I really wouldn’t say that I work very hard. The cliché that if you love what you do, it doesn’t seem like work, is true. Very true. I’ve skipped lunches without feeling even a bit hungry and woke up in the middle of the night to write down a dream, cos some awesome ideas are only dreamt. Even for a job like mine, there are surprises. As if everyday wasn’t awesome enough, I stumble upon more wonder.

Peacock using sea shells

The Troikaa family is one such. With a home that will take your breath away and the home owners tastefully doing up every inch of it, this one project was a delight. We usually work with interior designers, the home owners are people we barely meet. The whole idea for this project came up from a humble collection of shells, yes sea shells from one of the family’s trips to Goa. A whole box of fragile, shiny, white shells were handed to us.

While we buffed, tinted and dyed the shells, we were convinced about using it the way it was. The lustrous, white, mother of pearl finish that caught the eye in every direction was the winner. Dotted inside the Kalamkari peacock, we had a one of a kind piece. Something that the family owns and cherishes.

It’s been a while since I’ve been dabbling with my restoration projects. As always, I’ve been scrounging the internet for details, instructions and ideas. The carpenter, the painter and everyone else who works with me are hounded with questions on the how, why and what-ifs. My first project the big comfortable swing  turned out so well that it is a such a stunner.It is only piece of furniture (rest are all cushions) in our ‘perennially work in progress’ living room. So armed with new found knowledge, a patient antique dealer who lets me spend hours in his warehouse even if I end up spending paltry sums, I found myself a very interesting project.

I’ve always coveted the cradle converted into a coffee-table  from Karthik Vaidyanathan’s home. And since such readymade pieces are hard to come by and are also very very expensive, I knew I had to make one on my own. So as I rummaged through the antique warehouse, I found 2 interesting things. A broken cradle (only the 4 sides with all the railings rusted and in super bad condition) and a jaali, a lattice screen. Though the initial idea was to use the two separately, I decided to use them together.

The cradle was cleaned, rust scrubbed and removed and the cracks were filled. I got the jaali fitted on top, supported by planks on either sides. The whole process took so much time that I was highly inclined to abandon the project mid-way. Loads of research later, I came out with the final piece, all ready to be painted.

Going with the tile colors on the swing, I decided to use blue and green for the centrepiece. The result is such a fresh change from all the dark brown (walnut) furniture all over the place. I regret not having taken pictures of the original. The broken cradle strips and the jaali. Had I done that, the difference in the before and after pictures would have been unimaginably stark.

Now that’s a keeper, isn’t it ? A pat on the back for me and a lot more motivation to keep finding myself such challenges.

This one is atleast 6 months pending. I’ve always wanted a Japanese style sit down table. Memoirs of Geisha and Nabinkumar’s vist to Ahmedabad rekindled that desire and I set out to make one. I picked up wood from a saw mill, gave it to my carpenter (who by then was used to my quirky demands) and he made the table top in a few hours. The primer was done and after a night of drying, I got Nabin to paint. Nabin comes from a family of Madhubani painters. Both his mother and sister are national award winning artistes. He is also very good and it makes me wonder how good the ladies must be!

A big fan of the peacock motif, I knew all the while what I wanted. I was surprised at myself at the choice of base colors. I am not known for subtlety in colors at all :) It took Nabin 4 days to slowly finish the entire painting. He insisted on doing up the centre, but I wanted to use a runner. So there wasn’t any point.

My carpenter finished up with the base. The table height was decided after much deliberation. And the impatient one that I am, I missed the varnishing step and started using it.

 

Some floor cushions, bolsters and pretty pretty Dabu printed fabric, my dining area is the coolest spot in my home. This is where I work (at times), read, eat and entertain. A hanging light is pending here, just waiting for that right inspiration to strike me! :)

 

 

I have spent entire summers waiting for 4 pm, the time when I was allowed to go to the park. The only thing that fascinated me there was the swing. I remember swinging for hours on end and reaching home with a dizzy head. I’ve done this every evening, all through the summer holidays. When I asked my parents if I could have a swing at home, my mom told me that swings were supposed to be only in parks. And I believed her! :)

I carried this urge from my childhood and finally found my swing. Like most amazing things in life, I found it when I wasn’t looking for it. I had to purchase some antique furniture for a client and was walking around the antiques market in Ahmedabad. There I ended up rescuing a swing. I would call it rescue because this beautiful piece of furniture was in fact being used to stack clothes. It was termite ridden, the edges were broken off, the rods were rusted and broken and the mirror was in bad shape. It was covered with inches of dust that I almost missed this gem.

When I expressed interest in buying it, the guy jacked up the rates. He even claimed some royal associations! Finally I gave in, paid him and haggled with a tempo guy to get it home. Though my husband is used to these weird looking things coming home, this 5 ft long really dirty thing was a bit too much for him. I persuaded him to finish

I called in the neighbourhood carpenter the next day. He managed to ruin it in just 5 minutes! He didn’t know how to sand such an old piece. I managed to stop him before he caused any more damage.

