ยง Conversations with a wood carver

There's a wood carver who lives close to home, whose name is Harish. I went to speak to him, asking if he would be willing to teach me woodcarving. It was a very interesting converstaion.
  • He argued that wood carving was his caste, and it was impossible for himto teach me this, since he learnt it "by practice from birth".
  • He also mentioned that his skills were learnt by practice, and not throughtraining and were thus un-teachable.
  • He felt that it was impossible to pick up the skill anymore since I ddn'tlearn it as a kid.
  • His feeling is that the art of wood carving is not respected, and it makesmuch more sense to go learn how to use a CNC .
  • We spoke about how the traditional style of woodcarving provided more control, and led to better construction. He said that consumers don't care,and resent him for the extra time.
  • He oft repeated how he was poor; He wakes up in the morning, takes care of his cows, then begins carving. He might stay up late if there's an urgentorder.
  • None of his children learnt woodcarving either. They seem to be learningthings like commerce and graphic design. It seems likely that woodcarvingwill die with him.
  • He also mentioned how he no longer carves for the local temples, who one wouldexpect would be his largest customer base since he specializes in carvingparaphranelia for idols. It turns out that temples only provide "blessings",and no payment.
  • When carving beds for gods, one must arrange the bed to be along the naturaldirection of the tree. The feed of the god must be in the direction of the roots, and the head must be towards the sky. Otherwise, the god will notaccept the tree.
  • Towards this, there are many interesting principles of how to learn thedirection of wood.
  • For one, one can use knots in the wood to identify thedirection of growth. See the knot in the front and back of a block of wood.There will be a directionality to this knot. See that branches grow from lowto high; So the knot indicates the direction of growth of the tree.
  • For another, we can cut a think horizontal slice from the block of wood.In the two halves, the splinters will "point upwards" in the slice.
In general, this conversation left me quite dejected about the state of arts in India. It seems like traditional carpentry in India is dead, and the "replacements" are of terrible quality. I was also saddened that he so adamantly believes that it is fundamentally impossible for people to learn carpentry.