I have just been looking over my photos from the small town where I buy my wood statues. Is it me or do Indians try to look as mean as they possibly can when taking pictures? I have always noticed this how some very happy people can suddenly turn their normally smiling faces into vacant spaces where their smile used to reside. Back to the wood…
As usual I have over done myself. I bought entirely too much wood. Way too much wood. Heaps and heaps of wood statues! It is a problem I have. I can never say no to a good statue.
It took me 5 years of searching to find the small village where the majority of wood statues in India are produced. I met Natarajan (the unsmiling man to my right to the right of the nataraja statue) 4 years ago and have been dealing with him ever since. To be honest he is not my favorite artist to deal with. Nearly half of each visit is spent discussing price, something that after dealing with each other for 4 years should have taken a back seat by now… But his work is fantastic! Last year I ordered many larger statues that were finally completed this year. There is one 8 foot by 3 foot Ravana panel that is simply amazing as well as a 5 foot nataraja pictured above that I couldn’t take my eyes off of. In total I bought 10 statues over 7 feet. In the past ten years Lotus Sculpture has only carried 3 statues over 7 feet so this is big difference in our offerings. View a video of the wood carvers as they carve a Hindu God from wood.
The heat has been borderline unbearable. Especially when you get away from the coast and take away the breeze. I was happy to leave Natarajan and head to Swamimalai Bronze country!
After a sticky 5 hour ride I arrived in Swamimalai and went directly to Muthu’s shop. Muthu is a lively old chap who doesn’t speak a lick of english but we get along just fine. His good cheer is infectious and a smile almost always on his face, with the exception of posing for pictures of course. He has run the bronze collective in the same house that his father ran before him. He now has three sons, two of which are working with him carrying on the family traditions that is part of the culture of Swamimalai. Swamimalai is known throughout India as the place where temple bronzes are made. For 10 years I have been coming here and I am now am familiar with most of the artists. Most I simply cannot deal with because they only see the color of my skin and thus the price increases by double. Muthu is a departure from normal bronze artists in that he sees me for me, rather than a walking dollar bill. For this I am grateful as I don’t ever have to question his pricing. His work speaks for itself. He has cast some amazing bronze Ganesh statues that are yet to be completed but I can tell they are going to be fantastic. I also bought from him a full set of the 32 forms of Ganesh that are 6″ tall. I have never seen the full set before and I practically jumped out of my skin when I saw them all. He also cast a beautiful 27″ Nataraja statue as well as a 30″ Krishna statue with a beautiful bronze that he has newly designed. I can’t wait for them to arrive in the warehouse in California!
After a long day I then went to eat in my favorite parotha shop. View parotha video. A parotha is a croissant-like flaky flat bread that you dip in some type of meat based sauce, usually chicken, that I can never get enough of. I then sat for 20 minutes looking up at 4 adolescent owls that are living in the attic of a building across the street from the parotha shop as they made calls for their mother to feed them. It was such a weird contrast to see 4 very wild animals living directly above the bustling streets….Life is everywhere in India!