Piles of scrap metal are made useful again and even beautiful by the hands of two people from Shanxi –– Huang Qicai and Li Huijun. The pair, who turn waste iron into pieces of art, have recently attracted the attention of the public.
Huang Qicai, a 40-year-old lecturer from the Department of Fine Arts at Taiyuan University, has been engaged in creating steel sculptures for a dozen years and is responsible for their design. The person in charge of forging and welding is Li Huijun. Once a technical employee at a natural gas company in Linfen, he resigned from his post and now devotes himself entirely to the art.
The interest and affection for this special art is rooted in Huang's childhood as his father used to make furniture and toys from scraps. In 2002, he met Li Ying, a local motor repair worker, while studying art in Beijing. The mechanical components in the workshop inspired him and he advised Li Ying to mend a teapoy with steel water pipes from Li's house, which marked the beginning of Huang's steel art creations.
"I decided to have a try as few people then knew about the art of steel sculptures and I supposed that I would succeed in making something," Huang recalled.
With great determination, he began to look for a suitable place in Taiyuan to process his "scrap iron". The studio was finally sited in a village near Malianying Road following investigations of hundreds of salvage stations.
During the years of hard work and cooperation in the workshop, Huang Qicai and Li Huijun's techniques have gradually increased the complexity of their creations, from small ornaments to complex handicrafts, such as warriors of various shapes.
"Tiring as it is, transforming waste iron into pieces with aesthetic value is worthwhile for me," said Li Huijun.
They have jointly created more than 30 sculptures out of scrap steel in just half a year. The steel structures have been recognized in the market of steel handicrafts, attracting buyers from Beijing. They are currently working on head sculptures from the Chinese zodiac, a series of 12 animals.
In Huang's opinion, steel sculptures are not only an art form, but the epitome of modern times.
"We reassemble scraps of outdated mechanical tools like harvesters, which reflect social life and industrial development in the past, and extend their 'life' in art rather than desert them," said Huang.
Meanwhile, the pair are now learning about intangible cultural heritage in Shanxi to create works associated with Shanxi culture. When it comes to future plans, they want more people to know the art and hope more enthusiasts will join them in reviving scrap metal art, as well as spreading Shanxi culture through their creations.