Craftspersons Anis Khan and Abdullah work magic with sheesham furniture and Khurja pottery. Pushpa chari
Artefacts in clay, wood, iron and copper present the diverse facets of North India's craft scenario at the Furniture and Craft Expo, currently on in the city. While the age-old sheesham wood craft of Saharanpur highlights Mughal inspired ‘naquash', jaali and brass inlay work on furniture screens, jhoolas and chests of drawers, Rajasthan's traditional coppersmiths etch and hammer out pretty floral and geometric patterns on enormous copper and iron water carriers.
Khurja's 400-year old pottery tradition, with its own colour palette of warm autumnal oranges, browns and yellows, can be seen in the delicate traceries and motifs found on dinner sets, mugs, tea pots, wall plates, lamp bases and the special pitchers shaped like a pilgrim's bottle.
Anis Khan, National Award winner for 2006, specialises in Khurja blue pottery, though he also makes lovely vases in mellow brown and blue with a hint of red. Wall plates in Persian themes in shades of blue, coffee mugs in vivid yellow and orange, and khullar cups daintily painted with a hint of curling vine beckon attention.
Says Anis, “We get our mitti (clay) from Gujarat. Our pottery is made from a mix of quartz, feldspar, ball clay and China clay. The mitti is mixed with quartz and thrown into a drum and ground thoroughly. After filtering the mixture is put into the hand wheel and shaped. Once that is over, drying and finishing with a ‘rumaal' is done after which we paint and glaze. The final process consists of firing in a diesel fire shuttle to a temperature of 1210 degrees Centigrade.”
Anis's specialty is finetuning of the shapes and the detailing of the largely Persian and Mughal motifs.
Magic in wood
Abdullah's deft fingers create furniture out of sheesham, a pliable wood on which etching and tracery work inspired by Mughal motifs, is done. Today, inlay work is a hallmark of the region.
It is fascinating to watch Abdullah work on a pretty tripod, elevating it from mere piece of furniture into a work of art.
Explains the craftsperson, “While the table top has been shaped with the help of a machine, the rest is hand-made. I have done the tracery on paper which is later stuck on the table top or any part of the table. Then I etch, scoop and groove, down to the minutest detail. Once the pattern emerges, brass pieces are stuck on to the grooved surface and fixed into place with the help of a hammer.” Sand papering and polishing follows, often done by the women of the household.
A wide range of sheesham wood inlay furniture such as sofa sets, diwans, coffee tables, side boards and jhoolas can be seen at the Furniture and Craft Expo. Also on show are rosewood elephants from Kerala, Thanjavur and glass paintings, jute craft, Rajasthan's etched copper urns, silk paintings and much else.
The expo is on at Sri Balaji Hall, 42, Velachery Main Road (opposite Adyar Ananda Bhavan), Vijaya Nagar, till May 15.