Wooden inlay work
Hoshiarpur in Punjab opens up an awe-inspiring display of Inlay woodworks. An inlay is a technique of engraving various small motifs into hollowed-out spaces of wood to make a uniquely designed pattern on its surface.
The craft has an origin history of 300 years. It is traced back to when Hoshiarpur was the centre of ivory bangle making. Small cuts of ivory were discarded during the process of making bangles and combs which were then used by the artisans to adorn small objects by creating beautiful designs.
Since the ban on the use of ivory, artisans have now shifted to using acrylic, plastic, bronze and even camel bones. The wood used for this craft is usually Sheesham wood, known as Tahli in the local lingo. It is extensively used for this craft as it is highly durable and does not get easily attacked by insects. However, nowadays due to the lack of Sheesham wood, Teak and Rosewood are also utilised.
The first step for the inlay work is to get the design ready. Earlier designs were either freestyled or traced using stencils and papers on the wood to be carved. But nowadays computerised prints can also be used for tracing the design. The pattern of the design can be floral, geometrical or traditional motifs. After the design has been traced, it is then etched out with the aid of sharp knives and chisels. Depressions of 2-3 mm are etched out to hold the inlay pieces.
The Inlay pieces are then cut from the material to be used ( acrylic, plastic, bronze, etc). Each piece is then set in the grooves with a hammer and carefully glued into place. The product is then filled off with sandpaper to give a smooth finish and polished to ensure longevity.
The process of making inlay woodworks is a painstakingly intricate one. This traditional artwork requires a lot of perfection, practice and fine manual labour. The endurance of this craft despite the changes and challenges it has undergone owes credit to the tenacity and ingenuity of the artisans of the region.