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About Haitian Metal Art
Handcrafted Haitian Steel Drum Decorative Designs


Haitian Metal Art 
The art of
Haiti is known worldwide. One of the unique forms of art is the Haitian steel drum art. Metal drums, once used for transporting oil or other products are purchased near the port in the capitol city of Port au Prince. They are brought to the neighboring town of Croix-des-Bouquets by  hand cart or on top of a taxi to the metal artists' workshop. Croix-des-Bouquets is the center of the Haitian metalwork movement. When driving through the primitive streets, one hears the sounds coming from the homes of various artists as they pound on the drums, expressing their art. As in any art form, some metal work is far superior to others. We have committed ourselves to seeking out the very best metal artists.  

How are these oil drum art pieces created?
Using these recycled 55-gallon oil drums, the artist first removes both round ends of the drum and places these inside the cylinder along with dried banana or sugar cane leaves. He sets this on fire, to burn off any paint or residue. When cooled down, the artist then cuts the round drum from top to bottom. The flattening process is a sight to behold, as one of the artists’ helpers will climb inside the drum and using all his weight, push with feet, legs, arms and shoulders to open it up.  It is then pounded into a flattened "metal canvas" of approximately 3" x 6". With chalk, the design is drawn onto the metal sheet. Now, the real art work begins. Using hammer, chisel and various primitive tools, the shape is cut and the various decorative patterns are pounded into the metal, creating a unique and treasured piece of primitive art. The finished design is signed by the artist and coated with a protective finish.

Each metal art sculpture is very labor intense and unique. Because of the intricate designs within each piece no two pieces are exactly alike. This makes your piece a special treasure that you and your friends will appreciate for years to come.

History of Haitian Metal Art
This particular art form was born in Haiti in the early 1950's by a simple blacksmith, Georges Liautaud. In his small shop, he made and repaired tools and created primitive metal crosses, for the graves in the Croix-des-Bouquets cemetery. It was at the encouragement of an American teacher, DeWitt Peters, who in 1944 opened the Le Centre d'Art in Port-au-Prince that Georges Liautaud expanded into the creation of decorative metal sculptures.  A few talented men apprenticed under him, and this tradition has continued. A particular metal artist will have assistants, who, as they mature in the art, will branch out and begin expressing themselves with their own designs.

Thank you for reading this brief story on Haitian Steel Drum Art
We hope that we have sparked your interest in this metal art form and that you will take your time looking through the selection of Haitian drum art that we have presented.  

Below are photos showing part of the process of burning, flattening and cutting the steel drums.

See additional photos of the process of making Haitian steel drum metal art 

 

 To prepare the steel drums, the tops and bottoms are cut off and the drum is cut from top to bottom. It is then stuffed with dried banana leaves and set on fire. This burns off paint and residue, thus, cleaning the drum.



 

After the drum has cooled, it is then flattened by very stong pushing.

  
Continually working the drum to completely flatten the drum.

The hammering begins. With much work, the drum is hammered into a perfectly flat surface.

 

The design is put on to the metal drum surface and using a hammer and chisel, the design is cut.

   

  Haitian metal art piece being cut

   

After the design is cut, the metal artist goes over the entire piece with a steel brush to clean and smooth the metal art.

 
A finish of a rust preventive solution is applied to the design and the final Haitian metal art piece is polished to perfection.

Pround of a finished piece of Haitian metal art. 

Proud artist shows off his talent.

See additional photos of the process of making Haitian steel drum metal art

 

 

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