Tuesday, July 17, 2018

In a New Avatar

For the past 22 years, Karadi the bear has appeared in pages of numerous Karadi Tales books, on screen in animated TV shows, and as a mascot at our events. And for the first time, a couple of months ago, he took the shape of a three-dimensional sculpture who now sits in our office.  

Mahalakshmi Gurushankar brought the popular image of a dancing Karadi and his young monkey friend Meera to life with such incredible detail that one might actually think it is 3D printed rather than painstakingly hand-carved! Every little detail from Meera’s flying necklace to what looks like almost every single strand of Karadi’s fur is present in the sculpture. She took the time to add grass, real stones and even a little plastic butterfly to complete the image of the storytelling bear in his home, the forest. When asked how she was able to capture such intricate details in the sculpture, Mahalakshmi said, “I started by creating a wire frame. The sculpture is made of polymer clay but needs a foundation. Once that was ready I could move on to the smaller details like the fur. I have small hands so making small things is not a problem. I used dentist tools which I actually found are the best and cheapest for this sort of thing. The trick is to be extremely delicate. I didn’t have much difficulty getting as close as possible to the existing 2d character.”
Making the sculpture did not take Mahalakshmi very long. She worked on it for two hours a day and was done within a week. “The first time the facial proportions were off. So it took another week to redo that and this time it was perfect” she said.
Surprisingly, Mahalakshmi does not have a background in sculpting. “I had not learnt sculpting as part of a course before, but I did have a couple of classes in it during animation studies. The first time I ever tried my hand at it was during a competition at school. That was my first time trying it. I had no idea what I was doing but decided to have fun anyway. I did not win anything in that competition, but I clearly remember one of the participants making a dog cradling her puppies…it made me want to try harder. I learnt a lot from YouTube tutorials and by trial and error - I began by just playing around with different types of clay and soon made it a point every Ganesh Chathurti to make my own Ganeshas for Visarjan.”
Today, the painstakingly created sculpture from our beloved reader sits in our office alongside us every day. And sometimes, when the sun shines on Karadi’s face, we almost feel like the big, lovable bear is grinning at us meaningfully, as if to say – “Do you have any new stories for me to tell?”