In Jaipur, the Hindu spring festival of Holi kicks off with a parade of elephants, all dressed like royalty with colorful saddles, jingling jewelry, and brightly painted hides. Rajasthani artisan Suresh creates this hand-carved sculpture that pays homage to this playful procession by shaping each tiny detail using iron needles.
Hand-carved in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India. Kadam wood. Approximately 6 1/4"H x 6 3/4"W x 4"D. Please accept slight variations due to the sculpture’s handcrafted nature.
Many artisans in India carry on longstanding family traditions, but when Suresh began his career as an ivory carver in the 1970s, he had no background or training, only a strong desire to work in the arts. “I have learned from my own experiences,” he says. Today he works in marble, sandalwood, and kadam, a common Southeast Asian evergreen.
He designs detailed sculptures and wooden boxes in his workshop in Jaipur, where he oversees a team of craftsmen who execute the carving. The work is extremely intricate and detail oriented, Suresh says, “It requires skilled workmanship. The making of these [items] requires a lot of devotion, patience, and concentration.”
This elephant is carved completely by hand from a single piece of kadam wood. Craftsmen draw the pattern on the raw wood block, and do the carving using iron needles rather than knives or chisels. Carving the fine floral, ivy, and diamond patterns requires patience and attention to detail, as one slip could ruin the entire piece. When the carving is complete, the piece is buffed twice to achieve a smooth finish.