Monday, March 24, 2008

What was Bill McCombe doing in Gundrala Metta?

Bill McCombe, is a 62 year old antique restorer and artist with a flair for adventure, always up for a “bit of a challenge”. He came to Gundralla Metta, a small village in Chitoor district of Andhra Pradesh, India to work with Indian wood carvers and designers on the invitation of Crafts Council of India. He was partner in the firm Carvers and Guilders and worked in the area of restoration in the UK for over 30 years. Once he turned 60 he decided to spend more time pursuing his other interests like painting, travelling, teaching and cycling.

A spin around Kalahasti and the neighbouring areas shows how most houses have intricately carved wooden doors, pillars etc, the wood carvers in the area are specially known for carvings of various gods and goddesses, their Dashavatara panels adorned many a drawing rooms and hotel lobbies in the 80s. Over the years the market for these carvings has reduced and there is a need for a new range of products suitable to the changing lifestyles of the consumers, especially in the Indian metros.

Although we have many clusters of craftspeople with very fine carving skills in India, finishing is an aspect which is neglected. Countries like Thailand have been able to promote their wooden products better because their finishing and presentation is sophisticated and in keeping with contemporary tastes. Bill’s inputs helped craftspeople increase the value of their products.Over the 15 day workshop Bill had a very hands-on approach, demonstrating and working constantly without breaks. He taught them a range of techniques from simple staining to more complex techniques like water gilding. Quick to adapt to his surroundings, his enthusiasm and dedication(and perverse sense of humour) was a source of inspiration for all at the workshop.
Together we enjoyed eating idlis every morning, working in a bare bones workshop on the main thoroughfare of the village, talking about Vishwakarma,Van Gogh, Kandinsky and Frida Kahlo, walking around local markets looking for jute bags, drinking shots of the sweetest chai in the world, visiting the lord of Seven Hills, and looking for bread and marmalade in Tirupati at the end of it all!


Pink Jalebi said...

"A spin around the area"?! show off!

ninnu ... champi parestan raa ;)

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