by Sumedh Nagaraj December 29, 2020
Out for a stroll on a peaceful summer morning in a quaint little village in Konkan, I stumbled upon a sculptor chiselling out fruits out of a piece of wood. Squatting beside him, his assistant was painting the carved fruits using natural colours. The finished piece of art that was left out to dry in the sun looked eye-catching and attractive. Had I not known that these had been carved out of wood, I would have mistaken them for real fruits. I watched the fruits come to life as the experienced sculptor's skilful hands gently and deftly shaped piece of wood. Once the fruit had been carved out, he would examine from all angles to determine if any minor touch-up remained to be made to make it look more realistic. A chip here, some gentle rounding there and his face would lit up with satisfaction once his creations matched his expectations. His assistant too, who was painting the fruits, seemed to matched his enthusiasm to achieve perfection. As a result, every fruit was a beautiful piece of art. Every fruit appeared to have a character of its own, and none looked like the other.
It was a brilliant showcasing of how surreal heights can be achieved in creation when skill, aesthetic sense, focus, gentleness, patience, labour and perseverance mix with sweat, love, heart and soul of an artisan. And this seems to be a common thread that connects all the handicrafts; be it an intricately woven bamboo basket, a delicately shaped piece of pottery, an exquisite pattern or hand-painted embroidery, a vibrant tribal art piece, a dazzling set of hand-crafted jewellery, or a graceful metal sculpture. As the name suggests, handicraft is a piece of art crafted by an artisan's skilled hands. Sometimes simple, basic or traditional tools may be used. Most of the time, the artisans use natural or entirely indigenous material, while upcycled industrial material could also be used. It may happen that some of these art pieces may not stand up to the quality or match the finish of a similar product mass-produced using machines. But, I believe the beauty of these hand-crafted works of art lies in their small imperfections. It is these imperfections that give every creation its individuality, its heart and its soul. After all, isn’t every creation of nature full of such small imperfections? No, two creations of nature are identical. Shouldn’t then the uniqueness of a handicraft combined with the factors of passion, time and efforts taken by a skilful artisan to create it justify it being priced more than its mass-produced look-alikes?
The sun had come up now, and it was for me to move on but not before making a mental note. The next time I visit an exhibition and pick up a handicraft to buy it, the images of these two artisans pouring their hearts and souls over their creation would be the topmost in my mind before I even look at the price.