Anant Khairnar - The world's first Cotton Sculptor !

Sculpturing is an age-old technique that was practiced in many traditions thousands of years ago. The earliest sculpture obtained dates back to 35,000-40,000 years belonging to an Aurignacian culture. It assumes more significance as it coincides with the recorded existence of the upper paleolithic period (it is during this late stone age earliest form of organized settlements took place). It is through this unique art of carving, the identity and history of the past are carried out to the future, giving the latter an idea on things that occur and people who revolutionized events in their timeline. And, it also enables people to have a real feel on the subject being sculptured as this is a three-dimensional one allowing people to experience by touch.

Apart from the point of literature and arts, the art of sculpting has profound effects on the development of our one's neural network as well. It has been found that it enhances observation skills as they have to focus on every single detail while sculpting. The manipulation skills increase as the art involves in developing three-dimension shape. It is highly essential to make note that people who have dementia had improved corporeal memory (especially in older men) when subjected to this sculptural art therapy. So, sculpturing has enormous potential to be explored in various fields.

So, sculpturing is indeed a fusion of many scientific principles combined along with traditional knowledge which is a vast field to be explored. But for thousands of years, sculpturing was either done by carving big stones, rocks, or even granites and marble. Even precious materials like gold and silver were used for sculpting. To sum it up, either metals or solid material were used for carving the statues or sculptures. Sometimes non-metals too found a place for being used as materials for sculptures.

Hardly a fiber as light and soft like cotton were used for carving. Will you believe if someone says "Hey, there is a sculpture made out of cotton, so light yet harder like that of rock sculpture?" On hearing this, people might think that they are being pranked. But one person from has stunned the entire world by making remarkable sculptures out of the cotton fiber.

He is none other than Mr Anant Khairnar from India. Hailing from the small town of Jawhar, which is in Maharashtra, Mr. Anant made his state proud by becoming the world's first and renowned cotton sculptor. Up to date, many people have stacked ropes or textiles to form some sculpture, but none has carved sculpture out of cotton. Right from his childhood, Anant applied his innovative idea in his passion for creating artistic portraits. He was fascinated with paintings, sketches, and art right from his early days. And this triumphant passion has made him reach great heights.

He holds a Bachelor's degree in Science with Chemistry as the main subject. Intrigued by the organizer's challenge for a unique concept for the Ganesh Chaturthi festival, he was looking for different materials to make Lord Ganesh statue. His curiosity drove him to create a sculpture out of cotton. But the problem with cotton is that it is soft and light. Moreover, it cannot be molded and brought into the desired shape like that of metal casted/rock sculpture. It's the unique property of cotton which inhibited others on using it as a material for sculpturing.

But it did not deter Anant from going ahead with cotton sculpture. He took help from the learnings of his college life. Being from a chemistry field, he performed various volatile chemical reactions and arrived at a suitable compound which hardens the cotton. Therefore, he was able to form the intricate curves and lines that he envisioned on the hard cotton. Thus, a new form of sculpture was made.

And the surprising factor was the chemical made the cotton so durable than other commonly used materials. If you are not convinced yet, science could help you to understand this consequence. Cotton is a fiber. Metallurgy says that when the grain fiber orientation is achieved and improved further, one could expect an increase in strength of the metal when compared to a healthy state. Similarly, the orientation of fibers in Fiber Reinforced Plastic makes it to bear extreme tensile loads than other materials. The fibers in the cotton could be orientated to obtain a superior strength.

But then there was a need for some bond between the fibers to hold them. The molecules in them also need to be stiffened during the bonding to achieve the required strength and solid structure. And the chemical liquid made by Anant helped to achieve the state as mentioned above.

"Eureka!!!" Thus, Anant paved a niche way in sculpture by combining modern science with traditional sculpturing techniques. And many people claim Anant to be the only renowned cotton sculptor in the world. It was Anant who started teaching this incredible skill to others. With the expertise of 30+ years in making cotton sculptures, he has done more than 2000 statues and taught many people about this art.

His unique skill in this art has bought many laurels and recognition to him, including his entry in Guinness Book of World Record. This record was given for making a 7.5 feet tall sculpture of Mahatma Gandhi. His cotton sculpture can be found in the collection of many famous people, including the former president of India, Smt. Pratibha Patil, Guinness Book Office, London.

His works are now displayed at a small cotton art sculpture museum, in his home state, which he wishes to expand. He also hopes to start an established learning center in the future, dedicated to spread the knowledge on cotton sculpturing to the world. Indeed, his willingness to share knowledge is extra-ordinary.

There are so many amazing people living in our country, bestowed with unique skills. What we all require is the opportunity to showcase our talents and perseverance to go forward in our journey. When one goes ahead with a clear vision combined with the will power to face challenges, nothing can stop them from reaching the goal. Only the sky would be the limit for that individual.

Article by Hayagrivan Balaji

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