Chalukya and Hoysala art inspired bronzes share space with a wide range of rosewood furniture superbly inlaid with variegated coloured wood pieces and delicate bidri ware, Mysore paintings, Chennapatna toys and clay artefacts reflect the crafts skill of the artisans who have created them. Catch the intricate craftsmanship of various states at the Cauvery Karnataka Handicraft Exhibition, now on.

Sculpted and chiselled out of diverse woods, bronze, copper, zinc alloy, papier-mâché, stone and clay, Karnataka's crafts open up a world of creativity. The Cauvery Karnataka Handicrafts Exhibition currently on at Sankara Hall reflects the spirit of the State's craft ethos.

Chalukya and Hoysala art inspired bronzes share space with a wide range of rosewood furniture superbly inlaid with variegated coloured wood pieces and delicate bidri ware, Mysore paintings, Chennapatna toys and clay artefacts reflect the crafts skill of the artisans who have created them. But it is in crafting a whole lifestyle out of wood, be it ‘dhoodi' wood, rosewood or sandalwood, that the Karnataka artisan has earned worldwide acclaim.

The rich, dark rosewood is used to craft Western style dining tables, living room sofa sets, consoles etc., as well as ‘jhoolas' and mantaps which are embellished with delicate inlay work. Delicate inlay work technique have been used to create fields of flowers, animals in jungle habitats, landscapes, as well as stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, on dining table sets, screens, wall hangings etc.

“Crafting a rosewood inlay work piece is team work”, says Kabir Ahmad who shapes and ‘joins' the rosewood into furniture forms. Mohammed Rafiq does the sculpting, carving and inlay work which involves scooping the flat surface of the rosewood in the design conceptualised and drawn by an artist on paper. Natural woods of different colours are inlaid in the scooped out spaces to form beautiful patterning, each of which tells a story. The final polishing is done by Mansur Pasha.

On display at the exhibition are the work of the three artisans, which includes inlay work furniture forms, intricately carved embellished Ganesha and elephants both ‘inlaid' and ‘skin' finished.

Ilyas Pasha from Chennapatna works on ‘dhoodi' wood to craft a shining range of bangles, books and toys including the almost forgotten spinning top. “Though Chennapatna lacquer ware toys are lightweight it takes three to four months to season the ‘dhoodi wood,” says Ilyas, while demonstrating how he bores a hole through a six-inch piece of wood and cuts out the ‘raw' bangle . “Actually the wood is turned on the lathe to different shapes,” adds Ilyas, and while the wood is turning, lac, in the form of sticks in a variety of colours, is held against the turning wood and the heat generated by the friction gives a mirror like sheen to the colouring. Palm leaf is used to give a glossy finish.

Ingenuity on wood

Somanathan, a paramparic craftsperson, works on fragrant sandalwood to create intricately carved boxes, and ingenious gift articles. “Sandalwood needs no seasoning,” says Somanathan, “We cut, sculpt and shape with a saw (‘aram'), chisel and finish with sand papering and natural buffing”. His brilliant carving and conceptual skills make for beautifully proportioned and delicately carved icons of Ganesa, Saraswati, Lakshmi and more.

Equally exquisite are the tiny micro-mini Ganesas in clay, crafted by Yuvaraj. He gets firm clay from the Cauvery basin. Yuvaraj shows great aesthetic imagination in painting them in bright jewel-like colours. His Ganesa with green and yellow ears, blue dhoti and green ‘topi' are riveting.

And there are many more handcrafted products including beautifully painted wooden and papier-mâché wall crafts from other states. The exhibition, sponsored by the Office of the Development Commissioner of Handicrafts, Ministry of Textiles, Government of India, is on at Sankara Hall, TTK Road, Teynampet, till August 13.

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