While I was looking for another carpenter, the swing started accumulating things. It was used to store anything that didn’t have a place of its own. Though not clear in the picture, it has a stack of toothpicks and candles from the last party.

In the meanwhile, I got a couple of mirror cut to size, ordered some turquoise tiles with a hint of yellow to go with my walls and I lowered my standards to buy the steel rods to hang them. I really wanted the bronze ones, but that would have cost me a fortune! :)

Finally I found a carpenter suited for this job and shifted the swing to his location. I waited for a week while the swing was sanded, polished and the tiles and mirror were fixed.

The ceiling needed to be ready before the swing arrived. My heart was in my mouth as the ceiling was punctured to screw up the holders.

Finally the swing was in its place. It is the primary piece of furniture in the living room and has become its signature.

My home, my swing! :)

I know I should have waited for the final picture of the Pooja Room Door. Priya is away and it will take a painful whole week to see the installation. She has an housewarming Pooja at the end of the month and wanted the paintings only by then. I guess this is what happens when you deliver well before the time you were supposed to. When it’s good service, of course I am allowed to brag! ;)

Priya wanted to do her Pooja Room differently. I am glad that she didn’t choose to pick up the regular ‘off the shelf’ versions available in the market. So after a good long conversation, we decided that the puppets would be a perfect idea. She is building her home in Hyderabad and a craft from that state would be ideal.

She was sure that she wanted Ashtalakshmi. I googled up a few pictures and she chose her image from a range that I sent her.

Since the craftsman lives in a village that is best reached by snail mail, I posted the picture to him. When I asked him for a proper address, Tulsi Rao said it was unnecessary and the postman knew him well. For an apartment dweller who hardly knows her neighbours, this was a quite a surprise. I don’t send snail mails and I waited for sometime before Tulsi Rao got my letter.

Thanks to the mobile phone, I explained the rest of the details. He said that the picture was a Tanjore painting. He would only use it for his reference and use his style to depict the Goddess.

The painting was ready in two weeks. I wasn’t comfortable with him sending the paintings back by post. I don’t know the postman here! So I convinced him to take a bus to the nearest town and send the paintings through DTDC. I finally had a CN number to track the shipment online.

I wish someone photographed my face when I opened the parcel. Gorgeous as it was, I had second thoughts about sending it to Priya :)

Here is how the paintings would look against the light.

Some individual pictures. Look at the detail on each of them.

I am still waiting for Priya to install the paintings on the door and send me the final pictures. Will share the same soon! :)

If you are looking for a custom made piece, email us on craftcanvas@gmail.com.

It’s time for Christmas and I am planning to get out the tree in a day or two. But this time around, I am going to decorate the tree with a few Indian decorations. As the festival is incomplete without the jingling bells, here is what I found in Kutch last weekend.

The villages of Zura and Nirona are well known for their bell making. The craftsmen belong to the community of Luhars, who brought the craft with them from Sindh. Primarily used to identify herds, these bells are now used widely in decorative accessories. Luhar Siddik Husen’s family has been practising this craft through generations. His very enterprising son has introduced some interesting designs using this craft.

While writing this post, I did some research on the acoustics of bells and here is what I found on www.msu.edu. “The bell is more complex acoustically than any other vibrating body intended for musical purposes, and its manufacture presents a formidable challenge. It’s cup shaped design produces an array of frequencies which, if not controlled, would prevent any harmonious blending of tone when two or more bells are heard simultaneously. Consequently, proportions must be determined that will result in frequencies and their amplitudes considered desirable in a musical bell.”

There are 13 sizes in all, starting from the small one that a goat wears to bigger ones for cattle. The precision is evident while they are played in succession, the first eight bells resonate the sa-re-ga-ma-pa-da-ne-sa.

Made using scarp sheet, this craft is as eco-friendly as it can get. The entire bell is hand cut and joined using very basic tools. There is no welding in the piece. Each bell has 3 distinct parts, the dome, the lower cylinder and the hook on the top.

Once the parts are joined, they are covered with earth, sprinkled with some copper dust and the pieces are fused together in the furnace.

Once outside the furnace, they get their copper tinge with a beautiful patina that can only be achieved with something handcrafted. They are bent a little at the edges, the bend giving them that resonating sound. A wooden piece is attached to the bell.

This beautiful piece of craft resonates with such clarity. The echo is music to the ears.

