Can we Make sculptures from bath soaps? An ordinary person may think it’s impossible. But Biju won’t. This Doha based Keralite Biju Chandrika Gangadharan, is creating wonders by making sculptures from bath soaps. For him these are not just bath soaps. When bath soaps get in touch with Biju’s hands it takes various shapes including gods, birds, animals and historical monuments. Here, art is enchanting its distinct form through soap sculptures.
Biju who hails from the capital city of Kerala, is a computer graphics professional with more than 15 years’ experience in 3D and web graphics. For Biju carving various shapes and idols from soaps was just a passing time activity in the initial days. But later the ‘fragrant art’ became part of his life. Whenever he gets a short break during his professional life it was made used for this amazing and odd hobby.No particular time is kept for the making of soap sculpture. Even after a small nap Biju could easily wake up and go into the world of art.
If we ask him how he was fit into such an art form, Biju verves into his earlier life and even with a little pride says it was from his father Gangadgaran, he learned the first lesson of hard work. “The flair didn’t come as hereditary nor inherently. Ours was a middle class family and we, my sister and I learned everything from my father. He works hard as anyone. When i was 15 i lost my father. But the way he made us to grow up and face life was of high value. You may feel that the art of soap sculpture is quite difficult. But considering the life I had in the past and especially what my father taught me is that there is nothing in the world that can stop you. Such a confidence was injected inside me by my father”, Biju says.
The most important thing according to Biju in the field of soap sculpturing is patience and the temperament to work hard. In this dexterity the artist will be handling a single object, that too a soap which once carved can’t be altered. This itself makes this art a unique from others. He hardly use any colouring materials. The final product what we see is nothing more than just a soap. The only thing added to the soap sculpture is Biju’s hard work and expertise.
The dimensions of the sculptures may vary from 3 cm to 9 cm in height. Width is according to soap but usually it is around 5.5 cm. He has even made a 2.8 cm idol representing the traditional art form of Kerala, ‘Kathakali’. Although he makes a numerous idols every day he still have a soft feeling for the mislaid idol of Lord Ganesha which was just as lengthy of a little finger. He still carries the love for that lost sculpture.
Generally Biju take just an hour or so to come up with a sculpture. But in rare occasions, as in the case of ‘king cobra’, he took almost 5 hours to spring life to it. He is almost 10 years old in this field.
Selection of soap doesn’t seem to be a problem for Biju. But says that some soaps with gels and fruits appearing on them is little difficult to carve into the desired shape. In the primary days the main tool that he had was a sharp edged screw driver. With that he has made wonders. But these days, the familiarity to others arts like clay modelling and sand art has given Biju other tools also. The confidence in Biju is evident when he says this with a laughter, “Even a single needle is enough for me”.
The only problem he faced in the process was to preserve the sculptures without melting. For that also he came up with solution in the form of air tight glass boxes.
The strange thing in Biju’s story is that he is not making all these or seeing this as a commodity to sell or earn. Biju has his own stand on this aspect. “I am making soap sculptures only for my personal achievements and satisfaction. Art is for that”. He always remembers that special occasion when a sculpture of Kadhakali made of ‘Chandrika soap’ was gifted to the well-known Malayalam film director, V.M.Vinu. The gratification for artists is such moments.
As in the case of every success stories, the support given by Biju’s family holds key for all the good things that has happened so far. Wife Surya and son Devarsh along with father Gangadharan, mother Chandrika and sister Bindhu gave commendable support in Biju’s life. He keeps the dream of conducting an exhibition of his sculptures in the future and works hard for that like he has done throughout in his career.
For an ordinary man soap seems to be a thing to keep in the bathrooms and to be lathered. But Biju gives lives to them!