Leaf Carving: An Incredible New Art Form

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Artists create delicate images on leaves by slowly scraping the surface. Photo via Mundo Gump

It's hard not to love the brilliant display of colorful foliage that signals the entrance of autumn each year, but as the cold winter winds prevail, those leaves that once beautified the landscape are left to collect on the ground or be begrudging raked-up in some weekend chore. A new art form emerging out of China, however, is making use of these brittle leaves--creating delicate forms that will continue to be appreciated long after the jackets and sweaters of winter are hung in closets and the green buds of a new season sprout.

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Creating these leaf carvings is no easy process, taking the delicate precision from a skilled artisan. With a knife, the leaf is slowly scraped of its outer layers, eventually revealing a near transparent surface. Special care is given to keep the veins intact to preserve the stability of the leaf.

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Artists prefer using the leaves of the Chinar tree, native to India, Pakistan, and China. Resembling maple leaves, the distribution of veins in the Chinar leaves are the best suited for sculpting--and they are considered 'lucky' in Chinese tradition.

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The process of producing a single leaf carving is said to take months of careful work. When the artwork is finished, the leaves are then preserved and framed--ensuring that they will last for decades.

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Several Web sites are available to order carved leaves online, like at Hanan Xingyi and others.

Such art is impressive not only for its beauty, but also for creating it from such a sustainable resource. Each autumn, trees around the world shed their colorful leaves--but who knew that all along they could be the perfect canvas for an artists with a creative mind and a steady hand?