So this Christmas, let your tree and your spirit echo the sound of these bells from Nirona. To buy these bells, click here

My home and my kitchen are always open to my friends. The joy that I derive out of cooking a meal for someone is inexplicable. So when one of my friends recently asked me if I cleaned up the place because she was coming to visit, I was surprised. My home is mostly organised, atleast on the face of it. I know some cheat tricks that I learnt way back in college when I shared my tiny room with two other girls. Then of course, I would re-use shoe boxes and cartons, but mostly I put things I didn’t use (and didn’t have the heart to give away) in a dump spot. I maintain that theory till date and I have an organised home.

But there were these things like keys, stationery, CDs and all the ear-rings that I remove just before going to bed that never really had a place to go to. They had to accessible and cannot be put in my ‘dump spot’. So when I found these beautiful, colorful boxes, I thought it was a perfect thing to put such stuff away. The fact that these were made by our enterprising women from the tsunami-ravaged Pulicat adds to the charm!

orange palm leaf kottan box from Pulicat

Orange palm leaf kottan box

You can use them everywhere to put CDs, stationery, keys, medicines and that little bedside stuff that you need. With dimensions of 10 inches by 7 inches, it comes with a matching lid.

Set of 2 Kottan boxes from Pulicat

Set of 2 Kottan boxes

While this stand alone box was bright and colorful, there is one with a neutral shade, a set of 2. With dimensions of 8 by 8 inches and 6 by 6 inches each, these boxes fit into each other.

Set of three pink kottan baskets from Pulicat

Set of three pink kottan baskets

I am very partial to pink and cannot end this with my favorite ‘shocking’ pink colour. A set of 3 boxes, these fit snugly inside each other and come with a matching lid. Dimensions are 9 inches, 8 inches and 6.5 inches in diameter respectively.

Hope you like these boxes. If there is a good response (which can happen if you share this), the women can be commissioned to make more of these boxes. It will be of great help to them! :)

Here is the tour to my friend Kabir’s apartment. A lawyer by profession, with a passion for collecting art from the ‘silk road’, Kabir’s home is one of a kind.

Living Room Entrance of a Persian style home

Living Room Entrance

I’ve hardly known Kabir for a month now. But with some people, we hit off like we’ve known each other for years. He lives alone in an apartment on the 9th floor of an old building complex, just near one of the most crowded junctions (char-rasta, meaning four roads as we call them here) in Ahmedabad. But the minute you enter his home, the change is drastic. Impeccably maintained and tastefully decorated (he doesn’t agree to this), this home is surely unique in its approach.

Kabir Learning Farsi

Learning Farsi

Kabir’s travels have taken him to Iran, a place he seems to have fallen in love with. He has taken to studying the language as well.

Lanterns from Iran

Lanterns from Iran

Who doesn’t like lanterns?! Imagine an evening full of conversation, sitting on cushions, warmly lit by these glass lanterns, smoking an ‘Hookah’ (Kabir is strict about it being tobacco-free), surrounded by soulful Persian music. Not a difficult setting to pull off, isn’t it?

Using floor space to display knick knacks

Using floor space to display knick knacks

He is yet to put in nails on his apartment walls. But that doesn’t prevent him from using floor space to display his treasures. Of course, you can see the beautiful rugs a little bit here..

Coffee Table decor

Coffee Table decor

The centre table is decorated with a colourful cover, used on camel backs. Stacked with lanterns, a Persian Calendar, a book on poetry gifted by his friend back in Iran, this table is full of personal memories.

Indian art

Mixing Indian art with Persian pieces

Kabir has added a few pieces of Indian Crafts, that actually go well with his original theme. One of these pieces is a replica of one found in the Baroda museum.

Clock from Iran

Clock from Iran

This clock is one of the priced possessions from his travels. Engraved with the ‘traditional blue’ of the region. it is prominently placed in the living area.

Lantern from UP

Lantern from UP

A painting from his friend is kept next to an old lamp from UP, gifted to his grandfather.

Stone carvings from Persepolis

Stone carvings from Persepolis

The stone carvings from Persepolis is one of his favorites. They depict an era gone by.

A Persian quote of love

A Persian quote of love

A fitting end to this house tour would be this Persian quote that talks about ‘love’.

Thanks Kabir for letting me take these pictures.

All this while, I’ve refrained from writing about Gujarat. I’ve read (and of course I see them everyday) so much about Kutchi embroidery, mirror work and the beautiful ladies wearing traditional wear that it seemed nothing out of the ordinary for me. Till the point that my husband pointed out that I haven’t blogged about my first project. Its been a year now since its been completed, it is in perfect condition and writing about it seemed the right way to celebrate the anniversary. (Please note that all photos were taken using a mobile camera, regret the quality)

Mud mirror relief work from Kutch

Mud mirror relief work from Kutch

Yes, that was my first craft interiors project. It is a spa and I was offered a project to do something ‘Indian’ for one of the rooms. Since it was my first project, I decided to do something from Gujarat.

