Mohammed Matloob: Portrait of a Master Craftsman

A master craftsman of wood carving

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Wood Carving (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The most important aspect about craftsmen is their role in society as custodians of a culture, tradition or religion. Mohammed Matloob is one such craftsman who keeps alive the tradition and style of Mughal carving in his works. He hails from the town of Nagina, in Bijnor district of Uttar Pradesh but shifted to Seelampur in East Delhi at the age of ten, as an apprentice to his uncle Abdul Rehman Khan, who was a master craftsman.

Wood Carving: Bone inlay (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

 Mohammed looked up to his uncle, whom he refers to as his guru (teacher), and aspired to be a National Awardee just like him. His work sends him around the world and he is today not only a National Awardee but has also earned the title of 'Shilp Guru' or craft master, which makes him a government appointed teacher of wood carving to the younger generation. 

Wood Carving: Young craftswomen at their family workshop in Old Delhi (2018-03)Dastkari Haat Samiti

He now has a team of five apprentices, including his son. He has also taught this craft to his daughters and wife, who help when a bulk order demands. He believes that the only way to master any craft is through continuous practice. 

Wood workshop (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The master craftsman at work: glimpses from the workshop

Making of any product involves meditative moments during production, adding to the multifaceted worth of a crafted object. Here, Mohammed Matloob is caught in a ponderous moment before he creates a spectacular work of art. 

Wood workshop (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Mohammed Matloob at work in his workshop, finely filing the ends of a lattice to be fixed in a wooden screen.

Wood Carving (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Mohammed Matloob works on a commissioned piece for the Portugal embassy.

The quality of his work has attracted an illustrious international clientele. His ability to adjust his own creativity to the wishes of his clients is what makes him popular among them.

Wood Carving: Pattern designing (2018-03-01) by Mohammed Matloob's workshopDastkari Haat Samiti

In process: bone inlay embellishment on top of a wooden box.

Wood carving (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Different patterns of lattices, inspired by Mughal era designs.

The master craftsman always tries to add a glimpse of Mughal art and architecture in his carvings.

Wood workshop (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Mohammed Matloob dismantles the parts of a partition screen.

One of the distinctive features of this panel is the assemblage of mounds and depressions, which make the entire structure fit together without the use of a single nail.

Wood Carving (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The craftsman fixes the sides of a wooden box with an innovative technique of mounds and depressions, without the use of nails.

This technique helps him assemble and dismantle the box with ease.

Wood Carving: Bone inlay (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Skillfully cutting pieces of bone to create a bone inlay design on a box.

Wood Carving: Pattern designing (2018-03-01) by Mohammed Matloob's workshopDastkari Haat Samiti

Wood Carving: Sadiya, Shaheen's eldest daughter, creates intricate designs on a wooden panel (2018-03)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Mohammed Matloob’s daughters create lattice pattern on wooden coasters, taking his legacy forward.

Wood Carving: The craftswoman's daughters learn woodworking skills from their mother. (2018-03)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Shaheen Anjum, Mohammed Matloob’s wife, works in her husband’s workshop along with her daughters.

The matriarch takes charge of the workshop in her husband’s absence and trains her daughters as well.

Wood Carving: The exquisite wooden box with jaalis and wooden inlay (2018-03)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Mohammed Matloob's fine craftsmanship

Wood Carving: Mohammed Matloob with his award winning design (2018-03)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Mohammed Matloob’s won his National Award in 2005 for this rose wood box, which took him three years to create.

It is the only piece in his collection which uses the push button technology instead of the conventional front clasps to open the box.

Also, it has beautifully carved elephant shaped legs, with bone inlay for tusks and feet.

Wood Carving: Inner lid of the wooden box (2018-03)Dastkari Haat Samiti

On the underside of the lid of the box there is an intricate lattice design and fine Mughal carving.

It shows the extent of refinement in his art, which only years of dedication and experience can bring.

