08/365 – Unseen Artists
Restoration of antiques in India is an interesting process.
There are no health or safety regulations, no special equipment to protect a worker’s eyes or to ensure that he isn’t breathing in toxic fumes. Rather, the men – and it most always is men – generally wear cheap rubber flip flops, squat in the dirt, and work on each piece with tools strewn about on the ground around them. This is simply the reality. More likely than not, each man comes from a line of men before him who did the same job and passed down the skills from one generation to the next.
From time to time one of the men will be called away from the piece on which he is working to come and move a piece of furniture out into the light in order for a customer to see the piece better, or to go and find another piece that a customer might like. He silently fulfills these requests and upon completing the tasks simply go back to restoring the piece for which he is responsible.
After hours spent sanding down rough edges, leveling uneven legs, polishing brass or silver accents, and painting on new finishes, the end product is nothing less than stunning and each piece seems to tell its own story. However, when all is said an done, these unseen artists, the men who toiled and labored over each individual piece, creating individual works of art, generally fade into the background, considered by many as nothing more than laborers, their talents forever unacknowledged.