African Metal Sculpture - Home Decoration

Wood Carving From Thai

Wood carving is probably not what comes to people’s minds when thinking of Thailand. However, the art has been around for generations and with the ever-increasing numbers of exporters it is slowly carving its way into homes around the world. You don’t have to be an art expert or wood carving enthusiast to appreciate and admire the immense skill and workmanship that goes into each and every piece.

Most of the wood carvings and craftsmen in Thailand come from the north due to the plentiful, but unfortunately decreasing number of hardwood forests, in particular teak, although skilled craftsmen can be found throughout the country.
These craftsmen hand down their expertise from father to son and from mother to daughter. Usually the men do most of the heavy carvings while women do the sanding and decorating. It is not uncommon for men to carve away for up to a year to complete a piece of work.

Whilst this seems a long time, it is highly believable when you see the intricate workmanship and the exquisitely carved pieces that these craftsmen are capable of.
Some of the most impressive work is done on planks of raw timber, mostly teak. The designs are firstly drawn on and then using a mallet and a range of specialized chisels, the original drawings are made to come to life.

These pieces of work involve a lot of deep carving, particularly of villages, animals and various other depictions of Thai life and are made to appear three dimensional. However, there is a bountiful supply of wood products ranging from exquisite pictures, furniture and statues to more everyday items such as salad bowls, trays and lamps.

The products can be seen throughout Bangkok and Thailand; from street vendors to markets, to departments stores and specialized shops and galleries. However, to really appreciate the traditional and exquisite art of Thai wood carving, a trip to an operation room is a must.

Author: Kathryn Chipps

Europe Ethnic - Roman Glass

Core-formed and cast glass vessels were first produced in Egypt and Mesopotamia as early as the fifteenth century B.C., but only began to be imported and, to a lesser extent, made on the Italian peninsula in the mid-first millennium B.C. By the time of the Roman Republic (509–27 B.C.), such vessels, used as tableware or as containers for expensive oils, perfumes, and medicines, were common in Etruria (modern Tuscany) and Magna Graecia (areas of southern Italy including modern Campania, Apulia, Calabria, and Sicily).

However, there is very little evidence for similar glass objects in central Italian and Roman contexts until the mid-first century B.C. The reasons for this are unclear, but it suggests that the Roman glass industry sprang from almost nothing and developed to full maturity over a couple of generations during the first half of the first century A.D.

Doubtless Rome's emergence as the dominant political, military, and economic power in the Mediterranean world was a major factor in attracting skilled craftsmen to set up workshops in the city, but equally important was the fact that the establishment of the Roman industry roughly coincided with the invention of glassblowing. This invention revolutionized ancient glass production, putting it on a par with the other major industries, such as that of pottery and metalwares.

Likewise, glassblowing allowed craftsmen to make a much greater variety of shapes than before. Combined with the inherent attractiveness of glass—it is nonporous, translucent (if not transparent), and odorless—this adaptability encouraged people to change their tastes and habits, so that, for example, glass drinking cups rapidly supplanted pottery equivalents. In fact, the production of certain types of native Italian clay cups, bowls, and beakers declined through the Augustan period, and by the mid-first century A.D. had ceased altogether.

However, although blown glass came to dominate Roman glass production, it did not altogether supplant cast glass. Especially in the first half of the first century A.D., much Roman glass was made by casting, and the forms and decoration of early Roman cast vessels demonstrate a strong Hellenistic influence. The Roman glass industry owed a great deal to eastern Mediterranean glassmakers, who first developed the skills and techniques that made glass so popular that it can be found on every archaeological site, not only throughout the Roman empire but also in lands far beyond its frontiers.

Cast Glass
Although the core-formed industry dominated glass manufacture in the Greek world, casting techniques also played an important role in the development of glass in the ninth to fourth centuries B.C. Cast glass was produced in two basic ways—through the lost-wax method and with various open and plunger molds. The most common method used by Roman glassmakers for most of the open-form cups and bowls in the first century B.C. was the Hellenistic technique of sagging glass over a convex "former" mold.

