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Meet Mr. Anant Khairnar- The Guinness World Record Holder for Cotton Sculpting

Anant Khairnar
Picture Courtesy: Mr. Anant Khairnar

Sculptures made of stone are ever-popular. Michelangelo, a renowned Italian sculptor, quoted, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” But, it’s a different story with sculptor, Mr. Anant Khairnar. For him, “Every bundle of cotton has a statue inside it.” Unlike sculptors who use metal, wax, and wood, he carves statues using Cotton – the soft fluffy fiber, and they are no less than any stone figures.

Anant Khairnar, Cotton art
PC: Mr. Anant Khairnar, Mahatma Gandhi Cotton Sculpture

Hailing from Maharashtra India, Mr. Anant Khairnar was the first in the world who stunned people by his creativity and unique craft, using the delicate material. Anant holds a place in the Limca Book of Records(1997) as well as Guinness Book of World Records(1999) for his art. He won numerous awards and exhibited his sculptures in varied exhibitions.

In this Exclusive Interview with Icy Tales, he talks about his discovery, sculpting journey, his accomplishments, and what art is to him. Read on to know out more about the World’s First and only Cotton Sculptor.


His Early Days and How It All Began With Cotton

Mr.Anant was a creative soul from a very young age. Sketching and painting was his hobby. He used to experiment with not-so-used materials and created minute artifacts even before stepping into the world of cotton sculpting.

More or less, this curiosity and creativity formed as a base to his sculpting journey. He pursued his Bachelor’s degree in Pune University with Chemistry as his major.

It was when he was 21 years old, his journey as a sculptor began. “In Maharastra, Ganesh Festival is one of the grandest celebrations that go on for more than a week. Preparations for the festival start weeks before, and the organizers of the festival exhibit idols of Ganesha every year. Skilled artists creatively decorate and craft figures made of clay.

Cotton Idol
PC: Mr. Anant Khairnar, Cotton Ganesh Idol

During one such year, the organizers of the festival wanted to try something different and were looking for a unique idea to decorate the idol. I took up the responsibility; I wanted to discover something which was not attempted anywhere. That’s when it struck me about Cotton. I thought, why not try crafting the figure using Cotton.

In merely three days, with the help of my friends, I crafted a Ganesha using Cotton and was admired by everyone. It was my first try, and the organizers much appreciated my work. It was the stepping stone to my journey with Cotton.”

Human Figures Sculpted Using Fragile Material.

Mr. Anant became enamored by the process of creating a sculpture using Cotton and started finding ways to sculpt expressions of the human face using Cotton. Since it was quite challenging to get the emotions right using the fluffy fiber, he came up with another brilliant idea.

He applied his knowledge of Chemistry and started using volatile chemicals to mold the Cotton into the shape of his choice. Thus, he began using his creativity and education to his maximum potential and crafted astounding sculptures.

Cotton Sculpting
PC: Mr. Anant Khairnar, Actor Amitabh Bachan Sculpted using Cotton

He says, “I used to work full time at a government office and spent hours on sculpting once I reached home. I believe in hard work and tenacity above all. I loved the notion of cotton sculpting so much that even now, I stay up till midnight and work on it. It has been 33 years since I’ve been sculpting, and it always fuels my soul. Art has always been with me, and it will be with me for life.”

His Accomplishments and Challenges on the Go

He continues, “I’ve sculpted over 2000 cotton figures now, and the numbers are increasing with each passing day. I’m a self-taught sculptor and did not take up any classes on sculpting anywhere.

My work is showcased in various events in different cities. I sculpt not only idols but famous personalities too, like Indira Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Veer Savarkar, Anna Hazare, Lady Dyna, Swami Vivekananda, Sant Namdev Maharaj, Anand Rushi, Gautam Budha, Shivaji Maharaj Saibaba, and more.

Cotton Sculpting
PC: Mr. Anant Khairnar, Statue of Lord Shri Ram and Sita using Cotton

I have abroad as well as native clients, where I deliver customized work. One of my most challenging tasks was the 12-feet-tall statue of Lord Rama and Sita. A 7-and a half-foot of sculpture was of Mahatma Gandhi recognized in the Guinness Book of World records. Over time, I started exploring more and trying new shapes and figures.

When one of my clients suggested to me about adding colors, I tried using eco-friendly ones to make it look more appealing. I was researching and experimenting with new ideas every time.” Mr. Khairnar sculpted a Ganesh Idol for cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and also for Pratibha Patil, Former President of India. He also crafts trophies, accessories, building miniatures, and more.

Pandemic and Cotton Sculpting

Ever since I retired, I have dedicated myself to my art and take classes for the young mind and imbibe them with a sense of this incredible craft. I spend time in my studio more than I spend time at home now. I have found a lot more time in this Pandemic, and I’m working on multiple projects simultaneously.

Cotton Art
PC: Mr. Anant Khairnar, Mahavir Swami Cotton Figure

I conduct webinars and teach kids about cotton sculpting, adjusting to the new normal of going virtual. I strongly believe in hard work, and if you like something, then you must give your all to that, no matter the circumstances.

Establishing a Museum for Cotton Art

I’m planning to build a museum solely for cotton art, and it is currently in progress. It’s a way to preserve the new art form. Also, if I have to speak about how one can achieve success, well, I did not qualify for the elementary exam of drawing and painting. Thus, it’s okay to fail; certificates do not take you anywhere. It’s the efforts that you put in matters a lot.

Even if you’re spending one hour a day, it will be worth it. It’s all in your mindset. I was working full-time, but I made time to hone my skills. I write poems too. It’s not about finding time for me. It is all about making time for something you love and work hard on it no matter what.

Mr. Anant Khairnar
PC: Mr. Anant Khairnar, Swami Vivekananda Cotton Statue

If you’re passionate about something, then put your blood, sweat, and tears to it.  Give your heart and soul to mastering the skills. I work 18 hours a day. I feel one should work but not worry about the results.

Hustle hard and take actions based on the results; not before that. It’s the efforts you put that matters than the results. It’s the theory of life too. One should love what he does and push his limits to achieve success. There’s no other alternate route to it.

What do you think?

Written by Navya S

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