Craft Techniques in Furniture: Wrought Iron Works of Jodhpur

Overview

▪ History of Rajasthan reveals that the kings and their nobles were patrons of arts and crafts and they encouraged their craftsmen in activities ranging from wood, marble carving and metal works to weaving, pottery and painting. The desire to decorate their surroundings was very strong.

▪ Started off with embellishing the royal armor, the metal crafts of Rajasthan now adorn tabletops, wall plates, flasks, silver animal figures and caparisoned elephants with human figures over a howdah (a musical instrument). Jaipur, Alwar and Jodhpur are famous for their metal wares.

▪ Most of the production caters to the export market and is executed by artisans from nearby villages and those who come from Orissa and Bihar.

▪Depending on the design and nature of the product, the iron rods or sheets are cut to size with the aid of power press machines.

 

A sneak peek into the process…

  • The metal rods are heated with a blower until malleable and then bent into the desired shape.
  • As the beauty of the product is dependent on the grace of the curvature given to the rods, this stage of the process is executed by skilled artisans alone.
  • Each decorative element is then individually hammered until they are precisely alike and the components of the product are assembled through welding.
  • The excess metal is ground and then finished with paint and given an antique finish or coated with zinc powder making it look like white metal.

A few wrought iron products of Jodhpur

 

Wrought Iron works – a brief history

  • Throughout time, wrought iron has been used to build ancient structures, warships and railways. Wrought iron has fought wars, built kingdoms, and provided the structures to everlasting historical landmarks. Today, the timeless look of wrought iron can be found anywhere in homes from light fixtures, to wine racks, to candle holders.
  • Wrought iron has a lower carbon content, which makes it harder and stronger yet easier to weld.
  • Examples of early ironwork date back to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia as far back as around 3500 B.C. Around the 8th century B.C., early civilizations such as the Hittites and the Mycenaean Greeks began equipping their armies with iron swords.
  • Before the Middle Ages, wrought iron was used primarily for weapons and tools, however, the medieval period brought with it a multitude of uses for wrought iron. It began to be used to cover doors and windows of buildings to protect against the attacks of raiders.

  • But more prominently, wrought ironwork began to appear for decorative purposes. Some of this beautiful work can still be seen today in famous European landmarks like the Canterbury and Winchester Cathedrals of England and Notre Dame de Paris.
  • From the 16th century on, ironwork became sophisticated and high decorative, throughout the elaborate cathedrals of Spain to balconies, patios and gateways of France.
  • The boom of ironwork in the 18th century led to beautiful railings and gates throughout London and eventually made its way to the United States, most prominently in the French inspired designs of New Orleans.
  • Demand for the raw material wrought iron, hit its peak in the 1860’s as ironclad warships popularity rose along with the production of railways spread across the United States. As iron became more common, it became widely used for cooking utensils, stoves, grates, locks, hardware and other household items.

The Decline…

  • The popularity and use of the raw material wrought iron diminished with the growing availability of mild steel. Mild steel, which also has low carbon content, contains many of the properties of wrought iron.
  • Because mild steel is cheaper and easier to mass produce, the raw material wrought iron gradually disappeared, until the last ironworks ceased production in the 1970’s.
  • Wrought iron is no longer produced on a commercial scale, but is still made for replication, restoration and conservation of historical ironwork.
  • Many products today described as wrought iron are actually made of mild steel. Products such as railings, gates, furniture, lighting and other ornamental work are produced of mild steel.
  • Today, the craft of manipulating raw steel by hand with hammer and anvil continues to be an art in the growing demand for quality handmade wrought iron home accessories and furniture.

 

 – Ar. Neha Bhusri

B.Arch  |  PGIDS

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