Simple things


Baptiste and I designed a pin for shawls. A beautiful, sleek and delightful thing that is being made here.

I saw the first few attempts and made the changes, and finally was presented with a sample, so pretty and shiny. Unscratched silver is a wonderful thing.

I went to see the maker’s new factory yesterday. Factory does not describe the setting at all, but it is the word used. Land backing onto a beautiful mountain with a temple atop, ruined temple stones in the grounds, birds, maize growing, and stillness only broken by the hammering of metal and the roar of the furnace.

I lay on a charpoy drinking bharia (good) chai and talking with the driver about forts and the price of land, not really taking in the small man a few yards away. I was early for the meeting and my friend had not arrived. When he did finally come the sun was setting and everything was golden. He went to one side, rolled out his mat and did his prayers to Mecca. Then he asked what I thought of the pin.

I looked suitably blank and he pointed to the man I had noticed earlier. A low stool was brought and we all sat and watched a wonderful, 350 year old casting technique.

Using molasses and sand, the man was making a copy of the finalised pin. He made a bed in a metal ring, pressed it with his feet, powdered it and then carefully lay the pin onto it. The way his hands moved was so beautiful. Quickly he then worked more sand with this rich sugary smell and filled the top of the ring and then stood on it, pressing down with his toes and feet. A hole was made in the top and the furnace heated up. The roar was wonderful, the colour of the flames pushing up was a bright orange. A tiny, wiry, dark skinned man in a sarong, working amongst the ants and weeds, he had us all transfixed.

He pulled a white hot crucible from the furnace and poured liquid silver into the hole on the top of the sand. It cooled instantly and turned black. Within a moment the cast was open and there was the pin. Black, rough and so exciting.

By the time we left he was casting 6 at a time.

I remember living in an artist’s studios when I first came back to London in my late teens. There was a bronze foundry in the block and it was all thermometers, masks, heavy boots and dangerous.

By contrast, here it was barefoot, bare arms, calm, sun setting, ants busy, no insurance, no health and safety, no helmets, goggles or fuss.

And then to change to subject slightly, I get the Times of India on my tray each morning. Unasked for and never before this trip, but there was a great piece about off-setting carbon foot prints.

There is an uproar here because a firm in London is offering tourists travelling to India the chance to appease their guilt over the aircraft pollution by paying for hand pumps to replace the diesel pumps used by village farmers.
How fabulous. Tourists can now restore Indian rural life back to the manual labour of hand pumps. No need to see the belching fumes of the motor pumps, you can see the sweaty backs of children pumping water by hand instead. And then you can ask the supermarket if it is fair trade and whether child labour was used.

I reserve comment. I do. I do.