My first encounter with ferns was in the bathroom at home, he was a hanging Boston fern. At a young age, I thought, why not hang it on the planter by the window? I assumed it was because of the insufficient living space in Hong Kong. Only when I have grown older and hiked more, did I find out that ferns grow in humid environments? No wonder I met him in the bathroom.
A while ago, when I was moving in Tainan, my rabbit foot fern died. Walking on the streets, I saw bursts of staghorn ferns on shopfronts and inside the shops and was amazed at how ferns could grow so sturdily in Tainan even under such heat and minimal rainfall.
“Ferns are really such mysterious plants.” I lauded with wonder at the fern papercuts made by Wuba Yang, Founder of Paper Object.
【Time frame one – millions of years】
“Ferns have lived in the world for hundreds of millions of years. Taiwan, being 6.5 million years old and a young island in the subtropics, befittingly became a shelter for living things during the ice age.” Wuba Yang explained the life of ferns. I am certain that ferns are mystical beings.
“These ferns have lived on since prehistoric times. When we see them now, we should address them as grandfather.” I piously think that they are simply our ancestors, and these grandfathers and grandmothers are actually all around us. As Taiwan’s coordinates are similar to Hong Kong’s, there are not a few ferns among the valleys and shrubs in the mountains of Hong Kong too, for our appreciation in all seasons.
“I have loved papercutting since I was small. While I was on work exchange in Japan, I found that my colleagues would share their hobbies and interests on weekends. At the time, I understood that besides working, we should not forsake our interests. Papercutting is what I enjoy, and lately I have become more interested in creating papercuts of ferns.” I imagine Wuba wielding scissors, briskly making cuts on a piece of paper, as a piece of faux fern leaf gently descends.
“A plant of thousands of years, with the soul of a tree turned into paper and the appearance of real ferns, it rests on the palm, yet never withers. How romantic.” To spend time doing what one likes, one never feels bored.
【Time frame two – permanence】
Lately, I have been learning about essential oils. There is a plant with a wonderful name called “Immortelle” that can grow even on wastelands. Even after it is picked, it does not wilt for a whole year, hence the name “Immortelle”. I marvelled at it. “Immortal plants, how charming, you know how many plant killers there are in the city.” I gave a guilty laugh as I said that.
“Growing indoor plants is a trend in interior design now, but there are myriads of reasons why city people are unable to grow plants indoors. Papercuts of fern plants add lasting touches to people’s lives.” Through Wuba’s scissors, a plant of millions of years turns into a permanent, lasting paper specimen, giving us natural greenery in an instant.
“All lasting things are charming. People are increasingly yearning for solace in nature, and indoor plants have proliferated. How great would it be if there are fern specimens that never wilt.”
“Yeah! Green plants are so consoling! Paper plant art offers a home décor alternative for people who don’t have green fingers.” How thoughtful of Wuba also that her works come in sizes ranging from that of a bookmark to a wall painting, portraying lasting ferns with such multitudes.
【Time frame three – past and present】
“This little island of Taiwan has a history of 6.5 million years on earth already.” Despite all the unpleasantness of this year, what is one year when we take this in?
“After the ice age, the ferns that have survived in this little island all these years total to over seven hundred species, of which more than 60 are native to Taiwan.” Some ferns are difficult to come across in nature, and Wuba uses papercutting as a medium to let more people learn about these rare species that are much older than us.
Creating these fern papercuts takes time and requires close observations in-person. Wuba always retreats to Taipei’s backyard to visit Yangmingshan and mountainous terrains in central regions, where she photographs ferns to bring home for further examination and paper specimen-making. She hopes that people will cut down on collecting living fern specimens.
“Departing from the stereotypes of ‘papercutting’ on red papers, it passes on the substance of the craft and gives the declining art a new form to carry on.” Indeed, we have been tried by time to always consider ways to innovate and create better art, but perhaps we need only keep up with the times through our own experiences. We do not have to make massive efforts, and should, instead, put in the time to accommodate the aesthetics of today.