Who is Evergreen Cards and Why Do We Exist?
Evergreen Cards, although a business, is in reality all about serving people—people who have been mostly overlooked or disenfranchised by society. We do this by providing hope through job skills' training that leads to new economic opportunity for them and their families.
Our purpose and operating philosophy comes directly from the organization who helped incubate us, Shanxi Evergreen Service, whose existence is focused on assisting Shanxi and other Chinese provinces through the development of public benefit services for the common people, continuing the good works of Ye Yongqing (Leaf Evergreen, i.e., Peter Torjesen), acknowledging God’s gracious calling in our lives, and reflecting the credibility of Christ.
Invited into Shanxi Province by the local government to help with social and economic development, Evergreen’s focus has always been to investigate what the most significant needs are in the communities where we live and then find the most locally-appropriate means through which we can respond.
Evergreen Cards was begun as a rural economic development project founded by Shanxi Evergreen Service team members to provide disadvantaged and disabled women and their families with a source of supplemental income while directly touching their lives in tangible ways with the love of God.
Shanxi Evergreen Service started developing this hand-cut card project in late 2003 and it began business operations in early 2004. Its purpose from the very beginning has been primarily to serve families living in the rural village areas of Yangqu County, Shanxi Province, China, where the average annual per capita income in 2019 is still less than US $400.
For an investment of less than US $8 (to buy a knife, wax board, and sharpening stone) and in just a few weeks’ time, a woman can be trained and learn the skill of paper cutting and significantly begin improving her family’s economic situation.
Since being "spun off" and legally registered in China as a WOFE (Wholly-Owned Foreign Enterprise) in 2006, Evergreen Cards Ltd. has trained more than 100 women how to cut cards and we currently have about 30 active card-cutting women.
Paper cutting is one of China’s most loved and traditional folk arts. Archaeological finds have traced it back to the 6th century, but others would argue that it can be associated with the development of paper in China several centuries earlier. Paper cutting has traditionally been done by women and girls. This was originally a skill that girls were expected to master and was used to judge their worthiness as brides. Professional paper cutters, however, were almost always men who had guaranteed incomes and worked together in workshops.
Paper cuts are produced by hand, either with scissors or engraving knives. Several layers of thin tissue-like paper are put together, then folded. They are then cut into various designs with very small-pointed scissors. In knife cutting, the artisan puts several layers of paper on a wax board made of tallow and ash or beeswax. The knife is held vertically, and following a pattern, the artist cuts the design into the paper.
Paper-cut designs are typically centered around Chinese folk motifs such as the twelve animals of the lunar calendar: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. Other common figures include Chinese characters, flowers, plants, animals, birds, butterflies, etc.
Today, paper cuttings are used primarily as decorations on windows, walls, doors, etc. They can be seen decorating the homes of newlywed couples, to celebrate the birth of a child, or to welcome in the Chinese New Year.
Of course, to create Evergreen's cards and bookmarks, we use a heavier card stock rather than the tissue-weight paper mentioned above, however, most of the rest of the process remains unchanged.
A Chinese Christian paper-cut artist, whose works have been internationally exhibited, personally trained Evergreen’s first class of paper cutters. Though most of our new card designs are developed in-house, we have also been privileged to incorporate some of her Biblically-themed designs into a number of our cards.
Evergreen Cards is overseen by an Evergreen team member with experience in marketing, business management, and economic development. Day-to-day operational management is handled by a local on-site operations manager with bookkeeping and accounting assistance provided by several other part-time local staff.