You are here > Home > Quick Navigation > Sculpture & Carving > Carving

Iron Board Carving

It is hard to relate elegant, simple, and unsophisticated artwork with a hammer and a piece of iron board. Yet through the hands of two ordinary workers Guo Haibo and Guo Hailong, the iron board magically turns into this new folk art form in China.

Via hammers of various shapes, the creators can work out a relief carving on a cold and hard iron board. The most prominent feature is the use of the original color of iron, which is processed in a way that generates a visual effect of pencil sketches. As a newly emerged folk art form, iron board carving also demonstrates a breakthrough in Chinese metal forging art.

As a very important artistic expression, relief has been widely adopted since the ancient time. Unexceptionally, almost all the ancient civilizations in the world have their own inherited treasures of relief works. The art form could be used to express the complex grand scenes of great significance. Usually people use relief to record the history.

With the society's development, metal forging art gradually appeared, ranging from coins and decorations to weapons made from various metals including gold, silver, bronze , and iron.

The bronze metal forging art first appeared in China in Shang Dynasty (about 1600-1100BC). The relief decoration patterns are seen on each bronze ware. By the Western Han Dynasty (206BC-24AD), the Silk Road that linked the East and West took Oriental productions like silk to the West, and brought some crafts like metal forging art to the East.

Guo Brothers

Guo Haibo and Guo Hailong, also brothers, invented the new art form of iron board carving in Shijiazhuang, capital city of North China's Hebei Province . The brothers had a fervent interest in painting and sculpture since childhood but eventually became ordinary workers rather than follow their artistic path.

Guo Hailong, who is two years old younger than his brother Guo Haibo, became a fitter who assembles cars and motorcycles. Though the job required him to work with cold steels all day long, he constantly thought about his childhood hobby of sculpture.

One day, Guo Hailong used a hammer to beat an iron board, and surprisingly found that the board was not as hard to reshape as he had expected. It took him one day to finish his first iron board work "Head Portrait of an Ethnic Minority Girl". When he finished the work, he very excitedly went to his elder brother Guo Haibo, who had a profound interest in painting. Guo Haibo was astonished by his younger brother's creation. Hence the two decided to dedicate all their spare time in the art form.

Nonetheless, there was no precious experience to refer to, as not many, if any, people had ever shaped out a two-dimensional relief on an iron board before. Therefore, by themselves they had to prepare for everything from the very beginning. It took them more than ten years to gradually work out a set of methods from choosing suitable iron boards to carving on the boards.

After choosing the right boards, the second step was to design a sketch before actually working on the board. The biggest problem was how to clearly draw the sketch on the board without rubbing the sketch away. After many failures, the brothers by chance found that carbon paper was the best choice.

The hardest procedure is the forging process, which requires not only artistic inspiration but also physical strength. Usually, a normal work takes a few days to finish. Once the forging is completed, another important step is to remove the rusts since iron rusts very easily. Even if there is only one rust spot, it must be eliminated, or else, it will soon generate more rust that reproduces like viruses, which will damage the whole artwork.

The stainless works that have been polished will look very bright. Then a blowtorch is used to burn the iron board. Different temperature levels give the boards different colors from light yellow, dark yellow, and light red to mauve. The creators can dye different parts into different colors according to their own needs. For instance, spot gas welding is used to portray animal eyes.

The burnish (polish via rubbing) process was not used in the brothers' early works, which thus retain the original darkish color. It was only later in the long creation process that the Guos gradually discovered that the polished works give the visual effect of a pencil sketch, and better reflect the sense of metal as the raw material. After a long time and much practice, the brothers can shape out delicate facial expressions.

They have manipulated respective unique skills for different themes ranging from animals to human figures. In recent years, the brothers have also exerted themselves in expressing landscape and still life, creating works of different artistic styles. The most distinctive art pieces of this new kind are the "Lifestyle on Taihang Mountain" serial works.

Art has its root in life. The vivid figures the Guo brothers have created are basically from a remote village deep in Taihang Mountain where they grew up. They often visit the village, which boasts unique stone houses and their childhood memories. With great passion, they present the customs of practices in their hometown with their hammers and iron boards, giving more people the chance to understand Taihang Mountain.

Usually, various folk art forms in China have time-honored history for hundreds of years. These ancient crafts were passed down by generations of folk artists; in the process, history and culture are also inherited. Besides, new and original folk art forms like iron board carving also came to the fore.

Quick Navigation

New Article