Paper cutting is a specialised form of decorative art that originated in China during the Han dynasty. Sadly, with the advent of the digital era and the emerging culture of instant gratification, paper cutting has often been neglected and forgotten.
However, not all hope is lost. Self-taught paper cut artist, Beatrice Ng, seeks to bring this beautiful art form back with her intricate hand-cut paper designs.
She tells me she first dabbled in paper cutting during her final project in 2010 when she was taking her arts degree at Lasalle College of the Arts.
“I wanted to do something different besides drawing. So, I researched and chanced upon Rob Ryan, a British visual artist who is famous for his detailed paper cutouts. I was so inspired and impressed by his works that I decided to do paper cutting for my final project.”
Today, Beatrice is still a huge fan of Rob Ryan and even flew to the UK to visit his studio.
Spreading Love For Heritage
Much as she loves paper cutting, Beatrice realises she is unable to pursue this passion full-time. In the day, she works as a graphic designer in the publishing industry. In her spare time, she channels her creativity into her paper cuts.
She started paper cutting as a part of an art collective called Hodge Podge with her friends. In 2014, she decided to launch her own brand – Da Mi, to pursue her passion for paper cutting. Da Mi, a playful translation of her name ‘Beat-Rice’ into Mandarin, is a nickname coined endearingly by her friends.
For those who are unfamiliar, paper cutting can be done via scissors or knife. The former uses a cut-and-fold technique whereas the latter involves carving out pieces in the paper.
Beatrice explains to me, “Paper cutting with scissors is the traditional Chinese method. For me, I use a knife for my paper cuts, which is a western technique. Cutting using a knife allows me to create more complex and meaningful designs.”
“I conceptualise and draw the designs out on black paper that ranges from A5 to A3 size. Once I am satisfied with the design, I cut it out. Some of the cutouts are mounted onto frames for customers. Others prefer to hang the cutout as itself so that they see the shadow it casts onto the background.”
Beatrice does commissioned work for customers but her real love lies in architecture, particularly local architecture. This is evident from her works, with the majority of her designs incorporating her signature rows of buildings.
“Buildings represent the history and unique story of a place. The early HDBs in Singapore have their own distinct characteristic. They represent Singapore and you can see the changes of our country through our buildings,” she elaborates.
Through her paper cut designs, Beatrice hopes to share the love of her heritage and her culture with everyone.
“The shophouses at Chinatown are my favourite because my mom is Peranakan. Including the shophouses into my designs is a way to retain the heritage of the old shophouses, even after they are torn down.”
The romance of castles is also featured in her early designs. She shows me one of her best-selling and favourite piece featuring a rose and a castle that is inspired by Beauty and The Beast.
Another favourite collection that is close to her heart is a series done for T-shirt Design competition organised by Good Eye Dear.
This series reflects the identity and heritage of olden day Singapore, incorporating elements related to the kopitiam, old cinema and old street names. The kopitiam-inspired design eventually won the gold award and was printed for sale!
Fans As Her Motivation
Before she starts on a design, Beatrice likes to meet up with her customer to better understand their stories and to inject a personal touch. Sometimes, it is a love story, other times it is symbolic of their perspective of Singapore.
“My designs are all unique. Every artwork tells a personal story.”
She explains, “The mind-mapping of a design and sketching it out takes the most time because I have to ensure that every element is connected. A piece can generally be completed within few hours to a few days, depending on the complexity of the art work.”
“People who appreciate my artwork are the reason why I continue doing my craft. Because, the reason why I make paper cuts is to inspire others and to spread love. I think the society today needs more loving.”
“The feeling of passing on the love, from an artwork to a customer who loves your work, is the best feeling ever.”
In fact, there have been constant requests for Beatrice to conduct paper cutting classes.
She has declined so far because “the essential part of my art is the creativity of the mind and how to express the ideas by drawing them out. I can teach people how to cut paper but I cannot teach them how to have creativity or how to draw!”
Going on, Beatrice wants to relaunch an improved version of her earlier works that aim to educate the public about Chinese culture, and to explain the origin behind each Chinese character. She thinks that it is quite a shame that the younger generation has lost touch of their heritage and wishes to create more awareness using art as the medium.
As we finish up our chat, Beatrice shows me a paper cut bookmark that she made. As I ran my fingers over the details, it feels so fragile yet delicately beautiful. I think I have become a fan myself!
To commission a piece of her paper cut or to buy her designs, click here.