However, various casting and cutting methods were continuously utilized as style and popular preference demanded. The Romans also adopted and adapted various color and design schemes from the Hellenistic glass traditions, applying such designs as network glass and gold-band glass to novel shapes and forms. Distinctly Roman innovations in fabric styles and colors include marbled mosaic glass, short-strip mosaic glass, and the crisp, lathe-cut profiles of a new breed of fine as monochrome and colorless tablewares of the early empire, introduced around 20 A.D. This class of glassware became one of the most prized styles because it closely resembled luxury items such as the highly valued rock crystal objects, Augustan Arretine ceramics , and bronze and silver tablewares so favored by the aristocratic and prosperous classes of Roman society. In fact, these fine wares were the only glass objects continually formed via casting, even up to the as Late Flavian, Trajanic, and Hadrianic periods (96–138 A.D.), after glassblowing superceded casting as the dominant method of glassware manufacture in the early first century A.D.

Blown Glass
Glassblowing developed in the Syro-Palestinian region in the early first century B.C. and is thought to have come to Rome with craftsmen and slaves after the area's annexation to the Roman world in 64 B.C. The new technology revolutionized the Italian glass industry, stimulating an enormous increase in the range of shapes and designs that glassworkers could produce. A glassworker's creativity was no longer bound by the technical restrictions of the laborious casting process, as blowing allowed for previously unparalleled versatility and speed of manufacture.

These advantages spurred a rapid evolution of style and form, and experimentation with the new technique led craftsmen to create novel and unique shapes; examples exist of flasks and bottles shaped like foot sandals, wine barrels, fruits, and even helmets and animals Some combined blowing with glass-casting and pottery-molding technologies to create the so-called mold-blowing process. Further innovations and stylistic changes saw the continued use of casting and free-blowing to create a variety of open and closed forms that could then be engraved or facet-cut in any number of patterns and designs.

Author: Rosemarie Trentinella

Henning Wood Carving Woman With Horn Norway Sculpture

A henning wood carving woman with horn norway sculpture. She is marked on the bottom "henning carved by hand in norway". It measures approx. 8 1/4" tall, the horn is removable and measures approx. 4 1/2" long.

She is in excellent vintage condition with no chips, cracks, or breaks, there is one spot under her arm where there is a little paint missing but it looks as if the artist just missed that spot.

Sasak Mask Statue from Bali

Beautifully carved and finished mahogany wood Sasak mask statue.

Measures 14" tall x 6" wide. Wonderful gift item. Currently available in a dark brown tone.

Ethnic Bamana Female Chiwara from Mali

From Mali this is an original, handcarved Bamana female Chiwara headdress.

These symbolic headdresses are used in pre-planting dances to invoke good crops.

Ethnic Uganda Music Instrument - The Baganda and the Basoga Lyre

The Baganda and the Basoga lyre is made of lizard skin and laced with to a non-sonorous skin in the same manner as the harp and drums.
The strings are tied into a piece of wood and inserted into a hole where the two arms meet of the lyre meet.

The 'Ganda lyre' (endongo) has one hole, the 'Soga instrument (entongoli) has two pieces of cloth, barkcloth or banana fibers wrapped around the yoke. The strings are wound round and round this material until it acts as a tuning peg.

The strings on the bowl lyre are not arranged in progressive order, as they are on the arched harp and the zither.
The highest note in the scale is third from the left and the lowest, fifth. Strings 7, 2, 4, 1 and 5 are octaves.

Ethnic Music Instrument , Engalabi from Uganda

The traditional Fumbo has a reptile skin nailed to the wood, however the government due to environmental reasons has long discouraged this practice. The engalabi from Buganda region, which is played in music theatres, plays an important part in the ceremony called "Okwabya olumbe".

This is the installation of a successor to the deceased, thus the saying in Luganda "Tugenda mungalabi", meaning we are going to the engalabi, that is, long drum.
The rule in playing the drum is the use of bare hands.

