Technique and art in traditional wood carving

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Wood carving is a traditional Chinese, craft with a very long history, originating in the Neolithic period. As a type of sculpture, wood carving has a long history and a strong ethnic colour, with the craft characteristics of simple shapes, smooth cuts and clear lines. At the same time, as Chinese civilisation developed, traditional wood carving techniques evolved and progressed, presenting different artistic forms and cultural connotations in different periods, civilisations and dynasties, and gradually forming different styles and genres. Nowadays, with the continuous development of industrialisation, the art of wood carving is becoming increasingly difficult to preserve and pass on, and the urgency of inheritance and conservation has greatly increased. How to make traditional wood carving techniques a success, how to achieve the integration of traditional techniques with modern society, and how to explore new developments in the art of wood carving in the new era are all important issues worthy of consideration.

1.The characteristics and origins of traditional wood carving techniques

Wood carving is a traditional Chinese art form, and the art of wood carving has been developed for over 7,000 years. It is a carrier of historical and cultural connotations and is an important part of traditional Chinese culture. Traditional wood carving shows great charm with its clever shapes and exquisite craftsmanship. Whether it is furniture, architectural decoration or interior decoration, the extraordinary artistic style of traditional wood carving can be seen. The wood itself has a simple and gentle quality, and the creators of wood carving techniques make use of local materials and apply techniques according to the material to create wood carvings with simple shapes, detailed lines and skilful cutting techniques. Depending on its nature, wood carving can be divided into craft wood carving and artistic wood carving. Craft woodcarving includes both ornamental and practical. Decorative wood carvings are works of art displayed in indoor and outdoor spaces for ornamental purposes. Practical wood carving is a combination of artistic and practical crafts, such as wooden jewellery boxes, pen holders, palace lamps and furniture carvings. Artistic wood carvings are works with deep connotations, clever ideas and reflecting the artistic skills and aesthetic concepts of the creator, such as root carvings, which have high artistic value, ornamental value and collection value.

carving art

2. Techniques of traditional wood carving techniques

2.1 Common techniques

The technique used by the creator of wood carving to deal with space and image. By gradually reducing the waste, the creator gradually excavates the wood carving shape and shows smooth and rough, wood grain carving traces, convex and concave, flat knife cutting, round knife arrangement, etc. through highly skilled techniques. The artistic appeal of wood carving techniques is unmatched by sculptures of other materials. Common techniques used in wood carving include round carving, relief carving, line carving and engraving.

The so-called round carving, which imitates the carving of real animals, is also called three-dimensional carving. Round carving is therefore an overall display of art on wood carving, where the viewer can fully appreciate the work from different angles and see the various sides and details of the object clearly.

Relief carving is a sculptural technique that represents an uneven image on a flat surface and is a form of expression between painting and round carving. Line carving is a technique of raising a negative line on a wooden plane, usually with a V-shaped trigon, single-edged or double-edged knife. Line carving method carved shape and line beautiful, vivid, rich in beauty, such as mahogany furniture on the table teeth and patterns, etc.. Mostly carved using the line carving method.

Carving refers to hollow carving, which was common in ancient architecture. Carving is a technique of hollowing out the wood with a hacksaw blade and applying a flat carving. It is also a unique form of expression in the art of wood carving and has a very distinctive artistic effect. It is because of the exquisite carving, the strong carving art style and the decorative nature that it has a high artistic appreciation value.

2.2 Material selection

The raw material for wood carvings is wood, so the choice of wood is particularly important. Wood has a variety of properties, some hard, some soft. When selecting materials, it is important to clarify the specific creative requirements. As a rule, hard woods are difficult to carve and soft woods are easy to carve. Woods that are tough, brightly coloured and have a clear grain are called hardwoods (e.g. rosewood, boxwood, mahogany, etc.). . These woods have many carving advantages and are first-class materials for wood carving, but the disadvantage is that it takes longer to carve.

