Artisan lends hand to disabled

Updated:2020-07-30 (chinadaily.com.cn)

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Jiang Jianfei, a tiger-head shoe artisan from Ningbo, East China's Zhejiang province. [Photo/Cixi Daily]

Jiang Jianfei, an artisan from Ningbo, didn't expect a sudden impulse would completely change her retirement life, as well as the lives of many people with physical disabilities.

Jiang, 65, is a master in making tiger-head shoes, a provincial intangible cultural heritage item in Zhejiang. 

It was in 2018, when Jiang had retired and was watching the Paralympic Games at home that she made the decision to use her skills, which she learned from her mother, to help the disabled.

"Tiger-head shoes can be made while sitting down, making it easier for people with physical disabilities." 

In 2009, Jiang started to teach disabled people how to make the shoes, something she has now been committed to for over a decade. 

Usually it takes her two or three days to make a pair of tiger-head shoes, but if the disabled wish to earn any money, they must do it even faster, according to Jiang.

To solve that, the artisan offered a full training course, allowing her disabled students to be responsible for only one step according to their own personal preferences rather than making a complete shoe.

"Some like to make eyes, so I will teach them more about that. Those that work hard enough can make 100 yuan ($14.49) per day." 

The workshop opened by Jiang attracted more and more disabled people from the city, with some even starting their own business after the apprenticeship. 

In 2013, the art of making tiger-head shoes was listed as a provincial intangible cultural heritage item in Zhejiang and Jiang decided to register a trademark. 

Jiang has also developed various colors and styles tailored to different cities. Customers from Cixi, a county-level city in Ningbo, tend to prefer red, while those from Hangzhou prefer yellow, she said, adding that her workshop provides customized services for customers with special requirements. 

She has also launched several high-end series. "Shoes are made with homespun cloth, and each pair is designed with a unique head pattern and eyes." The series has proved popular among collectors.