The finer details – the art of carving wood.
The syncopated tapping of wooden hammers comes from a shady outdoor area of the mango wood workshop in Jaipur. Here we meet many artisans who hail from the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Known for its forests, most of the mango wood and rosewood used in the workshop comes from there – as do the men who carve it.
Usman sits with a chisel in one hand, a hammer in the other, and the leg of a Lille armchair, held in place by one of his own legs. In this position he remains as he works minute details into wood. “I come from Saharanpur; an area where they grow a lot of mangoes,” he tells us. “In Saharanpur, most artisans are carvers. It’s a skill passed down from generation to generation, I learnt it from the men in my family.”
Saharanpur has a history of wood carving that dates back at least 400 years to the period when India was under the rule of the Mughals – a great Empire responsible for many of the architectural and design developments found in India to this day. Given the town’s rich history in carving, we weren’t surprised when Akbar, another of our carvers tells us he comes from there.
“Most of the people in my village are carvers,” he says. “It’s hard work and concentration is key. It’s a skill I am proud to have.”
The higher the detail, the harder the work, but both men state that this is what they relish the most about craft. “Detailed work is the most enjoyable,” Akbar says, holding out the front legs of a Rouen stool that he’s spent the day working on. “It’s more…” he pauses carving and begins to speak, looking into the sky trying to think of the best words to describe it. Before long, he finds them. “Creatively fulfilling. Yes. It’s more creatively fulfilling.”
Each carver has his own set of tools, a collection of chisels in varying shapes and sizes. Usman’s lie beside him on top of the oiled cloth he carefully wraps them up in at the end of a working day. “You can’t get these in Jaipur,” he states. “They have to be made in Uttar Pradesh, that’s where the specialists are.” There’s an obvious pleasure in what he says, a pride in the skills his homeland is famous for. “No one is as good us, that’s why the workshop owners invite us to come here and work for them in Jaipur. Our craft is sought after all over the world.” He too looks proud. We have no problem in understanding why.
Take a closer look at our hand-carved designs.