Exquisite Carvings From Crude Tools

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Plain tools... A Javanese craftsman uses crude handmade tools to create ornate relief carvings in solid teak.


Power tools arc scarce in rhc small town of Jcpara on rhc island of Java, northwest of Australia. But exceptional woodworking abounds. Using crudc chiscis made from recycled truck springs or other scrap steel, craftsmen create ornate carvings in teak and Philippine mahogany.

And in Java, these traditional carvings are everywhere— on furniture, statues and even buildings. A well-established apprenticeship program ensures a steady supply of gifted carvers.

To carve an ornamental panel, an apprentice draws a freehand outline of his design on a piece of planed teak, using pictures as a guide. He patiently chisels and files the sccnc to completion. A less experienced apprentice then builds a teak frame to fit. The boys are mostly Muslims, but they often

... fancy carvings. Th is jungle-scene sculpture started as a solid log 3 ft. long and 10 in. in dia.

carve scenes from Hindu legend, since consumers favor this older and more distant mythology. Pastoral scenes are also common.

Although by our standards these woodworkers are poorly compensated—earning less than $ 1 an hour—the)' have achieved relative prosperity in Indonesian terms. And their woodworking culture remains rich in detail and tradition.

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