In Tehran, people seek out Negin Moslehi for her unique skill — she makes sculptures of real people. A mother whose son was studying in another country now has a tiny, doll version of him. A son, whose father is away a lot, keeps a figurine of him. A woman ordered a model of her diplomat husband. Every so often, people order statues of themselves as well.
Moslehi made her first trip to India to teach participants at Pune’s Urja Studio Cafe the art of constructing characters, fictional and cartoon ones, on November 24. “We used epoxy clay for these sculptures. People in Pune chose their favourite fictional character. We talked about it and understood it before sculpting it. The skeleton is made from wire, over which there is foil and epoxy clay,” she says. She adds she learnt her art at a class on stop-motion puppets for animation.
Her work, she adds, begins with a photograph of a person whose doll has been commissioned. “I will look at the picture for a long time, while cooking and moving around the house. I think about the person, what clothes they wear and the watch they choose,” she says, adding she will be accompanied by a colleague, Shirin Sheiki at the workshop .
Moslehi’s first foray in this direction came from watching her father craft body parts, such as fingers and eyes, of people who had lost these. “He made these realistically, colouring it in the shades of the skin,” she says.
She says the face of a person is the most difficult to sculpt, as it contains layers of his or her character and identity.
“It takes the most intricate detailing,” she adds. “In Pune, we sat with participants and understood the characters and then took home what we had created,” she says.