CUTLERY BOX: THE WOOD MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE
A craft or art when it becomes an obsession draws you into its folds, the rest of the world recedes and you realise you won't be bored ever again. So, when the pandemic forced us indoors and inwards, it was almost welcome. That was the time when I decided to take my work one step forward: begin to sell it. Over the years I had made many pieces of furniture, boxes and clocks - sold some, gifted many and stuffed our home with what I couldn't part with. But now the growing output of my work needed release and so a small business was born: www.banerjies.in. This is a micro enterprise - more of an artisanal venture than a proper business. I take time and care to make everything on my own which means output cannot be great. The idea is not to produce in bulk like a factory of a furniture workshop, rather the aim is to make each piece unique, more like art than manufacture. I think of my workshop as an artisan's studio. I look upon myself as a craftsman, not a businessman.
PEN BOX WITH TRAY MADE FROM PADAUK WOOD AND WHITE ASH
The biggest challenge was marketing. Fortunately for people like myself, the social media offers a modicum of opportunities and it is there I turned with the help of my wife, who is much savvier about these matters. Then came the website which I designed and deployed myself. I also invested in studio lights, stands and other paraphernalia for taking good product pictures. All this helped in getting the word across and I began to get orders from the beginning of this year. I was most pleased to find I got orders from places as unexpected as Poland and the United States. Selling is only one part of the enterprise; the principal part is the making. That is the inspiration, the raison d'etre as well as the ultimate objective.
A CLOCK IN THE 19TH CENTURY STYLE
Wood has its own secrets and mystique as well as the propensity to inspire people to shape it into something, transform it into a work of art or utility. I, like millions of others, have been drawn to the beauty of wood and learnt to understand some of its qualities, its variations, behaviour and so on. I have been sharing some of my experiences and lessons learnt in my woodworking blog at www.indiandiy.blogspot.com which attracts thousands of views each month. I also learnt that design is the other most important part of woodworking, which is quite apart from the use of tools and techniques employed in the craft. I had two main sources of design inspiration: one came from the 18th century cabinetmakers of England and the United States. That was the golden age of furniture design and the works produced then are incomparable even today. The second source of inspiration came from the works of Indian artisans in olden times, who painstaking created objects of great beauty and style. Both these influences have shaped my aesthetic and I feel I am still learning.
PEN BOXES BASED ON A DESIGN FOUND IN RAJMAHAL
As a craftsman I feel there is a huge amount one can take from the past and adapt all that to create exquisite objects. For instance, my box and clock designs are based on objects that were crafted by Indian and European cabinetmakers based in Calcutta in the 19th century as well as by artisans in small places such as Bengal's ancient capital Rajmahal, Vizag in the Andhra and so on. I wish in my own small way to preserve some of the long-forgotten traditions; I believe that all great art and craft stand on the shoulders of previous arts and crafts traditions. Without traditions, we are after all like the fiddler on the roof.
31 August 2021
This article first appeared in Blink, Hindu BusinessLine
Crafting joy: Wood and the art of making