In the lively neighborhood of Croix des Bouquets in Haiti, artists are drumming up quite an artistic endeavor for themselves—literally. Large metal drums and barrels come into this island nation containing all kinds of products, from juice to motor oil. Instead of discarding them, though, master metal workers like Mikerson Jean transform these unlikely materials into fantastically appealing works of art.
After empty metal containers are stripped of any labels and thoroughly cleaned, they’re pounded flat, and the artist begins to determine his masterpiece’s design. Once Jean has it in mind, he uses chalk to trace designs onto the metal surface. Next, the metal is cut with hammer and chisel, before being manipulated into its desired form. When the piece is finished it’s filed and sanded to be clean and smooth. The final step is a protective anti-rust top coat varnish. Resulting works might feature mermaids or cosmologically inspired designs like the sun and moon. Other works contain sacred motifs of protection and strength typical of the Vodou belief system, which has long been practiced in this part of the world.
Metal art like the kind Mikerson Jean makes originally started in Croix des Bouquets after the Second World War, when a collaboration between American teacher DeWitt Peters and Haitian metal sculptor Georges Liautaud nudged a tradition of ornate funereal crosses into new territory. Croix des Bouquets metal art is now known worldwide for its beauty. Jean, who was raised by an aunt after the death of his parents, learned the metal art trade under various artists, and has collaborated with respected master—and fellow International Folk Art Market participant—Serge Jolimeau since 2004.