The first thing I thought of when I saw families living and working in the row houses working on paper fans was: "Hand made mass production, and to think I thought everything coming out of China was mass produced in factories."
Since we walked into the town by the back way through the fields we saw the production from the end product to the beginning, verses start to finish.
Each home on the long lane had one task to do in making the large fans. Again I was so impressed, surprised, caught off guard, unlike a professional reporter, more like a happy camper ready to eat the smores at the end of the campfire, that I forgot to take step by step photos.
The many steps to Fulitown's fan making...
One family rolls out the thin tan paper and cuts it.
Another family cuts and adds the tape lines to form the sections and eventually fold lines for the fans.
The next family glues the thin fan paper on a board. The fans are at least six feet long.
The next family paints the fans a solid color. On the day we were in Fulitown the fans were being painted, red, green and pink. I personally liked them glued to the boards. I could imagine them hanging haphazardly from a large warehouse wall like modern art. French Husband thought I was serious about wanting to take some home, and started in about the lack of space, and size of our suitcase. I told him not to worry his pretty head. His expression turned into a question mark, "Pretty head? That's new. What does it mean?" I shrugged, "In Chinese that means you follow me and I kiss your feet." French Husband didn't buy it, "You don't speak Chinese..." But before he could say anything I kissed him and said, "Pretty Head!"
Each step of the fan making was labor intensive, accomplished with speed and precision, pride and honor. Their many hands, their many talents, their joy, their careful details executed precisely... not a single thing resembling cheap mass production. Yet each fan sold for less than a song sang badly.
One of the last steps, other than the hand painted designs, the trim border that was hand-cut and added by two elderly people, and then the hand cut wood strips for the fan to fold...
Was the folding of the fan.
The Chinese create. Their handiwork is brilliant. Their keen eye for detail, business, their open minds to create, copy and produce what the public wants, even if it isn't their style, need, or desire is nothing short of genius.
No task too small, no job less important. Methodical, and steady as they go to reach the goal.
As a Western I know how we consume, especially when the product is "cheap" or on sale. How many times have I bought something because of the price and not the need? How many times did I think, "How many hands did it take to make this? Isn't it worth more than the water, energy and money it is costing me to buy this?" I can honestly say, not enough, that is how often. Every little thing that is made in China, especially for the Western World isn't mass produced... many things are made by hand, millions of hands, million of things....
In the end I was given a small fan in a pretty fabric box by one of the women I asked to take a photo of (yesterday's post). I want to pass the fan on to one of you.
Tell me what was the last thing you bought,
was it made in China?
(I'll randomly select someone tomorrow and send the fan when I am back in France.)