Apprentice turned Master
Born and raised in the bustling streets of Jamia Nagar, Delhi Mohammad Tahir always recognised his inner calling. Born in 1983, the electronics and communication engineer,never had any doubts that he shall one day take forward the family legacy of hand carving intricate patterns out of wooden blocks to give life to aesthetic ‘objet d’arts’ in various shapes and forms.
Belonging to the 6th generation of a family held in high-esteem within the wood carving craft community, Tahir started to learn the craft at an early age. Every now and then after school, he would join his father, Mohammad Ayyub in the workshop. Ayyub is a National Award winner and has been felicitated with several prestigious accolades including the Shilpa Guru Award in 2009.
Ayyub has taught the craft to scores of pupils over the years. His son Tahir, has been among the outstanding ones to truly master the artistry. Such was his devotion to gain expertise, that today, Tahir has reached a stage where he teaches several craftsmen as well as students from design schools.
Traditions, Nuances and Interventions
Earlier, the family was only making wooden blocks to be used for block printing. It was upon Tahir’s intervention that they shifted their focus towards carving wooden artefacts such as tea light holders, candle stands and other decorative curios - all by hand. With the family patriarch, Mohammad Ayyub now retired, Tahir and his brother, supported by a couple of associates, are taking forward the family tradition.
Exclaiming how the beauty lies in the details, Tahir shares that people may copy their designs or patterns, but there’s hardly anyone who can mimic the high-quality finishing of their products. He firmly believes that laser cut or machine carved wooden artefacts can’t match the beauty and appeal of the ones carved by hand.
An electronic hand machine is used to shape the blocks out from larger pieces of wood. Thereafter, elaborate carvings with minute details are chiselled to perfection using traditional hand tools. At times, a single piece can take over two days to complete, depending on the carving. Only pure sheesham (Indian rosewood), procured from traders authorised by the government is used in their workshop.
Toil and Reward
Block carving is the only source of income for Tahir’s family. But to them, it is not about the money, it is about the family’s prestige. The brothers spend 10-12 hours on any given day in the workshop, juggling between marketing, order fulfilment and providing vocational training to interested learners.
Aware of the negative impact on an artisan’s health from dust, small wood particles and polish synonymous with the craft, Tahir is conscious of imbibing best practices to make the workplace safer. His passion knows no bounds, and is determined to take the craft’s popularity to great heights and increase the sale of his artefacts. Tahir hopes to add to the family’s honour, with his hard work being recognised one day with a State Award, like the one bestowed on his father in 1998. For now, he remains focussed on carving out a niche for himself with new designs and products.