the skills of creating jade carvings under He Rong, one of China's best-known jade carvers. Cheng was often so absorbed in practicing the craft-making skills that she forgot all about food and sleep. Within a year, she made so much progress that many of her artworks were well received.
In 1983, Cheng returned to the plant's workshop that produced filigree-inlaid works. During the following decade, she created more than 100 varieties of filigreeinlaid items, using the skills of creating jade carvings and the skills of designing both graphic and threedimensional artistic designs.
In 1989, her work, the Goddess of Mercy in a White Robe, earned her first prize at a national contest of artists, craftspeople and art designers.
In April 1992, Cheng began working, as an art designer, for Beijing Orafi Jewelry Co., Ltd., under Beijing Gongmei (Arts and Crafts) Group.
When you marvel at the unique beauty of filigreeinlaid works, you might not be aware of how much effort craftspeople devote to making the items. For example, the process of making a filigree-inlaid plaster statue of the Goddess of Mercy involves several complicated procedures, including designing the work, making the statue, preparing gold, silver and/or other precious metals to create the statue and creating the drafts of different parts of the statue, so workers can make the parts based on the drafts. "A craftsman or craftswoman has to make 20-plus drafts of the different parts (of the statue), including Buddha's light, flame, vase, lotus flower seat and her hat with tassels," says Cheng.
In addition to filigree-inlaid statues of figures, Cheng is good at both reproducing cultural relics and creating various filigree-inlaid items, including jewelry and knick-knacks.
During the past few years, many of her works have been presented to individuals and organizations in other countries during cultural-exchange activities, including APEC meetings (held in Beijing in November 2014) and the G20 Hangzhou summit (held in September 2016).
By integrating the artistic elements in traditional Chinese and Western paintings, and by using the skills for creating jade carvings,
Cheng has created a unique style in designing filigree-inlaid works. In March 2009, the advisory board, which was composed of members of the Beijing Arts and Crafts Association, the Beijing Folk Literature and Art Society and the Beijing Toys Association, named Cheng's artworks "Cheng-styled filigree-inlaid works." Cheng was one of the few artists, or craftspeople, whose works were named after their names.
Cheng established a studio, in Beijing, to produce and sell filigree-inlaid items, soon after she retired from Orafi in 2000. Although she lacked capital to develop her business during the first year, she did not give up on her dream of promoting the traditional craft throughout the world.
During the past decade, Cheng has put much effort into cultivating inheritors of the traditional Chinese craft, so the art form will not be lost. Before she takes on an apprentice, Cheng usually observes the man or woman carefully, to determine whether he or she is morally eligible (as the man or woman uses precious metal to create filigree-inlaid items), and to find out if he/she has a keen interest in the craft and gift for art. In addition to teaching the skills to her apprentices, Cheng helps the young people improve their technical skills. Several of Cheng's apprentices have become promising craftsmen or craftswomen.
Chinese President Xi Jinping in June 2018 presented the Friendship Medal to Vladimir Putin, President of Russia. The Friendship Medal is the highest Statelevel honor presented to foreigners, who have made outstanding contributions to promoting China's modernization drive and China's economic and cultural exchanges and cooperation with other countries, and to safeguarding world peace. Cheng participated in the design and creation of the medal. "I take pride in doing my bid to promote friendship and communications between the two peoples," Cheng was quoted as saying.
On July 20, 2018, Cheng went to the National Library of China, to attend the cultural activity to display the unique charm of the eight traditional arts and crafts of Beijing. She was delighted to see that many visitors carefully watched the exquisite filigree-inlaid jar, which she reproduced based on the cultural relic housed in the Palace Museum, the largest museum in China.
Although Cheng has achieved tremendous successes in her career, she has remained modest, and she has kept a low profile. "I will continue to work hard to innovate the technical skills used to create the crafts, and try my best to promote the traditional craft, so more people will understand the beauty of the art form," she says.
Cheng Shumei, who was born in 1945 in Beijing, is a Statelevel master of arts and crafts in China and the Beijing municipallevel inheritor of the craft of making filigree-inlaid works. Cheng's zest for the traditional Chinese craft has inspired her to tirelessly pursue artistic perfection during the past five decades. She has won many prizes during national art exhibitions and craft competitions.