|At work with wax statue in foreground.|
Molding the wax is the first step. The wax, which is kept soft and malleable under a lamp, is formed into the basic shape of the to-be statue. Using additional wax and a knife heated over an open flame, details are gradually added to the shape. Over the course of days, weeks, even months depending on the size of the object, the wax takes on the shape of the final product.
Once the artisan is satisfied with the wax sculpture, the clay is applied. Leaving openings at the base of the figure, first a thin coat is painted on, followed by two additional layers of increasing thickness. After the clay dries, the objects are placed in ovens heated to 200 degrees Celsius. This is where the origins of the technique’s name comes into place. As the object is heated, the wax melts and runs out of the clay mold – it is lost.
|Applying the clay.|
Cooling takes three to four hours. Once the metal has reached room temperature, the clay mold is broken. What emerges is a metal replica of the wax figure. Slight imperfections are carefully repaired – holes are welded and patched and rough edges are sanded.
From start to finish, producing a palm sized Ganesh takes about two weeks. A thigh-high guardian horse (like the one pictured above) takes between two and three months to complete.
Because the clay mold is destroyed during the process, each piece is one of a kind. The labor, love, sweat, and care that goes into each piece is incredible.
After Sukanta’s tour, I spent time walking around observing the men at work, taking pictures, and debating which piece of art to buy. I walked out of the Dhamrai Metal Crafts with a great appreciation for the art they produce, a couple dozen photos, an imprinted piece of a clay mold, and my very own (mini) guardian horse.