Thomas Jacob is a micro-miniature artist and his favourite medium is just five millimetres around.
He uses an X-ACTO knife to carve the tips of pencils, chalks and crayons, a self-taught art form he picked up as a child in India.
“I started as a hobby at the age of 10, just started doing small sculptures on chalk pieces I would collect from my schools, with tools that were available like pins and blades,” Jacob explained.
As he grew older, his sculptures became more detailed and he added more mediums.
Jacob says pencil carving in particular is quite unique around the world. A single sculpture will take him between seven and 20 hours to complete.
“Mostly I like to do human sculptures, based on everyday events or people I meet.”
He doesn’t sketch out his designs in advance but he does need to think about how he’s going to create his masterpieces before he sits down to work.
“I have to plan where I should start because the thing is here, I can’t make any changes once I have put the blade on the pencil,” he said.
Family, friends and teachers encouraged Jacob to continue to pursue his hobby and turn it into something more.
Three years ago, he quit his corporate job and dove head-first into his art.
His dedication landed him a spot in an international miniatures competition in Quebec.
“There were participants from 20 different countries, around 400 works of art were on display and I won the jury award for one of my works,” he explained.
Jacob said the competition gave his works greater exposure and he moved to Canada in 2019 to further pursue his artistic passion.
At the start on 2020, he got a call from an internationally acclaimed fashion company, Hermes Paris.
“They contacted me and they wanted me to sculpt pencil carvings of 17 of their products. So it was a great experience.”
He said he’d never thought of his art as a branding tool before, but it opened his eyes to new possibilities.
Though COVID-19 has delayed his plans to share his work more widely, one local art gallery jumped at the chance to showcase his art – Picture This! in Sherwood Park.
“It just immediately struck us. It’s so different and it’s so unique and it’s so beautiful, so we just had to get him to come in,” explained Carol LaMarche, the gallery’s manager.
She made sure a special tool is on hand for customers to truly appreciate the details in each carving.
“They look at it, they’re amazed. Then they pick up the magnifying glass and they’re absolutely blown away,” she said.
Jacob only works in 30-minute time frames to give his eyes a break from trying to focus on the tiny designs.
Each piece has to be completed from the top down because the lead is brittle and snaps easily if he tries to go back up once he’s carved something lower on the sculpture.
Jacob says he’s come a long way from his childhood carvings in India and encourages others to follow their dreams too.
“This was the early 90s, there were not even internet options available – so I didn’t even know if such a kind of art exists anywhere in the world and I didn’t even know what to call this,” he said.
“It was all my passion towards it. I kept doing it and kept experimenting.”