Woods with a looser texture are called softwoods, such as pine, camphor, linden, etc. This wood is suitable for beginners and it is relatively easy to carve on these woods, so it is suitable for carving works with more general images and simpler shapes. However, as the wood is relatively soft, the colour is not obvious and needs to be coloured. At the same time, some woods with obvious and varied wood grain, such as fir and ash, can be used to create lyrical works that show dynamic, fluid and euphemistic images rich in wood grain texture. However, the choice of this type of wood should also be clear that the shape of its creation should be highly general, and that overly complex creations will to some extent destroy the wood grain. In general, before creating a wood carving, one needs to have a clear understanding of the wood so as to choose the right wood for the creation.

2.3 Steps in the creation of wood carving

The creation of wood carving is a psychologically complex and varied process. Only by mastering the techniques and gaining experience can a skilled and ideal cutting method be achieved. The first step is to draw a creative sketch of the wood on which the ink lines are to be carved. The second step is to create a rough blank. The rough blank requires chiselling a rough blank and chiselling a fine blank. The conceptual shape is summarised in a simple geometric form that needs to be well proportioned, layered, integral and with a stable centre of gravity. By chiselling the rough and fine blanks, the lines and the mentioned volumes of the wood carving gradually become clear. The third step is polishing. Using the method of rough knife carving and fine carving, the knife marks and openings in the fine blanks are trimmed to make the wood carving more exquisite. The fourth step is polishing. The carvings are polished with different sandpaper in the direction of the wood fibres, according to the needs of the creation. The fifth step is colouring and polishing. Colouring the wood carving with pigments not only makes up for some defects and deficiencies of the wood, but also enhances the beauty of the work. (4) Types and uses of carving knives

The various tools and auxiliary tools used in wood carving are mainly flat knives, round knives, diagonal knives, medium steel knives, axes, hammers, etc. The main function of the flat knife is to smooth out the surface of the wood. Used properly, a flat knife is easy to use on wood just like a painting stroke, showing a strong taste of wood knives; a round knife is a knife with a rounded blade, usually used for round dents. Round knives can be used for small variations and large swings in wood carving and can be used to greater effect in floral carving, with more flexible lines. A bevelled knife is a knife with a 45 degree bevelled edge and is mainly used for carving slits and jointed corners of works. For example, when carving the corners of a figure’s eyes, a bevelled knife is suitable. The medium steel knife with a triangular blade is mainly used for carving decorative lines, hair, etc. and can show a detailed carving effect. In addition, the auxiliary tools for wood carving are mainly axes, hammers and wood files.

2.4 Industrial development

The traditional art of wood carving has continued to innovate in the process of inheritance and development, giving rise to new genres and art forms. However, its inherent cultural connotation and artistic spirit are the same, and it has always been a carrier of national culture and art. How to find new “vitality” for traditional wood carving techniques in modern society depends on how to adapt the techniques and art of traditional wood carving to meet today’s society, both to achieve the traditional heritage and to pursue modern aesthetic concepts and artistic beauty. Today, the heritage of wood carving requires even more attention to the power of culture. Culture is the most fundamental source of wood carving and determines the vitality of the work. The development of wood carving therefore requires us to find new intersections between traditional culture and modern techniques, and to develop forms of wood carving that meet the aesthetic needs of modern people through integration and eclecticism. For modern wood carvers, it is important to continue to enrich their cultural heritage and to truly produce works of art with the cultural characteristics of the times. At the same time, the integration of modern elements in the traditional wood carving process interprets the expression that meets the modern style and shows the modern value of the wood carving process.



In conclusion, wood carving, as a traditional folk craft in China, is a treasure of traditional national culture and is of great significance to the inheritance and development of traditional culture. However, the tools used in modern wood carving are becoming increasingly diverse and the subjects increasingly rich, but at the same time they are also facing a new environment and new challenges to the development of heritage. Under the new circumstances, the wood carving process needs to maintain the traditional craft characteristics, maintain the “vitality” of the wood carving art and culture, while looking for a new intersection of traditional culture and modern technology. Only in this way can the modern heritage and development of wood carving ‘skills’ and ‘art’ be realised.

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