Art built from scratch
Cardboard was once a word used with derision. In fact, one’s inability to emote invites comparisons with the cardboard. But the same medium has transcended in the hands of T R Raghunandan, to become a masterpiece of art.
Over the last two years, he has built up an oeuvre carved entirely out of cardboard, with an attention to detail and perseverance. This former bureaucrat says that he finds carving cardboard models very relaxing.
“Scratch building is a time-consuming process and it is quite challenging but I must say that it gives me immense mental peace. Every time I sit with a model, it gives me new perspectives into the art of sequencing,” he says.
This is an attitude that has helped him elsewhere. Having served the government in various capacities, Raghunandan adds, “If you can tackle the complications that arise in scratch building a model, then you can handle any problem that crops up in any of the departments in the government.”
For scratch building, Raghunandan chooses to replicate models that are old and still exist in some part of the country. In some cases, he even picks on prominent but disappearing landscapes and structures. In fact, a replication of the old M G Road, complete with the old boulevard, is on the cards.
Notable among his models are the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Engine and Supercharged Bentley, 1928 model. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Engine is a model of the engine that still runs on the world heritage mountain railway.
“Known as the B-class engine, this is a model of number B-794, which was manufactured by the Baldwin Locomotive Company in the United States. The model took more than 1000 hours to finish — in other words, two years of my spare time. It is made largely of handmade paper made from elephant dung and was done as a statement of what can be achieved by recycling,” explains Raghunandan.
He doesn’t restrict himself to just cardboard; he uses a variety of materials including notebook covers, paper clips, shampoo bottle covers, pen caps, ball-point pen refills and more than 2,000 paper pin heads, to represent each rivet on the model.
It’s recycling at its best. “The steam gauge in the driver’s cab is only 5 mm in diameter, but can be read with a magnifying glass. The total cost of making the model was around Rs 300, spent for the pins and the glue. Only very simple tools were used, such as a sharp paper knife, surgeon’s clasps, tweezers and a pair of pliers,” he says.
The Supercharged Bentley has also been carefully crafted. The cars, manufactured in Cricklewood, England, were iconic racing cars of the late 1920s. “The model is made of polystyrene plastic, brass and epoxy resin (M-Seal).
Everything is hand-built, including the tyres, which have 72 spokes each, fitted by hand. The model has taken more than five years of work and is still to be fully assembled,” he says, rather proudly.
Amidst all these scratch-built models is a paper model, built from a kit, of the Flying Scotsman, England’s best known steam locomotive engine. “The paper has been reinforced with cardboard to ensure that it retains its shape.
You can download these shapes from the internet and it can be cut and pieced together. Children are so glued to electronic gadgets. They must be encouraged to work with their hands,” he opines.
Raghunandan hopes to acquire some land to construct a museum where he can stock these models and also gather a few like-minded people who make similar models and stock them too. “They are delicate and there’s no space in the City to build any museum. These models must be preserved for posterity,” he wraps up.