Of course, I did the usual stuff- I traveled with an approximate address to find the craftsman. I knew it was somewhere ‘near Bhuj’. I reached there to find a group of migrant workers who belonged to a border village near the Rann of Kutch. The extended family lived in a small house and visited their village once or twice a year to celebrate weddings and other festivals.

Women in traditional Kutchi attire

Women in traditional Kutchi attire

The brightly dressed women are the most creative bunch of people I’ve ever met. They have no formal education, in fact they cannot even draw a design on a piece of paper. They sketch (only for my reference, they don’t seem to need any at all. It’s all in their head.) the design with their fingers on the soft earth. These fingers that have created some exquisite embroidery have more in store.

Traditional Kutchi attire worn everyday

Traditional Kutchi attire worn everyday

The embroidered clothes that the women wear come as part of the dowry. To make this dowry, a girl starts when is just about 5 years old. The best embroidered clothes fetch the best husbands. So the girl learns and perfects the intricate embroidery techniques very early in life. The girl’s mother makes the bridal bag- an even more intricate piece of fabric that is used to pack her daughter’s clothes. The photo is of Kanta and Isha, Ramilaben’s daughter and sister respectively.

Ramila ben, mud mirror relief work artisan

Ramila ben, mud mirror relief work artisan

Ugabhai and Ramilaben are fabulous as a couple. While she works at the creative aspects of the wall, it is her husband who gets the raw material ready.First of all, wild ass dung has to be collected from the forest. Kutch is the only habitat for these creatures. Next the local earth (which is rock dry) is beaten up to a powder, mixed with the dung and made into a paste.

Women working on the base

Women working on the base

The walls are plastered with this. This is called ‘Lippan Kaam’. This is commonplace in most houses in that region and acts as an insulator bringing down temperatures drastically inside their homes. The women are the ones who are involved in making the creative designs.

Work in progress of the spa wall handcrafted using mud mirror work from Kutch

Work in progress

The design is made on the plastered walls. It starts at a midpoint and slowly grows around that reference point. The designs are usualy not made on paper and is the whole process is improvised as the women work together, singing Kutchi songs and teasing one another. The picture above shows how the finished design looks before completing the final painting process.

Final wall at the spa handcrafted using Kutchi mud mirror work

Final wall at the spa

The walls are then plastered with white cement. This process is done by hand and the final finish is done with fingers creating waves. Finally, each mirror is carefully cleaned by hand. The final wall looks like the one in the picture.

If you thought the whole process was interesting and adventurous, it is definitely far from it. On day one, Ramilaben wanted to go back home. Her lehenga was so huge that she couldn’t manage washing it in the tiny bathroom at the spa premises. The commode was another story altogether.  Another issue was that these people do this on their own walls at home, so it can be done at their convenience. With a launch deadline, it was difficult to get them to finish.

But when the wall was finally done, it surpassed all our expectations. The final texture that was done using Ramilaben’s fingers is a remarkable example of hand crafted beauty. I travel to this spa quite often. I run my fingers on that wall, and there is definitely a sense of pride.

How to order Athangudi Tiles?

  1. There are various designs. You can choose a design and colour of your choice. Click here for a catalog of designs.
  2. You can also custom make designs. In this case, you need to pay the cost of the mould.
  3. Once the order is placed, the tiles are produced. The tiles cannot be stocked for a long time as the ends are porous and discolouration is bound to occur at the corners.
  4. Only about 75 sq ft can be produced each day.
  5. The tiles are about an inch in thickness. Three size options are available- 6 by 6 inches, 8 by 8 inches and 10 by 10 inches.

How are Athangudi tiles laid?

  1. The laying process is different from the regular tile laying process. Masons from Karaikudi should be employed as they understand the process better.
  2. For a minimum of 600 sq ft, the local masons are willing to travel anywhere in India for the laying process. Depending on the quantum of work, one or two helpers need to be provided for the masons. Please note that the mason speaks only Tamizh. A better idea would be to source low cost labour from Karaikudi itself.
  3. Rice husk is used for polishing, which is also sourced from Karaikudi.
  4. About 100 sq ft can be laid in a day.  Post laying, 2-3 days are required for polishing. The polished tile reflects light like a mirror.

How are Athangudi Tiles maintained?

  1. The tile responds well to use. The more you walk on it, the shinier it gets. Non usage may dull the tile. Hence, it is not advisable to use as wall tiles.
  2. Regular cleaning should do. You can even wash the floors. Once a week, mop the floor with a mixture of water and 10-15 drops of coconut oil. It keeps the sheen intact.

What areas are best suited to Athangudi tiles?

  1. It is best suited to porches, verandahs and living rooms where traffic is quite high.
  2. Not advisable for kitchens and open to sunlight areas.
  3. For smaller size rooms, use smaller and less intricate designs. The more intricate ones look dramatic in larger areas.