Kashmir’s Mute Artisan Makes His Craft Proverbial

Running a company called Paradise Wood House, Mohd Yusuf, who was born with hearing and speech impairment beats all odds with his prowess in sculpting stunning wooden figurines.

Yousuf is the lone craftsman across the valley who has acquired such a degree of mastery over this kind of work. In Kashmir there are chiefly four main types of woodcarving practiced by artisans namely — raised, engraved, undercut, and plain. All sorts of carvings demand a high degree of skill and craftsmanship as they involve an elaborate and intricate process.

Learning the craft from his father, Ghulam Mohammad Saheb, a master artist, at the very green age of three or four, he has been doing this work since 1970, about 40 to 50 years now. In those days, factories used to operate from homes a tradition which is still in vogue in many parts of Kashmir.

According to his interlocutor Mudasssir, he honed his skills by learning from other skilled artists as well. It has in fact been learning on the job. what may seem like a god-gifted skill requires tremendous determination and patience and to teach others who are not aware or well versed in it, is a very difficult job.

There are scores of methods and styles of word carving, but the most prominent are the chip and relief styles. The chip style of carving involves chiseling out the wood chips from a flat surface in a single piece using special knives and hand tools, while the relief style of wood carving involves carving pictures in wood. The process of relief carving involves removing wood from a flat wood panel in such a way that an object presents a 3D effect as if it is rising out of the wood.

Currently, they have been doing a piece of a woman on horse-back for the last three years. This is made from a single piece of wood. Apart from this, they make both furniture and figurines, besides sculptures and artifacts.

As it requires a great deal of menial work, the clientele is limited and high-end, mainly located in Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangalore, and other parts of south India. As of now most of the products are sold domestically but the company is in the process of tapping potential customers.

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