Niharika Rajput is a wildlife artist and conversationalist based out of Delhi. She specializes in intricate paper and epoxy sculptures of birds and animals. took the form of Paper Chirrups—a project where she explores various birds from all over the world, sculpts them, and also conducts festivals and workshops to spread awareness.
Niharika’s focus has always been to create awareness about the depleting numbers of birds and loss of their habitat. Although a unique art form, sculpting birds came naturally to her as she spent most of her time in nature while growing up, observing and watching birds. Being born in Arunachal Pradesh, she has always had a deep rooted connection with nature which can be seen in her work as well.We chatted with this inspiring young woman about her projects and more.
Introduce us to Paper Chirrups!
I have always been a keen observer and deep admirer of all things wild. It was only fitting that I amalgamated the two – my love for the wild and my love for art. When I started out, the aim was to replicate the birds to the very last detail. While observing them, I couldn’t help but notice how bird population was slowly reducing in number. I felt I had a responsibility to do my share, and this idea led me to start Art for Wildlife Conservation. Now, Paper Chirrups not only stands as an artistic voice but is also a way to promote restoration, protection and conservation of all endangered wildlife.
My profession allows me to appreciate and see nature in a whole new light and of course, takes me to places where I would never venture out on my own. For example, I am currently working on some hummingbird sculptures which will be exhibited at the 31st Hummingbird Festival in Texas, this September.
All your sculptures are quite intricate and beautiful. What’s the process that you follow to make them?
While making the sculptures, I pay great attention to detail and that’s the most crucial part of the process. I start by sketching out each body part – wings, tail and body feathers – which is retraced on paper and cut to precision. Feathers are then glued to the body which could be made out of paper and wire or epoxy in the miniature versions. Then comes my favorite part – painting the birds realistically.
When did your interest in art, specifically birds, begin?
Honestly, I don’t remember! As far as my memory goes back, I always loved building things and painting them. I have never attended any art courses/classes, I think it was an inherent skill that became better with each piece I created. I probably get it from my mother who is an extremely creative person.
As for choosing birds, they are certainly the most mesmerizing beings and have a skill set that most animals don’t. They are great architect who can build marvelous nests, and most importantly, they are the only species that seem to have no boundaries – they can fly off from one end of the earth to the other!
How have your roots and upbringing influenced your work?
Growing up, I got to travel around the country a lot, thanks to my military family background. While that meant constantly adapting to new environments, there was one constant—we were always close to nature! We had well-maintained gardens which housed a variety of butterflies and ladybugs. My favorite pastime was to simply watch and observe them. I spotted my first White Throated Kingfisher in Tibri Cantt, Punjab, it was truly a spectacle!
Is it difficult being a full-time artist? Share with us a work practice that has helped you.
Wildlife Art is my full-time profession and I intend to keep it that way for years to come.
Initially, when I started my business, it was difficult to reach out to people and also to make money. There were difficult days where I thought maybe I should look at more lucrative careers or do part-time or full-time job but somehow I was headstrong and met the right kind of people who were extremely supportive of my talent. They helped me sail through.
I do believe one should inculcate self-discipline especially when you are self-employed. Build something every day, no matter how you are feeling as this practice will help you grow tremendously.
What do you hope people take away from your Paper Chirrups?
The reason why I build these creatures is not only because they fascinate me, but I want my customers or viewers to have a piece of wildlife in their homes. It will serve as a reminder of what is out there and needs to be protected, since we are moving towards a more human-centric, technology-driven, anthropocentric world. That is one of the reasons for running Art for Wildlife Conservation initiatives in India and the world.
Introduce us to the other side of paperchirrups
My first collaboration was with BAWC (Birders Against Wildlife Crime), UK. I built two Hen Harrier sculptures to help them with their project on the Harriers. This was followed by a day-long workshop with 90 children at Asola Wildlife Sanctuary, Delhi on World Sparrow day. I conducted various activities including building miniature models of sparrows to raise awareness on what is happening to them.
I have been working in collaboration with experts in Ladakh for the past three years to spread awareness on what the local community can do to protect the Black Necked Crane.
Niharika shares on her Instagram, “I decided to put together a small BirdFestival to spread awareness on the bird ecosystem of Ladakh. In September 2018, I collaborated with Ladakh Arts and Media Organisation (LAMO) & Dara Shikoh Foundation to host Ladakh’s first ever Bird Festival. We had many artists and performers who flew in from all over the country to showcase their work. We had a month long exhibition of sculptures, paintings, installations , animation movie, seminar, artists talks, presentations and multiple workshops with children from different schools in Leh town and in the remote villages. The main aim of conducting this festival was to make the local community more aware of the Birds and wildlife found in the region.”
I was also in a three months long Artist in residence program in British Columbia, Canada where I worked on the Hummingbirds found in the region. I continue to work with WWF, WTI and NCF on such projects.
Tell us about your latest work? What are you excited to start?
I am currently building Humming Birds for the 31st Hummer Bird celebration in Texas. I have been invited to speak about my work, conduct workshops and exhibit some of my sculptures too. Alongside I am building some birds for my clients and preparing for workshops. One of them will be stationed in Nagaland. I am also looking forward to building all the 39 species of the Birds of Paradise found in Papua New Guinea. They are just incredibly beautiful.
Follow Niharika on Instagram to see more of her work and projects!
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