65-year-old Zhang Kehua, a retired mason from Qianjiang, China, has a very unique skill – he can assemble realistic Chinese vases out of thousands of folded plastic playing cards.
We’ve seen people create all kinds of impressive structures by expertly stacking playing cards, but what Zhang Kehua does is on a whole other level. The Chinese retiree has taught himself several methods of folding plastic playing cards so that they can be assembled into life-size vases that even feature traditional decorative patterns. His creations are so flawless that seen from a far, you could swear that they are made of porcelain.
I stumbled upon a photo of Zhang Kehua’s incredible vases on an English version of the China Daily newspaper, but the page didn’t really provide any information about how the amateur artist discovered this technique, or how he put all the folded cards together. So I had to rely on Google Translate to search for more information on Chinese websites, and while the translation was less than perfect I was able to learn a bit more about this incredible man and his unique craft.
Working as a mason, Zhang Kehua, of Qianjiang, Hubei Province, spent most of his life restoring ancient buildings in Jianli district. This meant that he got the opportunity to admire lost of ancient relics, his favorite of which were vases. The combination of white and blue porcelain, and the intricate patterns always appealed to him, but he never dreamed that he would one day make his own, let alone out of playing cards.
The idea for the unusual art form came to him a few years ago, after seeing a child in the streets playing with a plastic playing card by folding it into small triangles. He realized that using this technique, one could theoretically fold the card into multiple shapes. The first thing that popped into his mind was a Chinese vase, so he went home and started practicing.
As you can imagine, figuring out a way to fold and then assemble plastic playing cards into realistic porcelain vases was a challenging feat, but after about a month of trial and error, he made his first vase. Once he got the building process all figured out, he focused on aesthetics, trying to emulate the intricate patterns he saw on actual Chinese porcelain vases. In time, he created two distinct styles, one geometric, featuring shapes like squares, diamonds and triangles, and the other artistic, with traditional Chinese elements like dragons and phoenixes.
When starting work on a project, Zhang Kehua always draws up a blueprint of how the cards should be folded and assembled to create the desired effect. He has created playing card vases of up to 106 centimeters tall, which contain around 5,000 playing cards and take over a week to complete.
The self-taught artist spends a lot of his time collecting colored playing cards to use for his unique craft. In the beginning, he sold his creations as home decorations and wedding gifts, but after getting featured by large publications in China, he started getting contacted by collectors as well.