Turning a new leaf

Educator Sasitharan Ramachandran branches into niche leisure pursuit and wins acclaim for unique leaf carvings

10 Jun 2021 / 12:19 H.

IT has been four years since lecturer Sasitharan Ramachandran moved to Langkawi for a posting at the Vocational College.

Being far from home, he quickly found himself bored and lonely during weekends on the island.

“The loneliness made me want to try something new. I did not want to do something that people normally do, and I wanted something creative,” the 34-year old from Kalumpang in Selangor told theSun.

The determination to occupy his time and mind led him to scour YouTube, where he eventually stumbled upon the art of leaf carving.

His curiosity piqued, Sasitharan took a swing at it but was slightly disappointed.

“The methods were not correct,” he said.

Turning a new leaf

Doing what you love

Now, after learning the craft, and refining the methods and technique, Sasitharan has cemented his reputation as a leaf carver artist.

“In the first two years, I did it as a hobby and as I learned slowly, my technique became better and my friends told me to start commissioning,” he explained.

“In the beginning, I was not confident with what I could do, so I only did one or two commissions.”

When the growing feedback turned positive, requests for Sasitharan’s commissions increased to about 40 to 50 a month.

Despite the overwhelming demand, he only takes about 15 to 20 orders due to the demands of his day job as a lecturer.

Leaf carving remains a weekend pursuit.

Explaining his initial attraction to the niche artform, Sasitharan said it was something that – to his knowledge – was not done in Malaysia.

However, he found from his web research that it was quite well-established in other countries.

“I felt I was doing something unique and continued to do it,” Sasitharan added.

Sasitharan has crafted a wide variety of faces with intricate details.
Sasitharan has crafted a wide variety of faces with intricate details.

Delicate and methodological

Delving into the art and the process, the artist explains that it begins with a four to five day period of preparation. Leaves are picked and readied, which is something he learnt on his own.

“In the YouTube videos, they only show how to carve it, but not how to preserve the leaves,” he said.

“I learned through trial and error. Like when I followed the videos online, the leaves only lasted for one or two weeks. I had to find out how to make the leaves last a long time. At one point, I found the right method and the leaves now last several years”.

After the preparations are done, the carving itself takes around two hours. When he started in 2017, it would take up to five hours.

“I only use peepal leaves, because in Malaysia, it’s the only leaf that lasts a long time and is suitable for carving,” Sasitharan explained, further pointing out that each art piece is about A4-sized.

Turning a new leaf

“In the beginning, I used different kinds of leaves but they lasted only a few days. One of my first leaf art creations is still with me in good condition”.

Ultimately, the process takes about two back-to-back weekends, Sasitharan said.

“During the (preparatory) weekends, I’ll be preparing leaves to be carved the next weekend. It doesn’t affect my work as a lecturer during the weekdays,” he said.

This undertaking also came with its own set of challenges, owed largely due to skewed social perceptions.

“When I first began posting and promoting my art on social media, people would make fun of me. They would say: ‘You’re a teacher. Why are you doing this on TikTok?’” Sasitharan said.

But he kept pushing his art on social media platforms, which led to some degree of success and admiration for his art.

“People might say social media is a waste of time, but I used it for something rewarding”.

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