In Conversation with Ghulam Nabi Dar: Walnut Wood Carving Processes and Tools

In Conversation with Ghulam Nabi Dar: Walnut Wood Carving Processes and Tools

in Interview
Published on: 15 May 2020

Arifa Jan

Arifa has intensively worked on the revival of Namda, a languishing craft of Kashmir. Through her organisation, Incredible Kashmiri Crafts, Arifa actively works for craft revival and providing livelihood to artisans in Kashmir. Arifa was felicitated with Nari Shakti Puraskar by the Government of India for her contribution towards the revival of Namda handicraft in Kashmir.

The interview was conducted by Arifa Jan in Downtown Srinagar, 2018.

Kashmir has a long tradition of walnut wood carving and is famous for its exquisite woodwork. Ghulam Nabi Dar is a master craftsman in the art of walnut wood carving. In this interview, conducted by Arifa Jan in Srinagar, he talks about the various carving processes and tools involved. He also talks about the process of polishing and the kind of polish used.

Following is the translated and edited transcript.

Arifa Jan (AJ): Tell us about the various tools that are used for carving.

Ghulam Nabi Dar (GND): Many tools are used depending on the motifs and the process of carving. I will make a chinar daar (chinar design) and show you the processes/ stages of carving.

The various stages involved in the carving process are:

Dagun: This means defining the boundary of the motif by lightly digging on the contours. Tools like dagun rathwore, advailith, subargi, partisvole, bodh tubargi and lokut trubargi are used.

Zamin kadun: This involves deeper digging around the motif so that several layers of wood are removed for an enhanced stand-out of the motif. Tools like beer, chorusvol, trubargi and nyuk are used.

Guzar: This involves broader outlining of the inner intricacies of the design. A total of twelve tools are used for this work. Some of them are rathvore, advaith, lokut trubargi and trubargi.

After the carving is done with, the motif is given finishing touches and again certain processes are used for it.           

Sumba duin: This process involves the usage of the nail with a specially crafted pointed edge that is gently used for rendering the surface with a uniform series of dots. A specific nail used for this work is known as sumba kil.

AJ: Some artisans draw the designs on paper before drawing them on the wood. Could you show us some of your stencils?

GND: Yes, it is a common practice to finalise the design on paper. But I have good drawing skills and can confidently draw on the wood directly. I don’t, therefore, use stencils.

AJ: What happens after the carving is completed? What are the tools used for the next process?

GND: After the carver completes carving a motif, a roshangaar (polisher) takes over and applies on it a coat of polish. Before the application of the polish, the wood is sand-papered again. Polish is also used to impart a darker or lighter tone to the wood. The required colour is directly applied to the product, then rubbed with a brush before the application of mansion polish.

The wood is then rubbed with a semi-precious stone locally known as pullet fastened at the end of a specially crafted pen. But these days we use iron pullet because that makes our work easier and saves a lot of our time. After the application of pullet, polish is applied with the help of cotton rags (khedar) and left to dry. The drying may take time somewhere between three to twenty-four hours. In the case of highly intricate works of carving, the polish is applied between the inner intricacies using a brush.

AJ: What kind of polish is used?

GND: Wax polish brings out the inherent sheen of walnut wood. The use of spirit polish can be used in furniture but is avoided in products with intricate carving because it obscures the grain of the wood and alters its hue.