Dhokra of Orissa: The Lost Wax Art of Jewelry Making


The traditional metal-smiths of Central India are known as the Dhokra Damar tribe. Their craft is a unique form of metal casting known as the lost wax casting or simply Dhokra. Like all other crafts across the globe, the timeless Dhokra craft is on the brink of extinction. When rich traditions are lost, what remains is materialistic, mass-produced, price-point inspired me-too merchandise.

The Dhokra tradition of metal casting goes back thousands of years. The tradition has been passed down from generations. The craft is a key source of livelihood to many. There are two main processes in the metal casting. The solid casting that does not use clay as the starting mold and the hollow casting that rides on a clay mold. The Dhokra technique is based on hollow casting.  the procedure begins with a clay core that sets the shape of the object to be created. On top of it layers of beeswax and latex derived from plant are applied. As the wax hardens, it is etched and carved with string like etchings that are distinctive of this tradition. Once the wax has dried, a final layer of clay is once again applied to the object. This final layer of clay captures the design of the wax on its inner surface. This final piece goes through a baking  process where the wax melts and drains out, leaving an empty inner core. The hardened clay mold now becomes a receptacle for molten metal. As the metal hardens, it takes on the details that were inside the clay mold. Once the metal is fully hardened the clay into which it was poured is chipped off, revealing the final product. Some smoothing and polishing and the work is complete.

Today the few families that still practice this craft face a serious threat of extinction. Simple workshops, no climate control, no fancy equipment, no feverishness of likes and thumbs up. The artisans squat on dirt floors in their make-do huts and dexterously manifest delightful creations as they simultaneously attend to their family chores. The reward is meager. Bare necessities only. Further more the annual monsoons rack havoc when artisans are unable to continue working on their craft and rely on alternate trade to scrape through the gruesome months.

At EKAA our endeavor is to lockstep with artisan empowerment initiatives in India by giving a platform to the artisan wares in The United State. Artisans make up for a huge portion of the population dwelling in rural and semi urban areas. An artisan that is allowed creative flow and economic fulfillment makes a happy and peaceful citizen. We reach out to you, the consumer, to join the movement to help preserve the dignity of all artisans across the globe. Collectively we can move mountains making way for structured, long-term, meaningful empowerment.



Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published