The Folk Art

The art of making animals from palm fronds has been passed down from generation to generation in China. In modern China is has become something of an artistic anachronism: not many know the craft. It takes many years and much patience to become proficient. Before the weaving starts, the palm maker must collect the palm fronds from the short bush-like palm trees growing in the area. Each animal will take much time to create. Even an insect will take close to an hour, with bigger animals taking an entire half day. In the past (and up to this day) the palm leaves were not treated with any oils, so after a few weeks, they would dry up and people would have to throw away the shriveled palm animals. Today some artists, such as the one presented, preserve their work with oils and finishes so they will last many, many years.

Read more... | Published: 03/16/09

Praying Mantis

The Praying Mantis, holding its powerful front legs folded and ready to strike, has intrigued humans throughout time. Farmers and gardeners revere them for consuming mosquitoes and other pests. With an eerily alien visage and a stealthy hunting ability, the praying mantis symbolizes creativity, awareness and patience. It is used as a spiritual totem for meditation and contemplation. Yet it is also a brilliant combatant. Kung Fu masters during the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) adopted some of the whip-like attack techniques of the Praying Mantis. The “praying mantis hook” uses both hands out front with one, two or three fingers extended in a “praying mantis fist.” One fist is used to deflect an attack, while the other goes for the opponent’s neck or face area. A praying mantis waits patiently, then moves fast and goes for the neck. It will start enjoying its meal right away. In some parts of China Praying Mantis are set against each other in fighting contests. The Praying Mantis has sharp spiny spikes on its forelegs. Though they will not nip a person, they attack lightning fast to eat other insects. They’ve even been seen to kill small mice. Praying Mantises can hear ultrasonic signals. That ability helps them avoid being eaten by bats. Birds and snakes also eat them. They have two big eyes and three more little ones in between. Like the black widow spider, after mating the female will eat the male! Yuck! Later she will lay many separate masses of eggs in gummy material on twigs or tree branches. They will hatch the next year. (The mother will live only 6 months to 1 year, so she won’t see them hatch). When they hatch the babies already look like tiny adults, but they can’t fly until they grow older. It takes three months (& several skin sheddings) for them to mature.

Read more... | Published: 12/03/08