Chinese web celebrity gains a following with fairy tale worlds made of papier-mâché

By Ji Yuqiao Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/8 21:58:41

Xiaoqianfeng sits in the handmade tree hole. Photo: courtesy of Xiaoqianfeng

A Chinese web celebrity has spent the last two years collecting more than 100-kilograms of waste cardboard and other materials to build a life-sized papier-mâché fairy tale world that some have praised as being prettier than those depicted in the films of famous Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki.

After documenting the process she went through to create her handicraft artworks on Chinese video platform, internet celebrity "Xiaoqianfeng," 24, has earned more than 100,000 followers on the platform. Her most popular video, about how to make a "tree hole," has earned about 1.4 million views.

Xiaoqianfeng's quiet and relaxing videos have led many netizens to refer to her as "the next Li Ziqi" or "the Li Ziqi of handicrafts." Li Ziqi is a Chinese food and rural-life blogger with more than 10 million subscribers on YouTube.

Papier-mâché world

Most of Xiaoqianfeng's works are about fairy tales. 

"All of my works are designed and completed by myself. The designs are inspired by visions of fairy tales," Xiaoqianfeng told the Global Times.

She said that ever since she was a child, she has been crazy about storybooks with cartoon illustrations, her most loved one being Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. 

"The dreamy forest and colorful mushrooms in fairy tales deeply attracted me."

This deep love of fairy tales has lasts to today. Xiaoqianfeng eventually decided to craft a childlike tree with a hole and colorful mushrooms to pay tribute to that innocent time as a child. 

The frame for the tree and its hole, which is large enough to seat one person, was made from bamboo that Xiaoqianfeng had gathered from a nearby forest, while the frames for the mushrooms were made from iron wire. 

She then used discarded newspapers to make papier-mâché pulp. The newspapers had to be soaked in water for several days to soften, after which she literally beat them into a pulp using a hammer. This pulp was then pasted on the frames in a process that took a few weeks. 

The sculptures were then placed in the sun to dry. After a few days, the final process of painting them to add color could begin. 

Xiaoqianfeng also installed an LED in the tree hole so that it would magically shine in the darkness. 

It took her more than two months to complete the whole work. Although the process took her much time and effort, the work stunned users on the platform after its debut and received high praise. 

"It has awakened many netizens' childhood dreams and stimulated their interest in handicrafts," Xiaoqianfeng said. 

"Some users sent messages to me talking about their dreams and saying that the video has given them the courage to do what they really want to do, and others have sent me their works to share their own experiences."

The more than 1.4 million views and almost 20,000 comments show that her style of art has found a place among netizens. 

Challenges and creativity 

Making the frame for the tree hole was the most difficult part of the process, the blogger said. The bamboo she cut down for materials were all dozens of meters in length and she had to carry them quite a distance from the mountain forest to her home all on her own. 

"I did not expect that I would run into trouble while shooting the videos. But due to the humid air in the mountains, the camera lens easily fogged up and made the picture fuzzy, so I had to shoot for a period of time and then put the lens in a drying agent to absorb the moisture. In the end, it took a long time."

While the blogger noted that she often runs into troubles like this while making her art, she said she finds solving these problems an interesting process. She added that sometimes these problems can actually lead to better results.

For instance, she discovered that she hadn't bought enough brown pigment to paint the tree and there was no time to purchase more, so she decided to add water to the pigment. Surprisingly, the resulting color was even more like the shade of a real tree.

After graduating from South China Agricultural University in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province in 2014, Xiaoqianfeng did not pursue a career in her major, product design, but instead joined a training institution as a teacher like her father wanted her to. 

Unhappy with her job as a teacher, she quit after a year to return to her hometown and pursue what she really loved: producing videos. 

"The process of making a handicraft artwork is very long, but it makes me very happy to do what I love. Although I quit my job, I can still teach art in another way and inspire more people to take an interest in creative handicraft through my videos."


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