In conversation with artist Aishwarya Tennekoon | Sunday Observer

In conversation with artist Aishwarya Tennekoon

4 June, 2023

This week, the Youth Observer reaches out to a young and talented artist who has taken his love for cartoons and animated things to a whole new level, Aishwarya Tennekoon.

Aishwarya is a sculptor, designer and miniaturist and the founder of the Tenai Workshop or he would describe himself, a simple geek. His cosplays and sculptures have made the rounds on social media and impressed many.

In conversation with Aishwarya, here’s what we found out:

Q: How did you get interested in sculpting miniaturization?

A: When I was a child, I developed a keen interest in crafts, drawings, and paintings. Additionally, I had a strong affinity for movies and cartoons. Being a dedicated fan of cartoons, I desired to collect action figures of my beloved characters; however, as a child, I couldn’t afford them.

Consequently, I merged these two interests and began crafting my own models and statues of characters, buildings, vehicles, and terrains from my favourite movies, video games, and cartoons. This marked the beginning of my journey into creating statues and models, which I embarked on at the age of 8. Now, after almost 16 years, what initially started as a hobby has transformed into a true passion for me.

Q: Tell us how you got started as a professional sculptor?

A: In 2013, when I initially joined social media, I began sharing pictures of my handmade creations on my personal profiles. As time went on, I continued to share my work, and a community of individuals interested in my craft started following me on Facebook.

In response to numerous requests, I set up my own workshop, known as Tenai Workshop, in 2017, where I began selling my creations. As word spread, people started approaching me to create cosplay costumes, given my expertise in crafting props and replicas. Over time, I have developed a specialization in designing costumes, props, and armors for cosplayers and the local film industry.

Q: Tell us about the Tenai Workshop

A: I operate under the brand name Tenai Workshop, where I handle all aspects of sculpting, prop making, and cosplay costume creation. From the initial concept phase to the final fabrication stage, I personally oversee and execute every step of the process under the umbrella of Tenai Workshop.

Q: What kind of sculptures do you do?

A: Given my deep passion for movies and cartoons, I primarily focus on creating geek sculptures, replicas, scale models, and cosplay props, as mentioned earlier. However, I also have a keen interest in crafting traditional sculptures. I have had the opportunity to create several sculptures and replicas inspired by mythical characters and elements from our culture and folklore. But, with my sculpting abilities, I am capable of undertaking any type of sculpting or model making projects. I possess the skill to sculpt and create a wide range of subjects and concepts.

Q:  What is your process of preparing for a new project?

A: When creating sculptures, cosplay costumes and props, the first step is to conduct a precedent study, carefully examining images and photos of the character from various angles to grasp the costume’s intricate details. Then the scaling of the creation needs to be done. Next, appropriate materials are selected based on the design, such as sculpting clay, EVA foam, Rexene, leather, or fabric. With the materials prepared, you are all set to begin the sculpting and crafting process. This

Q:  How do you define success? Do you think you are successful?

A: I think success is a subjective concept. It involves achieving meaningful goals, finding personal satisfaction and contentment, receiving recognition for accomplishments, attaining financial stability, experiencing personal growth and learning, and making a positive impact on others etc.

It’s important to define success in a way that aligns with your own values and aspirations, as it is a deeply personal and individualized measure of achievement. So to answer your question, I believe that I have achieved success in certain aspects, while there are specific areas where I am still striving to attain success.

Q:  Do you think expression of art is important for social revolution?

A: I certainly believe so. Actually, art is essential for social revolution as it has the power to evoke emotions, cultivate empathy, and challenge the status quo. Through visual imagery, performances, and various artistic mediums, art sparks critical reflection, dialogue, and awareness of social issues. It amplifies the voices of marginalized communities, inspires action and activism, and contributes to cultural transformation. While not the sole catalyst, art plays a crucial role in mobilizing individuals and shaping a more just and equitable society.

Q:  How have you gone about expressing your art?

A: As a geek sculptor specializing in creating sculptures of characters from cartoons, movies, and comics, I contribute to the rich tapestry of popular culture and fandom. My work holds immense value as it connects with people’s love for these beloved characters and their stories.

Through my sculptures, I have the ability to capture the essence and spirit of these iconic characters, bringing them to life in three-dimensional form. My creations hold a special place in the hearts of fellow geeks and fans, as they permit people to physically interact with and admire their favourite characters in a tangible way.

My sculptures serve as tributes to the imaginative worlds and narratives that have shaped and influenced many lives. They have the power to evoke nostalgia, create a sense of joy, and provide a connection between fans and their beloved fictional universes. As a geek sculptor, I contribute to the larger geek culture community, fostering a sense of belonging and shared enthusiasm among fans.

My sculptures can act as conversation starters, igniting discussions, and building connections among like-minded individuals who share a passion for the characters and franchises you bring to life. Through my work, I help preserve the legacy of these beloved characters, ensuring that their impact continues to be felt for generations to come.

In addition to capturing the essence of these characters, the sculptures also showcase my artistic skills, craftsmanship, and attention to detail. My ability to translate two-dimensional designs into three-dimensional forms requires a keen eye for proportions, textures, and capturing the unique characteristics of each character. My craftsmanship and dedication contribute to the overall quality and aesthetic appeal of these sculptures, making them stand out as unique and collectible works of art.

As a geek sculptor, I have the opportunity to inspire others, including aspiring artists and fellow geeks. My passion and dedication to my craft can serve as a source of motivation and encouragement for others to pursue their own creative endeavors. My work demonstrates the power of art to bridge the gap between imagination and reality, inspiring others to explore their own artistic potential and embrace their geeky passions.

Q:  Let’s talk about the cosplaying you have done. Why is that a point of interest for you?

A: As a cosplayer, there are several points of interest in cosplaying, which are self-expression and creativity, the sense of community and connection with fellow cosplayers, the transformative and empowering nature of embodying characters, the attention to detail and craftsmanship involved in costume design, prop making, and the opportunity for performance and storytelling. Cosplay also serves as a celebration of fandom, allowing individuals to express their love for a particular franchise or fandom through their costumes and interactions with others.

Q: What is your favourite cosplay project that you have done so far?

A: One of my most cherished cosplay projects is my fourth cosplay, where I portrayed Hiccup from ‘How to Train Your Dragon 3’. I shared a post about this cosplay on social media, with some photographs, and to my astonishment, it was retweeted and complimented on Twitter by Cressida Cowell, the author of the ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ franchise.

As a devoted fan of the franchise, it felt like a dream come true. The post gained considerable local attention and went somewhat viral. This exposure led to an influx of new followers who expressed interest in my work.

Finally I asked Aishwarya how he defines himself as an artist and he said he is a passionate one, someone who can bring imaginative worlds to life through attention to detail, craftsmanship, and ability to interpret and embody characters.

“My work is a fusion of art and craft, intertwining creativity, aesthetics, and technical skill. As a storyteller, I engage viewers by conveying narratives and evoking emotions through my sculptures, replicas, and models. With a deep passion for geek culture, I cater to fellow enthusiasts and celebrate the characters, franchises, and stories that inspire my art,” he said.