Artisans of Gwalior practice stone carving on various dimension stones sourced from the quarries near Gwalior. Tiles, slabs, blocks or cobbles of various are dimension stones are also brought from Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Karnataka and Gujarat.
Sandstone: Gwalior is abundant with mint sandstone, popularly known as Gwalior Mint. It has a greenish white finish and its physical and chemical properties make it ideal for wall ornamentation or floorings. Since centuries, this stone has been carved by Gwalior artisans with sophistication and vigor. Besides mint colored sandstone; red, pink or white colored sandstone is also sourced from local quarries.
Granite: Granite is an igneous rock formed through the magma pockets trapped beneath the earth's surface. It is coarse grained and derives its name from Latin word 'Granum', meaning a grain. India is the largest exporter of Granite. Rajasthan, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have vast reserves of Granite with around 200 shades. Granite is carved to form intricate line details in buildings and sculptures with varied subjects.
Marble: Vastly used as a sculpture and building material, this stone is a metamorphosed limestone. With large reserves in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Katni range in Madhya Pradesh; India boasts of being one of the largest producers of Marble crafts. Gwalior artisans are experts in carving marble to obtain fine lattice or jail work. Sculptures and products for daily use are also carved from this exquisite stone.
Soapstone: It is a metamorphic rock with high chalk content; as a result it has a characteristic softness and makes it ideal for sculpting. Soapstone has been carved in various craft clusters cross India. Gwalior artisans carve soapstone to sculpt the idols of various deities, animals and ornamental designs, the products are in varied shades of grey.
The craftsmen strictly segregate the chips and pieces of different stones. The residue of stone pieces is sold to the traders of building materials, where these pieces are utilized in flooring or other uses.
Tools & Technology
Saw: It is a tool used for cutting or trimming of the rock. It has a trapezoidal metal blade with teeth on one side; the blade is made of carbon steel or high speed steel. Saws used by Gwalior craftsmen have wooden handle to grip while cutting the stone by reciprocating movement of the saw on the stone surface.
Hammer and Mallet: Hammers or mallets are used to hit the chisel or other stone piercing equipments. Hammer mostly consists of a cylindrical metal head with a wooden handle, whereas mallets have a wooden head with wooden handle.
Chisels: These are the tools with varying sizes, made with drop forged iron. Chisels have a cutting edge at the one end of its length. Chisels are chosen by the sculptor depending upon the amount of material or the size of stroke to be made on the material.
Electric grinder: These are automated tools for finishing, available in various sizes such as AG-5 (with 5 inch grinding wheel), AG-9 (with 9-inch grinding wheel). Buffing wheels, cutting wheels, grinding wheels can be attached to these grinders to carry out the suitable surface finish.
Batti: It is a local name for a stone piece which is used for polishing the artwork.
Sandpaper: Sandpaper is a characteristic paper with abrasive surface. The coarseness of this surface depends upon the grade of the sandpaper chosen. The higher grades like 220, 200, 180 have finer finish then lower grades like 80, 60, 40 which have coarse grains.
Idols of deities are carved by Gwalior artisans with utmost care, these idols are then picked up by temple authorities on a particular Tithi (date) pre-decided by the priest of the temple. The craftsmen produce large idols that span from 1 foot to 30 feet; several other utilities for temples are also created with fine details.
Stone carving is a technique which requires patience, time and physical effort. It is more associated with the instincts of the craftsmen; each sculptor, irrespective of the tutor or master, will eventually approach the art in his own characteristic way. It involves lot of repetitive actions, judgment and understanding. The process is subtractive; this obvious statement is in fact a crucial fact about this craft. As clay, paper mash or other mediums involve additive process. The chipped stone cannot be restored to its previous condition, hence stone carving is a planned process and a sculptor has to pre-decide about the form and shape of his product. The artisan also has to understand the grain structure of the stone placed in front of him, every stroke on the chisel has to produce the effects expected by the artisan. Stone carving is a three dimensional craft, hence it requires such visualization. Stone carving involves several steps from selecting a stone to the surface finish.
Picking a stone
The stone is picked by the artisan according to the size and design of the work, the type of stone is chosen in the context of usage environment. The thickness, grain structure, color and size are all the deciding factors while selecting the stone.
The raw material is then trimmed to perfect size. It depends upon the craftsman, how much material he wants to carve out of the parent stone.
Mounting of the work piece
This step has an importance when the work piece is large. Sandbags, wood planks are used to support the work piece while working on it.
Outlining the design
The design is outlined on the stone with a pencil or marker to keep the track of carved area. The markings are then made permanent by chisel marks.
The carving process starts with removal of stone volume to form negative space in the sculpture. The sculptor moves into the stone step by step. Carving process is done in several stages. First, the rough shape is brought to the work piece and then the craftsman moves closer to the final design by revealing the final surface; finally the details like jewels of the deity, the lines in the leaves, hairs or the animals are rendered on the stone.
Files of various sizes and shapes, Batti, sandpaper and electric grinders are taken into account to finish the surface of the sculpture; all the discontinuous marks of chisels are wiped out. The final product is now formed with all the possible detailing.
The work piece is then washed in water to reveal the original color and details of the sculpture.
Large slabs of quarry stone are first broken into smaller, workable pieces. These are then chipped and chiseled by tools using hand into the required forms. These days' electric polishers are used to polish the sculpted stones. The sculpture is then rubbed with the Batti and then sandpaper for final buffing. After that it is washed down with water to reveal the elegant forms.