Wood you believe it?

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NT BUZZ looks at a few artists who are creating wonders out of timber in the state

CHRISTINE MACHADO | NT BUZZ

Wavel Da Costa has an endless fascination with wood. “The colours and different shades of wood, how the wood grain flows, and above all the whole process from a piece of scrap wood to something crazy and cool is just satisfying to watch,” he says. And it is this that drives him to get the best results of the wood he is working with. In January, the woodworker started ‘Sawdust’, where he creates a number of uber cool products all made out of timber. “I make bow ties, personalised keychains, candle stands, pendants and ring holders for now. I once made a wooden sink with a glass bottom which turned out really well,” he says. A self-taught artist, Da Costa usually takes inspiration from the internet for ideas and how to go about it to get the best results. “I only use waste wood; wood from waste fruit crates and pallet wood or whatever I can source as long as I’m able to reuse and recycle,” he says, adding that in the near future he would like to incorporate metal fabrication into his wood work. “I would also like to experiment with epoxy, different coloured epoxy and other types of wood. I would like to discover how different types of wood behave while being worked on,” he says, adding that he is still in the learning stage. “My products are finished with multiple coats of wood sealer and then lacquered. I think they’ll probably last forever and that’s what I like to give my clients – something that is special to them,” he says.

Govit Morajkar meanwhile has been crazy about art made out of wood since childhood.

“It’s the texture, the grains, the colour. Plus, it’s easy to work with,” says the artist who learned woodwork in class 8 at a technical institute in Panaji as an extra-curricular subject. Six months ago, he decided to take the plunge and start his own brand ‘The Wood Store Goa’ that creates kitchen accessories like chopping boards, serving platers, coasters, wedding accessories, etc. “I source the raw material from different mills or reuse used wood and broken furniture. Sometimes I find wood for my work on a jungle walk,” he says.

Passionate about Goa, Morajkar who is researching Goan heritage and does illustrations of Goan heritage houses, also makes it a point to infuse his creations with a Goan touch, and sometimes provides some information about this. And this is evident from the pictures of Goan heritage structures on his works. “I also experiment by fusing wood with other materials like metal with wood, textile with wood, etc. There is a huge scope to create the best of products by mixture of different surfaces,” he says, adding that he is always looking at multiple usage of one product rather than just one basic use.

Goa has influenced Merwyn Dsouza’s love for wood as well. “Goa is the land of rustic Portuguese structures and colonial furniture and I have always been allured by the beauty, simplicity and robustness of this art,” he says. Also, he says, wood is very versatile. “It can be used to make amazing creations from trinkets to furniture to bridges to homes and more. It gives its creator the freedom to work and design,” he says. Dsouza’s awe of wood was rekindled when he was building his home in Goa in 2016, leading to him instantaneously purchasing some basic tools to work with. “And there was no stopping from there,” he says.

While most of his knowledge is harnessed by researching and experimenting, in early 2017, he enrolled for a basic woodworking workshop in Mumbai, and his skills were nurtured by his mentor Viren Vaz. “My learning still continues as there is always a lot you can learn in this craft and I try to challenge myself with every project,” says Dsouza, who usually gets timber from lumber mills. “I work with pure joinery methods, so I don’t need hardware (screws, metal fasteners, etc). So good lumber, sharp tools, and a clear sense of what I want to make is currently my only requirement,” he says.

Tools meanwhile are the easiest to procure, he says. A basic set for simple woodworking hand tools from a local hardware store can be acquired within `2000. One can also source them online and even import them depending on your requirement. In fact, Dsouza is currently doing an exercise to test a minimalistic tool theory. “This monsoon I am currently working with basic minimal tools. I believe one does not need a plethora of tools to make simple items, hence it all boils down to one’s interest and dedication in this craft,” he says.

Among the many items that he has created during his journey with woodwork include a Japanese Chidori puzzle coffee table, The Liam Skye Garden bench, wedding ring holder, a knockdown throne chair, etc. “I am currently exploring wood finishing techniques. Back in the day wood was actually burnt to avoid infestation and wood rot,” he says, adding that he draws his inspiration from old school masters of woodworking – Pierre Jeanneret, George Nakashima. “I am also inspired by a few new-age woodworkers whose pure joinery methods and designs are phenomenal,” he says, adding that he makes it a point to stay active on social media and other digital platforms to stay updated on the latest trends and learnings.

“I also have access to a few DIYers India has to offer (a community of like-minded artisans) and we help each other learn and grow,” he says.

However, while he does do the odd customised pieces on order, mostly he makes things for his friends and family.

“I have friends who are into selling their articles, but it is a tough market. The segment of society who understands the difference between a handmade piece as compared to a one rolled out of a machine, is very small. The current influx of art festivals in Goa, and across India, does set this right. It is a good platform to educate the masses on handmade products and about the artists who make these,” he says.

Dsouza is doing his small bit to help build a community of wood workers by often conducting weekend woodworking workshops in Mumbai and Goa.

“This is meant for individuals who want to understand the essence of this craft and need a mentor to guide them. The workshop lasts for two days, where participants get to design their own article and execute the build. It is a hands-on workshop, and each individual gets to go home with a handmade piece of their own design,” he says, adding that it has been a wonderful experience to share his learning with people of similar interests.

But what worries him is that there are very few places in India where one can learn to work with wood. More worrying, he says, is that there is only a handful of them who teach this craft and these secluded artists are lost in the crowd, as it is difficult to sustain purely on this craft with the current cost of living.

“The next generation of many wood craftsmen choose to give up on this skill as it does not involve a fancy glamorous future for them. This art is slowly becoming a mere hobby,” he says. Thus, he believes that schools in India should consider including such technical crafts in the curriculum so that children can explore opportunities to express themselves.

“There is a lot of knowledge locked into the minds of the veteran craftsman, which may be lost to the world if this craft is not kept alive,” he says, adding that this craft has taught him to be patient, humble, and forgiving.