The journey of an artist follows a different trajectory. Art is often a calling from the soul, and it chooses its own path. Breaking Moulds, a book about the pioneering sculptor Meera Mukherjee follows her life and inspirations. Written by Vaishali Shroff and illustrated by Shivam Choudhary, the book, published by art1st is a part of the Art Exploration Series.
There are multiple levels at which this book works, and professionals working with children may be able to use the book in a myriad of ways. Firstly, it is an inspirational story of a young Meera Mukherjee, in her girlhood, discovering that art resonates with her. The tale begins with her helping her mother make artistic alponas during Laxmi Pujo. At another level, it is a sculptural book in itself and the structure and physicality of the book, is a work of art, as are the gorgeous illustrations. And finally, through the section at the end, the reader is taught to think like an artist. Through the example of Meera, the reader abstracts the elements that truly make a true artist. There are questions and pointers to guide the reader along the way. There are also some handy tips on making your own art and some templates at the end for folding paper into works of art.
Meera goes to Europe where she learns to paint like European artists. She battles an existential crisis and destroys everything she ever made. She feels her roots tug at her and when she returns it is with a renewed vigour. She puts the brush down, and picks up the chisel. She works with tribals and learns from them. Her art is renewed her radiant bronze sculptures push her boundaries like she has never done before. Once more, she becomes her art. Sculpture is just one more form of expression. She breaks moulds again by going all out and educating women and children to create kantha quilts, doodle in books and write books for children. The book ends on an inspirational note when this spark of inspiration, this spirit that cannot be defined, is passed on to another little girl.
The structure of the book itself is artistic in nature. The reader can literally play with the pages. There are pull outs, flaps and pop-ups that help the reader to touch and interact with the pages in a more personal manner. For example, the part of the story when Meera is shown facing an existential crisis and she destroys everything that she created, the page opens up in a manner where the face is shown fragmented, and the pages are literally arranged in a manner to bring the fragmentation out.
I do not believe that there is any age limit this book should be restricted to. I think it’s a good fit for anyone about 4 years! At the most basic level, its an inspirationsal biography that young readers may enjoy. However, it also goes deeper. This journey of anguish is something that many adults may also resonate with, and for art therapists and mental health professionals working with clients who have similar concerns this could just be a resource. The theme of changing tracks in life and being true and authentic to one’s inner core is brought out beautifully. After reading the book, the activities and suggestions at the end could also be used to explore further hands-on art-based tasks.
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