges.
Peaches, apples, they all looked real.
You could barely tell the difference.
Whatever the market needed us to sell, we would make it.
After that, I studied with Master Wang, I made traditional characters
Figures wearing traditional clothes, characters from Beijing Opera, portraits.
I have done Dough Figurines for 27 years.
Yea, I think that’s Donny Cash. I didn’t think she was famous enough to be... Maybe she is. Look, there’s President Obama.
“So, you take a photo and you make a face.”
Yes, I can make your face in 20 minutes.
Make your face in 20 minutes.
That’s an Obama face there.
Yes, that’s an Obama face.
When it’s 10 years younger.
I was surprised to see Obama. You know President Obama and his wife there and we through we saw Johnny Cash but apparently it’s not. It’s someone else. But anyway, we’ve never seen that particular art work. That’s something new to me that in 20 minutes your face can be on that figure, not something that we do. So, it was a surprise.
The first thing I made was in 2003. I started making portrait-figurines.
I made a Saddam figurine, that was during the Iraq war.
The first time I left the country was in 1998.
I went to Hong Kong and Thailand.
I couldn’t say anything and I felt like I was completely illiterate or blind or something. Because back home I could read a few Chinese characters, but everything abroad was in English.
I didn’t know which waiting room, or which boarding gate to go to.
I just showed my boarding pass to someone.
I got on the plane when I saw everyone else was.
Going abroad really broadened my horizons.
If I got the chance, I'm definitely going to go abroad again.
I want to go abroad and develop and show the world China's traditional crafts.
The foreign students, they can be my pupils, and they can be my friends, it’s all the same. When they come to mainland China they can get familiar with Chinese culture.
I can teach whoever wants to learn.
[DOUGH MAKING SCENE]
Watch closely, I’m going to demonstrate for you.
Can you see clearly? To make small beads you have to hold your hands so they’re wide at the top and narrow at the bottom.
A little mouse.
Wow! You can speak Chinese.
Yes I can.
This is a little mouse.
I was born in the year of the mouse.
Then I’ve made just the right thing for you.
You make one by yourself.
It’s great. Not bad at all. She just has to watch once and she'll know how to make it. Look, she’s even faster than I am.
You're much better than me. I can help you.
Yes, you could, yeah. If you have time you can help translate for me.
We could work together.
First horizontal then vertical then vertical then press down and you're done.
This is a Chinese mouse. This is a Russian mouse.
There’s aspects that I like and aspects that I don’t like.
What I like about it is, it lets me feed my family. What I don't like about it is that I can't be with my parents. When you do this kind of work you're the most busy when everyone else has time off.
Making these figurines is something you can really stick with that just shows how much I like doing it. It means that there's a real demand for these figurines. Otherwise they wouldn't exist.