Haitian Metal Art Turtles Play at Sea


SKU: 0876color: Metalsize: 17"country: Haiti Categories: , , . Tags: , , .

In the small artisan villages of Haiti, the air rings with the sound of metal banging against metal. This traditional cottage industry art of converting old steel oil drums into metal sculptures has been passed down through four generations in Haiti and around Port-au-Prince.  It is a true mark of man’s imagination and his resourcefulness in the face of dire economic circumstances.  The Haitian Metal Art Turtles Play at Sea is an example of the amazing things that the Haitian artisans can do with cast off, recycled metal.

The Haitian Metal Wall Art is made through Fair Trade Practices providing the artisans with a living wage and humane working conditions. The artisans use fire to clean recycled oil drums. They then work with hammer and chisel to flatten, cut and shape the metal into the desired design.


In the 1950s, DeWitt Peters, a patron of Haitian arts, was intrigued by the iron crosses marking many of the above-ground tombs. Peters discovered the blacksmith who had fashioned the crosses, soon to be renowned Haitian artist Georges Liautaud…and so began Haitian metal art. The original raw material was iron, but with many goods shipped to Haiti in 55-gallon steel oil drums, there was a ready supply of discarded drums for the artisans.

Over the years the number of Haitian metal artists has multiplied via families and mentor / students embracing the craft. The center of Haitian metal arts is the village of Croix-des-Bouquets, where the clang-clang of metal on metal, the hammers banging out the sculptures, provides constant music. The artisans start with designs inspired by nature and culture. From cardboard patterns, they trace their design with chalk on the flattened metal from torn-down oil drums. With chisels and hammers, they carefully cut and decorate the metal by hand. Each piece is shaped and smoothed, then the artists boldly and proudly chisel their name on to the metal sculpture.

Haitian steel drum sculptures (fer découpé) are fabulous both indoors and out. The most common question is about proper care of the finish. Our metal art pieces have been coated by the artists with a gloss varnish.

OUTDOOR CARE: Pieces displayed in the outdoor elements will generally not remain glossy and over time will take on a flat patina…and they will eventually rust. Rust is not ugly, but will corrode the piece. To deter the corrosion, thoroughly spray it with WD-40® penetrating oil…and do not wipe the spray. You will likely need to reapply once a year.

INDOOR CARE: When a piece becomes scratched or worn, you can apply a light spray of a clear varnish made for metal, in either a gloss or satin finish. You should see the scratches disappear immediately. If you have some rust and you want to remove it, first sand with fine sandpaper and then apply the spray clear enamel.

*See related items below.

Use the Haitian Metal Art inside or outside and enjoy the simple but fine style. If giving to a friend, request Free Gift Wrapping during check out. Sizes and designs vary slightly as all items are hand-made.

One, three dimensional 15 by 17 inch Haitian Metal Art Turtles Play at Sea.