Wood Carving: Carving details on the box (2018-03) by Mohammed MatloobDastkari Haat Samiti

Detail of Mohammed Matloob’s intricately carved rosewood box, with inlay of yellow teak woven to imitate the pattern on a cane chair.

Wood Carving: Mastercraftsman with his masterpiece! (2018-03)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Mohammed Matloob’s rosewood box with fine details and an impression of weaving is invaluable to him. He is not willing to sell it but is open to loaning it for a museum display.

Mughal wood carving (2018-04) by Mohammed Matloob's workshopDastkari Haat Samiti

A wooden partition with intricate lattice design is another one of Mohammed Matloob's award-winning pieces.

Each jaali panel is exquisitely crafted and has a different design.

Mughal wood carving (2018-04) by Mohammed Matloob's workshopDastkari Haat Samiti

A box made of loquat wood with 3D lattice design. Its distinctive features are the wooden front clasp and hinges.

Also, the bird design in the rear has an inlay of ebony wood in their eyes.

Wood Carving (2018-04) by Mohammed Matloob's workshopDastkari Haat Samiti

A one of a kind vanity box made with a combination of ebony and loquat wood.

The base of the box is made of loquat wood while the borders and segment lid tops are made of ebony wood.

Wood Carving (2018-04) by Mohammed Matloob's workshopDastkari Haat Samiti

The wooden tray with a carved fork and spoon shows the precision and fineness of Mohammed Matloob’s work.

Mughal wood carving (2018-04) by Mohammed Matloob's workshopDastkari Haat Samiti

A stunning jewellery box made of ebony wood, crafted by Mohammed.

Its striking features are its hinges and front clasp, which are also made using ebony wood instead of in usual metal.

Wood Carving (2018-04) by Mohammed Matloob's workshopDastkari Haat Samiti

Mohammed Matloob’s finely crafted bone lamp demonstrates his observance of minute details to create a balance of excellence and utility in a product.

Wood carving (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The master craftsman received the Excellence in Handicraft Award from the Worlds Crafts Council for brilliance, authenticity and innovation in his style of work for such photo frames.

Wood Inlay (2018-04) by Mohammed Matloob's workshopDastkari Haat Samiti

The garden chair made from rosewood with yellow teak inlaid shows Mohammed Maloob’s artistry in employing traditional techniques ranging from carving to inlay for creating high-quality furniture.

Wood Carving: A walking stick (2018-03) by Mohammed Matloob's workshopDastkari Haat Samiti

A walking stick with an elephant's face on the handle, made from loquat wood, is one of his finest pieces.

He wants to pass it on to his children as a part of their inheritance.

House of a master craftsman (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Mohammed Matloob’s image reflected in a mirror of his making seems to be perfectly crafted for this moment.

Wood Carving: At the mastercraftsman's house (2018-03)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Mohammed Matloob, the fourth generation artist of the wood carver’s family, has been featured in myriad newspapers and magazines for his work.

Besides, his work has also been attested by international organisations like the European Union, World Crafts Council, UNESCO, and many diplomatic missions.

Wood Carving: Filing a box with bone inlay work (2018-03) by Mohammed Matloob's workshopDastkari Haat Samiti

Since in today’s education system craft is not incorporated as a subject, it is people like Mohammed who ensure the continuity of the craft in the future. He goes to different educational institutions to share his lifelong knowledge of the craft, which stands intellectually, culturally and creatively superior to any design book. He also conducts workshops at schools and educational institutions to encourage the younger generation to consider it as a profession. 

Blueprint (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Mohammed Matloob, through his art, strives to raise the status of a craftsman in society, as in medieval times when craftsmen were considered equal to the elite.

Wood workshop (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Read more about Woodcraft industry from Nagina here:

- Nagina woodcarvers
- High quality products
- Innovative Products

Credits: Story

Text: Rashmi Sacher
Photography: Subinoy Das
Artisans: Mohammed Matloob and his team of apprentices, Yog Raj and his team of wood carvers
Ground Facilitator: Rashmi Sacher
Documentary Video: Subinoy Das
Curation: Ruchira Verma

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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