ENNANGA (Arched harp) Busoga, Buganda - Ehtnic Harpist from Uganda

The movable rings achieve the ideal sound on the ennanga, placed just below the tuning pegs. The strings vibrate against these rings and produce a buzzing sound. This sound is also heard on some of the lyres and sansa.
The strings on this instrument are arranged in progressive order from high to low note. The first, second and third strings from octaves with the sixth, seventh and eighth strings respectively.

The 'Ganda harpist occupied a high social position, performing solely for the Kabaka and a few important chiefs. He was the only musician allowed to amuse the royal ladies in their private rooms.
Nowadays it is popular as the adungu and widely used in Catholic and Protestant rural churches.

Art Coco from Mombasa, Kenya

Art Coco is based on the edge of a beautiful creek close to Mombasa Island, on Kenya’s coast. A small workshop produces a wonderful selection of coconut fibre table mats, coasters, picture frames, trays and lampshades.

Ten employees work with the company to produce a unique range of handmade products from natural materials which are sold in East Africa and overseas.
Selection of the coconut fibre suitable for making these items is undertaken by ten local families around Mombasa.

They know exactly what is required and carefully select the “ndifu” which is Kiswahili for fibre that is naturally shed by coastal coconut palms.

The fibre is selected and cut by hand. The pieces are carefully matched to create an individual pattern for each handmade product such as picture frames, tablemats and trays and then laminated to the softwood base. Lampshades are created by matching sheets of ndifu to create a consistent pattern.

Workshop Lampshades being completed at Art Coco workshop, Mombabsa.

Art Coco not only produces a beautiful range of unique and handmade accessories for the home but they also utilise local help and assistance from local families in the collection of raw materials.

By also employing ten people their support of the local community adds significant benefits to everyone associated with Art Coco.

African Ethnic Chokwe Chair

In many societies of Central Africa, such as the Chokwe and related peoples like the Songo and the Ovimbundu, functional artifacts are transformed into prestige objects that commemorate the power and status of the chief. Chokwe chiefs possess many elaborately carved articles, including ceremonial weapons, staffs of office, tobacco pipes, and seats of office like this example in the Museum's collection. Over the course of numerous encounters with European traders as early as the seventeenth century, Chokwe chiefs appropriated the design of certain types of Western artifacts. The seats of office, or "thrones," of Chokwe chiefs, with backs, leather-covered seats, and decorative brass tacks, are modeled upon European chairs. The decoration of the chair, however, remains distinctly Chokwe in style. The elaborate figurative scenes depicted on this and other seats of office are designed as symbolic microcosms of life and represent the breadth of a leader's concerns and responsibilities.

The back uprights contain scenes from the spiritual aspect of life, including depictions of ancestors or chiefs. The dance figures along the bottom and the masked figures along the second rung refer to Chokwe initiation rites. The conical masks, known as cikunza, promote fertility and are used during the circumcision rituals of Chokwe adolescents. The topmost rung features two ngungu birds.

The ngungu bird is the largest bird known to the Chokwe and is associated with hunting—a vocation with which Chokwe leaders closely identify.
It is also a good omen, a sign of success in the hunt and therefore a sign of power. In addition, the ngungu serves as a mediator between the spiritual and earthly realms, and is often displayed with other symbols of chiefly power.

The rows of figures along the stretchers at the base of the chair are carved representations of scenes from everyday life. Images of hunting or trading are common, as illustrated on the front and back rungs, which feature men tending to cattle. In this piece, domestic activities like food preparation are depicted on the side rungs. The proper left rung features women tending to their children and pounding grain, while the proper right rung depicts men at work.

These quotidian scenes are universally identifiable to the king's constituency and serve as a juxtaposition to the ritual events depicted at the summit of the chair. The overall organization of these scenes creates a united visual narrative emphasizing the social harmony and continuity that is ultimately achieved through following the enlightened leadership of the chair's owner, namely, the chief.

