Art inspired by nature is always beautiful, but what about art being done on pieces of nature itself? That’s the essence behind leaf carve art, when artists find leaves in nature then carve amazingly detailed images onto them. Pressed behind a glass frame, these leaf works of art can then be preserved forever.
Nature is much older than human art itself, but leaf carving is a relatively new practice. It seemed to have been started by a Chinese artist named Huang Tai Shang, who initially created it in 1994. Leaf carving art then branched out to other Chinese artists, who used the leaf of the Chinar tree — a tree that’s found in India, Pakistan, and China. Chinar tree leaves look a lot like maple tree leaves.
Now, artists all over the world have taken up the practice. One leaf carving artist, Omid Asadi, found beauty in the ordinary leaf and wanted to transform it into art. “Art for me is the way of looking differently to this world and around myself,” Asadi writes on his website. “I started to think why nobody paid attention to these beautiful leaves and trod on them, because of their name — if they were called flowers we wouldn’t treat on them at all! I wanted to give the leaves another Life and make art from them.”It is possible, however, that ancient artists used leaf carve art. Chinese art, after all, involves a lot of paper designs or delicate folding.
The process takes a lot of time and work, and even just one mistake can destroy the leaf. Even though the leaves are tiny, it can take days and even weeks to finish one. The process is an act of patience, and it also reminds us of how delicate and fragile nature is — and that each leaf (and tree!) should be cherished. Here are some reasons why here at Tentree, we’ve set out to protect as many trees as we can.
Asadi describes the way he works: “I collect beautiful leaves, dry and press the leaves before sketching out complicated patterns to apply to each one. After sketching I start cutting with knife. Each piece can take between a week and two months to complete as a slight slip of the hand could rip the surface and destroy hours of work.”
First, leaf carve artists must choose their leaves to make sure they don’t have insect bites. They choose mature leaves that are often fall leaves. After choosing the leaves, they are pressed and dried out in a shady spot for 10 months before they’re boiled for five hours.
Then, the artists slowly scrape the leaf of its outer layers with special tools so as not to destroy the leaf. The veins stay intact, adding their own beauty to the composition.
After designing the image and carving the leaf, it has to be dried out very carefully. This is one of the most difficult steps, as most of the leaves get broken during this time. But the ones that make it intact are then pressed behind glass frames and sold for $99 to $200 apiece.
Many of the images are commissioned by people who want images of celebrities, musicians, religious figures, or even famous works of art like the Mona Lisa. But the possibilities are endless! What would you create on a leaf?