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Yan Jie carves the Olivia-stone on his working table. [Photo/WeChat account: taicangdaily]
There's a renowned nut carving folk artist in Taicang and both his craftsmanship and works are considered to be two of China's intangible cultural heritages.
Yan Jie, who has shown immense enthusiasm for art since he was a child, has been named a national senior craftsman and also a member of an artist's association.
His studio is a more than six-square meter attic where the only furniture is his working table stacked with various carving tools.
"The sculpture skills I've learned from school are quite general, including wood carving, stone carving, mud engraving, and urban sculpture," Yan said.
But, a visit to an old friend made Yan start to indulge in nut carving.
During the visit, his friend showed Yan his collections of nut carvings made out of peach and apricot pits, and olive stones.
The works were so fine in craftsmanship and exquisite in expression that Yan could hardly tear himself away from them.
So he started collecting information about nut carving and attempted to carve simple things. After three years' hard work his pieces are now very popular among his peers.
Works of Yan Jie, a renowned nut carving folk artist in Taicang, are included in Handmade in China, a picture album introducing Chinese handicrafts and their inheritors. [Photo/WeChat account: taicangdaily]
Yan said that to create a nut carving work is quite a sophisticated process.
The first thing is to work out the figures in one's mind and then to select raw materials, the sizes, shapes and colors of which all need to be taken into consideration as they will affect the quality of the finished work.
Next, one needs to select a carving technique to bring out the fancy figures on the pits, such as relieve, basso-relievo, alto-relievo, or hollow carving.
And then, one just starts to carve, from rough carve, fine carve, and polish to the final burnish. Care must be taken though as one wrong step means the unfinished work is ruined.
Most of Yan's works are figures of Buddha or portraits which usually take three days to finish. A portrait series will take nearly a month.
His latest piece, Breed, reveals the selfless love between mother and daughter, which is exactly what Yan pursues in his nut-carving.
The craftsman's affection, thoughts, and human passions are all displayed in his small works.
Yan’s latest piece Breed (left) depicts the selfless love between mother and daughter. [Photo/WeChat account: taicangdaily]