Every 6 months, Team SouvNear organizes an in-house workshop to understand the making of hand-made, intricately carved-out artefacts. We invite skilled artisans from all over the country who willingly share their expertise in some particular art-form with us. It is always a great opportunity for the team to meet artisans personally, know more about them, their experiences and their craft.
And this time the workshop was on Marble Carving!
Agra- the land of love, art, and creativity has been known from centuries for its spectacular marble monuments, which have been known world-wide for their beauty, uniqueness and vivacity. One such example is the exquisite Taj Mahal – an epitome of eternal love saga, etched in the annals of history.
Thousands of descendants of the artisans who created this heaven on earth have continued this art of marble-carving till today! One such artisan from Agra is Vijay Kumar (37), who has been passionately and silently giving remarkable shapes to amorphous rocks from the last 19 years.
A reserved and shy gentleman, who says “I am born for carving! I am born to keep this art alive and share it further with my next generation!” conducted the workshop for us.
The first hour of this three-hour workshop was focused on making us understand the ‘whats and hows’ of the various tools used for carving and the next 2 hours were dedicated to serious marble carving by the team along with the master himself.
Marble carving under the clouds
It was a nice cloudy day in summers so we chose our friend’s terrace for the workshop. We all sat around Vijay in a circle. He showed us different kinds of chisels of varied sizes and shapes. Every shape has a different purpose and depending on the size of the marble piece to be created, different sized chisels are used.
The main chisel types are:
- Pointed chisel
- Fork-chisel/ claw chisel
- Fine flat chisel
- Curved chisel
And these are used in aforementioned order.
An outline of the desired shape is drawn on the marble rock using some chalk or crayon. The pointed chisel which is quite thick, but pointed in shape is used to take off all the extra marble outside the outline. The next chisel – fork/ claw chisel, which is considered to be the real tool of the artist is used to do the main carving. This chisel levels the rough surface, pushes down all the peaks and crests and brings out the fine parallel grooves in the required shape.
After the major carving, the fine flat chisel is used to do the detailing and bring out the intricate patterns or any engraved design on the marble. This square shaped chisel at times is not enough for the small minute curves, so the next curved chisel is used to complete the piece.
Finishing the carved piece is the next step, which takes off the main digs and scratches from the surface. This is done at multiple levels using pumice stones and sandpapers of varied thicknesses for a smooth and clean texture. A thin bamboo stick is also used for rubbing those small grooves where our fingers cannot reach.
And after 45 minutes of the session we had this beautiful marble horse in front of us created by Vijay.
Vijay while demonstrating the process of carving
The complete piece before us
‘Learning by doing’ is definitely an effective way but this time we kind of ruined this theory 😉
We were divided into teams and were given the first 2 chisels and a small marble rock. We simply had to carve the marble into any shape in 90 minutes. Vijay carved an intricate design in like 30 minutes, so carving some shape in 90 minutes and that too in team-work seemed pretty doable.
I won’t share our clumsy experiences in detail but this activity made me realize that one is simply born with such artistic skills.
Workshop in process
And the disasters we created
Time and experience surely refines the skill but it’s very difficult to replicate what these artists have been doing for ages. I am truly grateful to people like Vijay who are giving their best to keep this fading art alive!