The Chokwe kingdom rose to power during the late nineteenth century in the broad expanse of open savanna in the southern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo and northern Angola. As the Chokwe population expanded, they eventually conquered the previously dominant Lunda empire, which declined after the abolition of the slave trade in the 1830s. The Chokwe peoples thrived primarily because of the profitable trade of ivory, wax, and rubber with the Portuguese. Chokwe chairs are among the few African objects not carved from a single piece of wood, but are instead assembled in parts.

Although this artwork appears on the 20th-century segment of the Timeline, it is ascribed a date of 19th–20th century.


Malawi: Carved Chairs

Malawians are among the best wood carvers in Africa. Visitors to this small central African country are inevitably captivated by sculpted heads, small dishes and carved village scenes.Malawians are among the best wood carvers in Africa. Visitors to this small central African country are inevitably captivated by sculpted heads, small dishes and carved village scenes. These make great gifts and are easily transported home, but if someone asks you to bring back a carved chair, you may balk at the prospect of excess baggage charges or squeezing it aboard an aircraft. No such fears for the cognoscenti. They know about such things.

They have heard all about Malawi's Chiefs' Chairs.
The precise origin of these chairs is uncertain. Portable chairs are found in various parts of Africa: anyone who has been to Ghana will have come across the chiefs' stools. Until recently, it was not uncommon to see a West African village chief being followed by a man carrying his small stool, probably on his head.

The possession of furniture is still a mark of status in much of poorer Africa. Beds are luxury items and the ground is more often the resting place for the night, with a small head stool as a "pillow". Such items, like the Ghanaian stools, are compact, easily fashioned from wood and eminently portable.

So it is with the decoratively-carved Malawian chiefs' chairs. It is thought they were introduced to the country when the Chewa or Maravi people moved into "the land of the lake" in the 16th century. Then, and for a long time to come, the chairs seem to have been used almost exclusively by chiefs.

The chairs were traditionally made from strong mpingo wood, but other woods are also used today. Each chair consists of just two pieces, which slot into one another. The smaller section is shaped like a paddle with a very short, curved handle. The blade forms the seat, the handle the back "leg". The other piece of wood is much larger and forms the back of the chair (with sides gently curving inwards) and the broad front "leg". The chair is assembled by slotting the seat through a hole in the back piece so that the "paddle handle" rests on the ground, forming an asymmetrical "X". The resulting chair tilts slightly backwards, most commonly prompting two questions from visitors: "is it comfortable?" and even, "can you really sit on it?"

The answer to both these questions is most assuredly "yes". While they often look too diminutive or fragile to support an adult, all but the smallest of chairs will provide a comfortable seat. Of course, there's something of a knack to using the chief's chair to full advantage. The best and most ergonomically correct position is to sit with the feet tucked back under the thighs. As long as the sitter's rear quarters don't greatly overlap the wooden seat, the chair will be as comfortable as anything from IKEA - and even more easily assembled.

The chairs vary in size and in the degree of decorative carving on the backs. As their attraction to visitors became apparent, much larger and more elaborately carved chairs began to be made. Measured by the length of the back section, the sizes now vary from about a metre to monster 1.6m examples, or larger. Visitors can also buy model chairs not intended for use.

Usually only the inner side of the back section is carved (although the carving is sometimes worked through from front to back to create a latticed effect). The outstandingly beautiful designs may depict animals, people, village scenes or plants. Today, most chairs are given a slightly polished surface that enhances the characteristic light and dark colours of the wood.

Chiefs' chairs are readily available from the craft markets and street traders of Blantyre and Lilongwe, but the widest selection comes from a string of small villages along a short section of the M3 road just north of Zomba. Prices are remarkably low - about a fifth of what's charged in an African craft shop in the UK - with a medium-sized chair costing on average £10-20. Having made your purchase there should be no problem in getting it home. The two pieces, disassembled, are almost flat and fit snugly together as a simple parcel which can even be transported as cabin baggage - although perhaps not if it's a metre-plus model.

