In Nepal, the process of creating metal statues begins with people showing photographs or pictures of existing sculptures or old thangkas, specifying the desired size and finish. Skilled craftsmen then create full-scale clay models based on the precise shape and proportions of the ancient figures.
Once the clay model is complete, a detailed mold of the statue is made out of wax. This is a challenging and time-consuming process that can take up to three months. The finished mold is covered with a layer of cow dung, mud, and rice husks, creating a mixture that can withstand intense heat.
Next, the mud-covered wax mold is placed into an oven, where the heat melts the wax out of the mud and dung covering, leaving a hollow mold. Molten metal is then poured into the same hole. Only a few people know the art of mixing the metal to achieve the best cast, and they travel from workshop to workshop around Kathmandu to offer their highly skilled profession.
After the metal has cooled, the mud and dung covering is removed, revealing a rough version of the metal statue. The next step is to hand over the forms to welders, who patch up any holes and attach the hands to the bodies. Creating the heads is a special art form, and on larger figures, they are often welded in place when most of the other work is complete.
The next stage involves the carvers, who refine the surfaces using thin steel tools and small hammers. They engrave details into the fine decoration, picking out beads and jewelry and carving traditional patterns on the clothing folds.
Finally, the figures are polished, buffed, and gilded, painted, and embellished with stones. The entire process of creating these sculptures takes several months to several years. Every step is done entirely by hand, showcasing Nepal’s fine metalworking tradition.