Monday, 30 March 2009

Chinese Dough Sculpting- Tang Suguo

In 1997, whilst living in Singapore, I had read in the 'Straits Times' that there was to be an exhibition of Chinese Folk Art during the celebrations of the Lunar New Year. I had been very interested in anything traditionally Chinese. I'd just bought some dough figures, a mother and child, and wanted to see it done by an expert. Also at the end of the article, it had said that visitors could have sculptures done of themselves for 60 dollars.

The traditional art of Dough Sculpting, had originated in China during the Han Dynasty (206BC- AD 220).

We eventually found the place and watched as ' Dough man', Tang Suguo, 61, sculpted one of his customers.

As a small boy, Tang Suguo had begun his training by using a mixture of wheat and rice, learning from his father, Tang Zibo, also a sculptor and painter. They brought several innovations to the craft, such as sculpting other figures not just the traditional mythological figures, they integrated dyes into the mixture of wheat and rice as it was kneaded instead of painting them when they were finished and mounted them on greeting cards. Tang Suguo grew up to become the Associate Professor at the Central Institute of Fine Arts in Beijing.

And a more pleasant man you couldn't wish to meet. We had decided that we would love a scuplture of our son, Michael, then aged two. I must have forgotten my camera on that day, as we have no pictures of the experience, but Tang Suguo was very patient, and very kind. I don't remember how long it took him to sculpt the 3cm model of Michael, not very long, but thankfully Michael was very well behaved!
Fourteen years later, the model is still as brightly coloured as when it was made, and is one of my most prized possessions!
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