Author: John Douglas

The African Wheel: Traditional African Arts and Crafts

African Art has something very special about it. African art has not changed dramatically from the Stone Age till today and this shows in the traditional designs of every type of art, be it African masks, African fabrics, African musical instruments, African ladies Handbags, African carvings and in fact all manner of African art and crafts. It is not that symbolic African arts and crafts are only desirable in Africa; this art form has a following worldwide. Art appreciators understand that the creation of African masks and African musical instruments have a specific legacy. Methods for the creation of these items of an artistic nature have been passed down by word of mouth from father to son and mother to daughter for eons. The principle for the creation of these pieces has been for spiritual as well as practical purposes.

Traditional African fabrics are generally created using the batik method; this essentially means that the fabrics have been printed with designs using a hand dying method. Making the fabrics unique as well as individual, much more in the line of African arts and crafts than the machine woven or dyed cloth that is prevalent in western societies.

The creation of African Masks dates way back into history and some have been know to have been created further back in time than the Paleolithic era. Generally created from wood, African masks are also manufactured using leather, metal and fabric. They are highly prized and sought after today as art pieces but the original intention for them was for ceremonial purposes. The African mask traditionally represents a god or spirit and the wearer was believed to be possessed by the spirit represented by the mask.

While African ladies handbags might be believed by some to be a more contemporary art form, they have in fact a very rich history. Although more traditionally worn by males. Generally worn hidden under clothing to contain the proceeds of an unattainable task in order to win the heart of their beloved. A Mossi (Burkina Fasso) proverb even says "What is left in the bag is superior to what has been taken away"

Interestingly African musical instruments are also much sought after by art collectors and musicians alike. Even the banjo, thought to be a western instrument is of African historical origin and hand drumming is very specific throughout the entire continent of Africa as a means to support ritual dance. Many African cultures have used African musical instruments to ward off evil spirits. African music is seen as being dynamic and very functional, unlike western music that is designed to merely dance or listen to.

African Carvings are very pertinent to African culture and takes the form of many varieties of them, the most common themes in African carving of people are a couple, a woman and child, males with a weapon or animal and a stranger or outsider. African Carving also takes the shape of common household utensils. Bowls may be carved from stone or wood. The traditional Zulu meat or nyama bowl is carved from wood.

Essentially African arts and crafts have a rich cultural history and are widely sought after by collectors and art appreciators throughout the world.

Author: Ranju Kumar

Ivory carving

Ivory carving is the ornamentation of ivory by using sharp cutting tools, either mechanically or manually.

Humans have ornamentally carved ivory since prehistoric times, and much of the prehistoric work reveals information about the use of tools during the carving's time period. The ivory figure of Khufu, for the builder of the Great Pyramid, is considered a masterpiece. Ivory carvings have been discovered in the tombs of ancient Chinese rulers. Since the late Roman era ivory has been a popular medium for Christian art. Many boxes, that held religious relics, or costly jewelry were made of ivory. The ivory was usually obtained from the tusks of live elephants in India, and in Roman times, from North Africa. Ivory harvesting led to the extinction, or near-extinction of elephants in much of their former range.

Late Roman ivory diptychs were issued by the consuls, civil officers who played an important administrative role until 541. Consular diptychs consisted two carved panels joined by hinges with the image of the consul. Religious diptychs were similar but with the images of Christ and the Theotokos. The laters presumably stood on the altars during liturgy.

Such ivory panels were used as book-covers from the 6th century. It was necessary to assemble such covers from usually five smaller panels because of the limited width of the tusk. This assembly suggested a compositional arrangement with Christ or Mary in the centre and angels, apostles and saints in the flanking panels. Carved ivory covers were used only for the most precious religious books.

