<I wrote this in 2011 and never bothered publishing it. CraftCanvas has come a long way and I was just happy to look back>

It is my birthday week and the time of the year when I usually want to take stock of life. The rest of the year just goes by with the million things that I do and plan to do that the real things really get mixed up.The big things need to be planned and written down somewhere.

2010 was all about exploring life. I’ve always wanted to travel. But apart from places where work took me, it was just too difficult to get away anywhere. This year, I’ve traveled every month (even twice in some months) to places that are sometimes hard to find, even on a map!

 

Bangalore as a destination was all about friends. But this year, I visited an 100 year old workshop in Ulsoor and discovered the place where the demon gods are made.

Enjoyed some simple pleasures in life by watching a puppet show with handmade leather puppets.

Drove to no man’s land to hear the chisels at work.

Was enchanted by the massive forts in Rajasthan and the intricate weaves of Salawas’ dhurries.

Stepped into the breaktakingly beautiful Thanjuvur temple and stepped onto the simple beauty of handmade Athangudi tiles.

Witnessed devotion at its peak in the Rath yatra at Puri and marvelled at the wonder called Pattachitra.

Was humbled by the living conditions of one of the award winning artisans in our country. Dushasan Behera lives a difficult life in Dhenkanal, Orissa, yet manages to create stunning pieces of art.

Was inspired by a bunch of enterprising women who conquered the tsunami.

A year of exploration, one of learning, one that grounded me and the one that I would live many times over. But it is time to move on, to act on what is learnt, to create a platform to learn more and to prepare for the next year.

A big year is coming my way and I am already looking forward to it!

I’ve rarely interacted with children. Apart from the ‘so cute’ and ‘she is so adorable’, I haven’t said much to them. All this changed last week as I spent two awesome (and exhausting) days organizing the puppet making workshop. The tiny tots (aged 6-12 years) surprised me in every way possible. From correcting my facts on the Ramayana to getting the artisan make T-Rex dinosaur puppets, they gave me more than I gave them. If only we exposed our young generation to more such crafts. I am doubly sure that we will have designers, doctors and engineers who appreciate the innate wisdom in traditional Indian ways.

The workshop was held at Tharangini. A quaint little place at Sadashivnagar in Bangalore just on the banks of Sankey tank is home to a beautiful block printing workshop and a little hut-like place to conduct workshops for children. We started the workshop with a brief on the craft (click here to read more), introduced the artisans to the children and showed them a small presentation on where the craft originates, some pictures of the village, etc.

A lamp made by one of the participants

The children then set off drawing fishes, peacocks, etc that they decorated/filled in traditional Charmakari form. We gave them various forms and explained the process in each. Once they were confident of the shapes, we gave them each a piece of leather. The final design was etched on the leather and the kids were given an option of making puppets or a lamp. The most critical part of puppet making is punching. Holes are punched to let the light pass through. Here the punching was done by the kids with our help. The children painted beautifully, taking cues from the artisans and the various puppets hanging around.

We ended the workshop with a little puppet show depicting a scene from the Ramayana.

Working with kids is a lot different from working with adults. Though Nisha, my associate in Bangalore and a mother of two warned me about the exhaustion, I am grateful for all her help and wisdom. She knew the right answers to their questions!

So at the end of it all, the kind of ideas and questions that young minds throw up make me wonder if all our learning was worth it. They are far more intelligent than I can ever be now that I am so educated :)

 

It has been a rather hectic month. I spent the first part trying to figure out train tickets, accommodation and making boxes. Making boxes is not an easy task. All those tutorials on ehow and wikihow never expose you to the reality of explaining the same to the local carpenter. I had a tough time getting a hundred boxes done and ready with a nice smooth finish on the top.

The Madhubani artists(Naveen and Pooja) were going to be here and I had to ensure that everything went off smoothly. I am a stickler for detail and I constantly stress myself about little things. Add to it the proscrastinator in me, you have the perfect recipe for last minute rush, mouth ulcers (6 of them!!) and sleepless nights. Blogging was almost at the end of the list of things-to-do. Well almost, cause after that came a list of house-work. So after a debacle of train tickets, I  managed to get them to Ahmedabad 3 days late!  I heaved a big sigh of relief as I got that 6 am call that they have reached Ahmedabad.

We started off with the workshop at CEPT. DICRC is the Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre at the university and they do some kick-ass work. A perfect platform that facilitates the marriage between traditional crafts and new ideas. And what better than Interior Architecture to use these splendid craft forms! :) So the first 4 days zipped past with coverage in 3 newspapers :), loads of new and interesting design work and of course a lot of fun. It is amazing how a designer can influence a different thought process to an already existing idea. The designers worked on using the artisans knowledge of the 2D form into a 3D form. The results were stunning.

After the workshop, we got down to the rest of the task. Painting boxes! Since I am always looking at introducing crafts in everyday life, I decided to tackle that ugly looking pack of tissues lying in every home. So I decided to make tissue box holders that will cover that ugly of a home and bring it centre stage. And I used it for a party at home. I sold a few right there! :)

So while I was babysitting the artisans’ 4 year old daughter, cooking up games every half hour, boiling the milk to the right temperature for her, putting her to sleep and keeping an hawk eye on things in my home, the couple painted away. They talk in hushed tones to each other (not necessary considering I don’t understand their language anyways!), sing little songs and have a great time together. It is interesting to see that camaderie, one that comes only out of knowing each other well and doing something that they so love together. It is like their work cements their love even better, as she blushes at a compliment from him about the fish she painted.

Together (I pitched in after day 2 as I realised that it is not an easy task), we filled every box with something interesting. A box where the couple hold hands was Pooja’s favourite as she relates every character to her life! Phew! :) I had to fight to keep some monotones as Naveen disapprovingly looks at the lack of colour.

So as 41 boxes were painted, we decided to call it a day. The couple took their 4 year old out to have ice-cream and finally boarded the train with a whole lot of memories. I switched on the AC, cleared the paint mess all over my floor and collapsed on the bed happy and content. I know selling it is another story. But for now I am happy to see so much color in my life. One thing at a time.

For ones who want to order, please check this link.

 

I was born in the 80s, in Chennai. That would explain most of my childhood. It was education all the way. My life was wrapped around mathematics, sciences and my mother’s unflinching belief in the need to master Hindi (maybe she had an inkling about my future choice of husband!). I wasn’t particularly good at sports, but I made up by being the fastest at multiplication tables. It was a choice- sports or academics, never both.

In all this, I missed out on few things during my childhood. Art was one such thing. I wasn’t the best at using the pastels back in school, but I loved the care-free indulgence that painting offered. There was no right answer and that thought was so much fun.

So when I got my chance finally (forget that I am almost 30!), the paints still hold that charm for me. I’ve gone berserk trying to mix colors, paint in that secret book (this is equivalent to bathroom singing) and having a ball of a time.

Now I am glad I am able to offer that chance to many like me. A 5 day workshop on Warli painting. It will be conducted by Dilipbhai, a National Award winning painter. More about Warli very soon, but do remember that is an easy to learn painting. I am not training to be the next Hussain here. I am just going to paint my heart out, just indulge myself.

If you are in Ahmedabad, come join me. Indulge!