Exploration Mission 2015 – Finding the Lost BUT Expert Wood-Carvers of Saharanpur


August 2015 was kind of challenging and an exciting month as the team SouvNear was on the mission to explore the inner areas of Saharanpur, India and find the expert wood-carvers who are lost somewhere in the modern, competitive and technical world.

Why Saharanpur?  Because this place has been graciously preserving the legacy of wood-carving from centuries for the whole world! And it would not be wrong to say that this place has become one of the biggest export hubs for wooden-crafts.

After 2 days of exploration in and around Saharanpur, we could finally reach a group of people who were silently carving unique jewelry boxes, décor items, toys and games etc. from generations. Most of them learnt the skill from their ancestors and were trying their best to reach the art-lovers in their periphery.

Living 20kms away from Saharanpur, they had established a small workshop where they together were trying to bring uniqueness and practicality into every art-piece they create.


The passionate team working together

Upon asking, these warm, humble and passionate people excitedly showed us their artistic creations.

Some of the items which kind of made us speechless were:

A key-holder box with cute pug-marks carved on it: It was certainly a beautiful and great way to organize those small and difficult-to-find essentials like keys etc.


Hand-carved key-holder box

Distressed-look photo-frames- Honestly I saw such photo frames around 10 years back in the movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ that was released in 1946. Intricately carved with lattice-work, this art-form was quite popular in the 18th century Victorian era. Never knew these can be seen even today!!


The distressed-look photo-frame – Inspired from the Victorian-era

And then there were jewelry boxes with jali work, tissue holder boxes with brass inlay work, regal-look ashtrays and serving trays, curtain tie-backs, and much… much… more!!


Some of their more creations!

Most of the items available there were highly inspired from the majestic old world art which is very rare to be seen these days. But few simple people, living in some rural area of India, were bringing back that faded art alive in the 21st century. That was remarkable!!

An interesting fact one of the carvers shared during the conversation is that the wood of the root of the tree is always darker and stronger with noticeable grains as compared to the wood of the trunk which is light in color. So root of the tree is always the preferred part for carving good quality items.

Here’s a quick process of different styles of wood-carving they lovingly shared with us:

For carving any kind of wooden items, the wood is first left in open for seasoning. The time of seasoning varies from 1 year to 4 years. After this process the wood comes into the hands of the artisans like us who try to carve it into different shapes.


Woods left for seasoning!

There are different kinds of hand-tools used for carving the wood. Some of the traditional tools used are: wathlavun, randha (planer), khat chhal (wooden scale) etc. And then there are multiple-shaped chisels used for obtaining curves, parallel or perpendicular lines. Firstly, the desired design is transferred onto the wood using ink and then is carved with hands using different shaped chisels.


The creative weapons for carving!

One kind of carving is lattice or jali work that employs very elegant see-through from the wood. In this style of carving, highly pointed chisels go as deep as 5 inches to bring out the beautiful jali pattern into life.


The jali-carving in process

And in other style, carving is done simply on the rim of the surface with a central motif.


Carving on the surface of the wood

The next interesting item the carvers showed us was a tissue holder box with brass inlays. Brass Inlay work also known as tarkashi is a highly delicate art which is majorly done on hard but quality woods like Sheesham (rosewood)


Brass Inlay work

To create a wooden piece with brass inlays, the desired design is first transferred from a piece of paper onto the wood block using ink.  Then, the deep but thin grooves are carved along the trace using small hand tools like chisels. This process is known as Etching. Fine brass wires are placed in the grooves and are hammered into the required positions. To bring the fineness to the piece buffing is done at multiple levels and the golden work beautifully glows on the wood.

Special caution is taken not to heat the product during the whole process as that would dislocate the brass wires.

My favorite which I was tempted to take back home was the shabby-chic collection. Shabby chic is one art-form which, although, has been inspired from the West, but has become the expertise of the highly skilled artisans like Akram with time. In fact, they have been creating and presenting the authentic shabby chic items to the whole world from decades.


My favorite! Shabby Chic Collection

To bring out these distressed look shabby chic items, artisans first create the Victorian era designs on the paper, and then transfer those onto wood using some special ink. Using different kind of chisels, the design is hand-carved on the wood and then painted in heavy layers for months. The piece is finally rubbed at multiple levels with sandstone to bring out that real distressed look.

After spending almost 2 hours with the team, we definitely had that sense of achievement for accomplishing our task but a heavy heart too. People like them have been giving their heart and soul to preserve the old art-forms. They are creative, skilled and passionate but what they lack is the right platform.

Presently, such artisans are associated with SouvNear and together we have been creating the best selling items in a row. You can buy their artefacts in wholesale on www.souvnear.com

You can leave your comments, feedback or message for our proud-yet-humble artisans in the space below. We will make sure that it reaches them well in time.

Thanks for reading!

Author: Dolly Purba
Dolly is a Literature enthusiast and has honed her writing and literary skills with a Masters course in Literature. She has a knack for simplifying things and views life through the lens of positivity. She loves traveling and exploring diverse cultures. This blog serves as a medium to share her learning and observations.

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