Chen was assigned to work at the Guangzhou Arts and Crafts Research Institute. During the first few years she worked in the institute, Chen studied various traditional Chinese crafts, including wood carving, embroidering and making ceramics. Eventually, she chose the craft of making Guangdong-style embroideries, which interested her most, as her life-long career. During the following three decades, she created numerous exquisite embroideries at the institute.
To revive the embroidery-making craft, Chen established a center dedicated to promoting the craft in 1994, one year after she retired from the institute. "I turned my apartment into a plant, in which my husband and I and our two boys made embroideries. When our plant earned a profit, we employed several craftspeople to make embroideries," Chen recalls.
During the past three decades, she has put a lot of effort into protecting and promoting the time-honored craft. She in 1984 had The Craft of Making Guangdong-style Embroideries published. The book uses simple language and vivid pictures to illustrate how to make embroideries. Chen reached the peak of her artistic creation after she retired from the institute. From 1990-2000, she created The Magnificent Landscape in the Area South of the Five Ridges (which cover Guangdong and South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region), a 13.8-meter-long and 1.2-meter-high embroidery. In 2004, she received first prize, for her creation of the work, at the first folk arts exhibition in Guangdong Province.
Chen is best at creating embroideries with the patterns of figures. She has made embroideries that portray many "celebrities" worldwide, including Mona Lisa (figure in a half-length portrait painted by the Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci [1452-1519]), Venus (the Queen of love), Diana Frances Spencer (1961-1997, Princess of Wales) and Zhao Puchu (1907-2000), a famous Chinese calligrapher. Despite her rich experience in creating embroideries that portray figures, Chen had a hard time depicting the dusky red cheek of Kofi Annan, a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-general of the United Nations from 1997-2006.
A few months before the 2010 Asian Games (in Guangzhou), Chen and Tan Zhanpeng, her son, and Huang Jianmin, her daughter-in-law, created a gigantic embroidery, entitled A Harmonious View in the Area South of the Five Ridges. The item hangs in the meeting hall, which was used by the State leaders during the games.
Chen, Tan and Huang set up Libaofang Craft Shop (in Liwan, a district in Guangzhou) several years ago. They produce and sell items, and they provide training to residents, to help them improve their embroidery-making skills, in the shop.
Chen is pleased that several universities in Guangdong in recent years have provided courses on the craft. "The youngsters will benefit from the inheritance (in a broad sense) of the traditional craft. Even if they land jobs that are irrelevant to the craft, learning about the art form will enable them to view things from a new perspective," says Chen.
On May 18, 2018, International Museum Day, Chen held a solo exhibition in Guangzhou Liwan Museum. Among the 54 embroideries displayed during the exhibition, many of her works embodied her new artistic styles. She also used new embroidering methods to create the items. "We embroiderers should blaze new trails when we create artworks, so we can better promote the traditional craft," Chen was quoted as saying.
Chen Shaofang, who was born in 1937 in Guangzhou, is a State-level inheritor of the craft of making Guangdong-styled embroideries. Given her outstanding achievements in promoting the traditional craft, the World Artists' Association presented, to Chen in 2008 and 2009, respectively, the Golden Eagle Award and the Golden Horse Award, both of which are life-achievement awards, for her efforts to promote the development of the world's traditional crafts. In 2010, China National Arts and Crafts Society presented her with the life-achievement award for promoting the development of the traditional Chinese craft.