When was the last time that you wrote something with a pencil? Take a second to rewind a sweet episode from your childhood. For many of us, the transition from primary to upper primary classes was filled with the joy of being able to write with a pen. Then somewhere down the line, we forgot to take along this pal who was willing to pardon our mistakes, whose shades made wonderful caricatures when classes uninterested our childish minds. Ever wondered if we could do more with a pencil? What about a miniature statue at the tip of the lead? Seems impossible?
In conversation with Arjun K Mohanan, who made his way to the Asian Book of Records with his excellent craft of pencil carving. This highschooler has proved his mettle in miniature arts, carving out names, statues on the pencil lead.
How did you find your passion for pencil carvings?
I tried my hands on pencil carving while I was in eleventh grade. I was advised by a friend, who saw a snip on pencil carving, to experiment with this skill which was new to me. Experimenting with it for fun, one could coin it as. But I enjoyed the same. So my first carving was made for her.
You are an IBR and ABR record holder. Take us on a quick tour of your journey behind this amazing feat.
Yes, I hold a record in both the Indian Book of Records and the Asian book of records. The feat was achieved when I was fairly confident of my skill as a pencil carver. In the middle of my pencil carving journey, I joined a group of artists, Kerala Pencil Carvers, a team of excited and motivated artists pursuing their passion for pencil carving. I suppose I joined the team as its 16th member. But now the group has grown significantly to a family of over 240 artists, pursuing this as a passion and profession.
I was advised by two of my acquaintances there, Akhil Murali and Hridhuraj to try this record. I had a desire to do something different and something precious that I would take down memory lane. I went on to speak about this which was nothing but a wish to my group of friends. Their words and my family’s support in going ahead transformed it into a mission that was just waiting for me to accomplish. I finally attempted. I failed. I tried again, failed again. I never gave up. I knew that it was a game of waited results. I gave my best and portrayed my best version.it took me three full attempts until I could clinch the title.
The event and the whole episode as I recall is a very memorable one, exactly as I had wished, a milestone that I would take down memory lane as an artist.
Recently, on November 6th and 7th, I was part of a mass attempt for the World Book of records where 10,000+ artists from 100+ countries around the world did a piece of art with a message for the covid hit world. Mine was a thought giving hope which I carved on the pencil lead.
You were part of the team of pencil carvers, celebrating Lalettan’s Birthday with your specially curated gift. What was the project and how different was it for you compared to the rest of your works?
The event as a whole was a very memorable and very fulfilling one, as a Malayali, a gift curated for the person who has been winning hearts for decades. We wanted to celebrate the birthday differently and over a unique platform. Since it was his sixtieth birthday, we decided to carve the names of sixty film characters that had been portrayed by him. Each one was assigned a particular character’s name to work on. I got ‘Mullankolli Velayudhan’ from the film Naran.
I don’t think that at the time my skill was fine-tuned but I gave my best for bringing out the beauty in the product since we were celebrating a legend’s milestone year.
You have an inclination towards drawings as well. Is there a person with this as his field of expertise that you look up to as a role model?
In arts, I don’t have any particular role model. I derive designs from everything. But as I mentioned earlier, there are people whom I would call mentors. Hridhu played a pivotal role in my growth and publicity as an artist. He is my guide in the field of pencil carving.
Outside of it, I would consider an athlete, who I deeply admire as my role model…Cristiano Ronaldo. His achievements and recently his philanthropy when the pandemic hit, were in fact quite moving. An exact example of how one should give back to the society that raised you. I try to inculcate his values into my life, a true inspiration for my generation.
When was the big break for you? Is there a particular project that gained you much popularity among the masses?
The breakthrough as an independent artist trying to bring out his works, I would definitely tell it was my IBR and ABR records. People started noticing and a ton of encouragement from family, neighbors, friends, that I would consider the most ecstatic event of my life.
I started receiving orders from a wider audience and many from outside the state as well.
Frameworks that I did in collaboration with a few of my friends- Arjun Reghunath, Jayakrishnan, and Ashwin, which is fully customized to the demands of the customer is also a crowd puller. My friends help me with designing the products and we even use the help of the latest technology in 3D printing to curate pieces for our frameworks.
How do you manage your customers? How do you reach out to them with your art pieces? What are the services that you offer in this regard?
Currently, most of my customers contact me through social media…I regularly post updates of my works on these platforms and people reach out to me with orders. Some people have a copy of the model work that they are looking for and some with a unique design. I try to customize the work as per their personal needs as most of them are purchased for personal gifting. I try to maintain a good rapport with my customers and I value all their reviews. As of now, I have not received negative feedback on my works. I find extreme satisfaction on their part and that quenches my thirst for bliss as well.
What are your plans for this artistic venture? Do you plan to expand it to other domains as well?
I am an Ottamthullal artist, with an experience of seven years. I have done quite a few feats in this field. I would consider myself a micro artist as well. Outside of pencil carving, I have ventured out to miniature works too. I incorporate these works into the gift items that we offer. We have weekly two despatches. And my work is an amalgamation of this skillset of arts that I have acquired. I look forward to pursuing the arts at a higher level as well.
Currently, I am at a juncture where I am confused over the career path that I should choose. I have a deep desire for pursuing sports as well as arts. So, trying to choose one among BA Sports Management and B Arch. But whatever be the final decision out of this dilemma, I am confident that I am never going to stay away from the field of arts that has given me back so much. I am at the core of my heart, an artist trying to find his niche and figuring out his small role as a human being.
Tell us about your interests outside of pencil carvings. What other hobbies do you pursue?
I am an avid lover of sports. Football and athletics are two arenas where I have proved my mettle as a student. My craze for football is so much that I have tried my hand at imparting the knowledge and skills that I possess to others as well. And here is where I idolize Cristiano.
As an athlete, I have participated in various sports meet at the district, state, and South Indian meets and brought laurels to my school.
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