Colombo, August 14 (newsin.asia) – Geek culture has become extremely popular among Sri Lankan youth. Many people, especially the young ones are attracted to geek culture for something that is difficult to find in mainstream culture: the joy of making things. A prime example in light today is Aishwarya Tennekoon.
Aishwarya Tennekoon is a 24-year-old architecture undergraduate studying at the University of Moratuwa. His primary and secondary education was from Ananda College, Colombo. He currently resides with his parents and two younger siblings. Over the years, Aishwarya has managed to turn his passion for geek culture into a hobby.
Find out what Aishwarya has to say about his hobbies, passion and much more:
1) Where did your love for sculpting and crafting come from?
I was always eager to try exploring with handcrafts and props since I was like 8 years old. I remember making houses, spaceships and terrains with leftover milk powder boxes and pizza boxes.
Whenever I get my hands on a piece of cardboard or paper I’d either make something out of it or draw on it. Also on the other hand I had another interest. I’m a huge cartoon and movie lover. I loved watching cartoons a lot.
So eventually these two interests got automatically combined together and as a result, I started making stuff I adore in the cartoons I love. For example, Batman animated series is one of my favourites! I used to make the batarangs out of cardboards, wrap some insulation tapes around them to make it more strong and then throw them around and play with my brothers running around the house turning it upside down.
Those were the things I used to make back then. I didn’t know how to make all these fancy sculptures, dioramas and replicas back then. But that’s how the foundation was built to where I’m standing today. So I continued making things whenever I get free time and sooner it became my passion. And today here I am still doing the exact thing but professionally with skills and experiences gained through all these years.
2) Tell us about some of your pieces?
To begin with, I should tell you about the very first perfect-looking piece I made. It’s non-other than the 1m tall statue of The Barad-dur aka the fortress of Sauron from The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
After completing my ALs back in 2015, I watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy for some release from exam stress. Coincidently, during those days I saw a replica of that tower made by Weta Workshop (Weta Workshop is a special effect and prop company based in Miramar, New Zealand).
I wanted to buy it so bad but it was exorbitantly expensive hence I could not even think about affording it. So I decided to give it a try to make it by myself.
That’s how I came up with the idea to make it. Eventually, I ended up surprising myself as it turned out much better than I expected! I even got a chance to exhibit it at the very first Lanka Comic Con which happened in Sri Lanka.
After that, I gained immense recognition from the local geek community. Hence, it is one of my special pieces because that was a catalyst and turning point in my life.
Let me also tell you about the very first piece that I designed and modelled by myself, an original. Up until then, I used to make stuff that appears in movies and cartoons which were designed by someone else.
So I decided to do a design of my own and turn it into a model. As a result, I ended up making the replica of “Dandu Monara”, the aircraft of King Ravana. It was a huge challenge and I had to conduct a special research in order to come up with the concept and the design. With much effort and sweat, that turned out amazing at the end too!
I was overwhelmed with positive feedback and it was very satisfying.
I must also mention my latest project, the diorama of the Sri Lankan Dragon aka ‘Makara‘ which I did a few days ago.
After the Dandu Monara replica, Makara is the second creation that was designed by myself. This piece opened up many new opportunities for me as it gathered a lot of traction in terms of feedback, reactions and shares on social media. More importantly, I personally enjoyed working on this and with all the responses I have received, I am once again happy and satisfied with my effort.
Each feature of this majestic creature represents celebrated human qualities in a very subtle way:
• The elephant tusks – Dexterity
• Paws of a lion – Strength
• Body of a fish – Movement
• Teeth and Jaws of a crocodile – Demand for respect
• Eyes of a Monkey – Vision
• Ears of a Boar – Acute hearing
• Tail of a Bird/Peacock – Splendid Beauty
3) What made you think of starting Tenai workshop?
It was actually my family’s and friends idea. When the number of commissions I received started increasing, they told me to open up a page and list all the work I’ve done so that anyone can go see my work easily. That’s when I came up with the name and started the workshop and opened up pages on social media.
4) How has the Sri Lanka community responded to your creations?
When it comes to sculptures and replicas, since there are not many people or businesses who create handmade geek-related collectibles in Sri Lanka, there’s quite a considerable demand for those, especially within the geek community.
Ever since I started making traditional characters enthusiasts from the geek community also started praising and following my work. And now due to the pandemic along with the protocols and rules it brings, it is not easy to import or get branded statues online. So now people tend to get them custom made locally more than ever before.
When it comes to cosplay costumes and props, it’s the same.
Since it’s a new concept in Sri Lanka, people have found it interesting and we can clearly see that the cosplay community in Sri Lanka keeps growing fast. So as a pioneer cosplayer, some people have identified a few of us (me and a few other cosplayers) to be best at cosplaying.
I’m glad to be an inspiration for the newcomers be it young and old that joins the community and also to help them out with making costumes and props. I’m receiving a lot of love, encouragement and support from a lot of people which keeps me motivated and makes me want to do more.
5) We also learnt that you love to cosplay, share with us your top 3 and tell us what inspired you?
Yes. I did my very first cosplay in 2017. Before that, I didn’t find it much interesting. People started commissioning me to make cosplay props for their characters because I was good at crafting stuff.
Very soon I realized while making them that I have a new grown interest in cosplaying and maybe I should give it a try as well. I made the costume of King Thranduil from The Hobbit and cosplayed Lord Thranduil as my very first cosplay.
Then I got addicted to it because I really enjoyed cosplaying as well as the process of making the costume. It was a great experience. So I continued to cosplay for every cosplay event annually. Thranduil cosplay was one of my favourites especially because it was my first ever cosplay.
Another one of my favourite cosplays is The Red Hood cosplay I did back in 2018. There wasn’t much work to do in that costume but I personally love how it turned out at the end. To date, I’m really satisfied with the outcome. It was made from scratch within two weeks so I think that’s the costume I’ve spent the least amount of time to make compared to other costumes I’ve done.
Leaving the best for the end, my most favourite cosplay is the Hiccup cosplay from ”How to Train Your Dragon: 3” which I did for Lanka Comic-Con back in 2019.
I think it’s the most complicated and well-detailed costume I’ve made so far and it was almost accurate to the original character.
To my own surprise, the cosplay got praised by the author and creator of How To Train Your Dragon franchise, Cressida Cowell! That was one of the best recognition I’ve received till now. After that, I gained huge local and international recognition for cosplaying. So that is the life-changing cosplay I’ve done up to now and that’s why it’s my best one so far.
7) What do you think is in store for you in the future? What advice would you like to give upcoming sculptors out there?
One of my main goals is to give my service to the local film industry. In terms of concept art directing, making special effects props (for SFX) and of course, costume making.
SFX props and miniatures for movies is not something that we see much in the local cinemas. So I’m hoping to develop that and introduce the methods and use it for local movies in the future.
As a sculptor, I’m hoping to use my sculpting skills to bring our cultural and historical characters to life and make like a collection and series of statues/dioramas. Once I manage to make quite a number of statues I would like to host a public exhibition so that people can come and see them.
My advice for younger sculptors/ beginners is that as a beginner don’t try to start big. Just start with what you have. And do it right now. Don’t wait for the perfect moment to come. Because we never know when that’ll be.
Keep practising and keep gaining experiences. Because practice makes you perfect and doing something for a longer period of time will make you a skilled and an experienced person in the subject. It doesn’t matter if you are not born talented, with practice and effort, skills will manifest themselves. Most importantly, do it passionately. Because then you’ll always try to do new things and that will result in coming up with creative and unique creations.