The most important Late Antique work of art made of ivory is the Throne of Maximianus. The cathedra of Maximianus, bishop of Ravenna (546-556), was constructed entirely of ivory panels. It was probably carved in Constantinople and shipped to Ravenna. It consists of decorative floral panels framing various figured panels, including one with the complex monogram of the bishop.
Chinese elephant ivory carvings of Emperor and Empress, circa 1920; reproductions of Ming Dynasty sculptures.
Chinese elephant ivory carvings of Emperor and Empress, circa 1920; reproductions of Ming Dynasty sculptures.

Typical Byzantine ivory works after the Iconoclastic period were triptychs. The most remarkable example is the Harbaville Triptych from the 10th century with many figurative panels. Such Byzantine triptychs could only have been used for private devotion because of their relatively small size. Another famous 10th century ivory triptych is the Borradaile Triptych with only one central image (the Crucifixion). The Romanos Ivory is similar to the religious triptychs but its central panel shows Christ crowning Emperor Romanos and Empress Eudokia. There are different theories about which Byzantine ruler was made for the triptych. One possible solution is Romanos II that gives the date of production between 944 and 949.

Most Byzantine ivories were gilded and coloured but only scant traces survived of their surface colouring. It seems that ivory carving declined or totally disappeared in Byzantium after the 12th century.

Much of ivory carved in the last 200 years has been for East Asian jewelry and ethnic crafts. Large amounts of ivory continues to be consumed for East Asian traditional art and ethnic hand stamp dies, even in the face of near-extinction of African and Asian elephants.

Ivory has been gradually replaced by plastics in key commercial application such as piano keys.

Very little ivory carving is done in the United States since the middle 20th century, as a result of extinction concerns.


Ethnic Toba Batak , Sumatera Indonesia Sculpture

Magical figure of the Toba Batak people. It was probably used in combination with a container holding pupuk, the entrails of a ritually executed child: the pupuk gave power to the statue. Wood, Sumatra (Indonesia), middle of the 15th century.


From Indonesia - Amazing Ethnic Carving Bird Cage

Amazing Carving Wood from Jepara - Middle Java - Indonesia

Stone Carving by Deng Jing Ren

Deng Shu Heng was born in 1945 in Fushan County, Shandong Province. In 1951 he moved to Tianjin to join his father. His parents were poor and worked both on farms and in various jobs around Tianjin. Deng Shu Heng left school after the 6th grade to work and left home at age 14 to make his own way in the world.

He worked various itinerant jobs. It was not an unusual life in those days, or even today. Young people leave the farms to find a new way of living and get their education through experience. It is a much more fluid and risky path, but one that served Deng well.

Even as a child he was attracted to the fine arts. He loved beautiful things. He often visited temples and monasteries to see the paintings and statues. Once on his own, he often visited Lin Jushi, a Buddhist monk in Tianjin.

He used to watch him as he painted and practiced calligraphy. He found it fascinating. The monk must have responded to his avid interest because he introduced him to Li Kun Pu, who was the Chief-secretary of the Tianjin Fine Arts Association. Li Kun Pu began tutoring him. Before long Deng's talents became evident. His life changed. He studied painting and calligraphy and developed his skill.

During the early stages of the Cultural Revolution Deng Shu Heng was sent with his cadre to Xinjiang Autonomous Region for reeducation. He continued to practice and learn calligraphy and painting there, eventually turning to stone carving and adopting the pen name, Deng Jing Ren.

Today, Deng Shu Heng lives in Xinjiang in the desert foothills near Tianshan Lake. The area offers contrasts of beauty from the spare to the lush. It's a harsh environment but one that offers a close relationship with nature.

He exhibits his work in galleries in China and Japan and his work has been chosen as presentation gifts to visiting heads of state and dignitaries by the government.

One of the challenges of the seal to the left is to maintain the size and distance of the characters to create an ordered pattern.

A different interpretation is used below where he melds the characters with the shape of the stone and emphasizes the overall sense of motion.

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Bali Carving Guitar Craft - Another My Favorit Art Craft from Bali

Bali Carving Handi Craft - My Favorite