Of late I’ve been a little bullish on the recycling front. More so, because of all the DIY (Do-it-yourself) things I’ve been reading about. I remember my mom re-using almost everything. Plastic was hardly ever used. And we’ve had the same furniture for as long as I can remember!

Before the transformation

Before the transformation

Though my first impulse was to throw away this ugly blue chair at home, I decided to think it through. Maybe something could be done to salvage this.

Luckily I had an old (and cheap) dhurrie. I had picked it up for the bedroom and found that it was too big for the space. I had to fold it to use it. so I decided to cut it to the required size, give it a border and use it. Well, that’s another project.

So coming back to the chair, I decided to upholster it with left over fabric from the dhurrie.

First came the painting part. I read a few ‘how to paint’ articles online. It seemed an easy read, but when I finally got around to do it, it was quite a messy thing. If you live in India, the easier thing would be call in an expert.

But somehow, I finished the painting on my own. I had to sand the whole surface, remove the black paint, use a primer and finally finish off with three coats of paint (with a lot of sanding in between coats).

Using the measurements of the existing upholstery, it was easy to get the dhurrie stitched from a local tailor. There is a little bit of fabric left that I am planning to use as a table runner.

After the transformation

After the transformation

And there is my chair. A traditional twist to a functional piece.

Kitschy chair at home

Kitschy chair at home

I use it indoors too! :) More ideas anyone?

Hanuman puppet

Hanuman puppet

I got a leather puppet custom-made to fit my balcony window. It is a 6 ft tall structure of Radha in all her splendour. There was a Krishna too in beautiful blue, but I needed just one and I chose Radha over Krishna. I haven’t installed the structure yet. Once it is in its place, I will definitely put up a picture.

Tulsi Rao, Charmakari artisan

Tulsi Rao, Charmakari artisan

Once of my friends Nisha Subramaniam (I call her ‘Nishakka‘) had been here earlier. I’d asked her to get me a puppet. Once I saw my ‘Radha‘, I had to see the whole thing myself. So my recent trip to B’lore took me to Nimmalakunta, a 3 hour drive from Bangalore. Here I met Tulsi Rao (the one on the left) who was happily dozing under the cool shade of a banyan tree. I had spoken to him countless times over the telephone. Though we speak no common language, we have mastered the art of communication in such circumstances.

Radhamma, Tulsi Rao's sister and a puppeteer

Radhamma, Tulsi Rao's sister

Almost everyone in the village is involved in either making puppets or hosting shows. Here is Tulsi Rao’s sister, who plays the female lead in the puppet shows.

Preparing the leather canvas

Preparing the leather canvas

Made with goat leather that is soaked in water and dried, the translucent sheets of leather are used as canvases for these puppets. The basic deign is sketched on the sheet, cut out to form a puppet and then coloured.

Tools for punching leather

Tools for punching leather

Holes are punched into these puppets with simple tools. These holes let light pass through when held against it. This contrast is used for the puppet show.

Leather lampshades

Leather lampshades

Nowadays, owing to the lack of interest in puppet shows, business has taken a downturn. So colourful lamps are made to cater to the current market trends.

Dasavatar punched leather puppet

Dasavatar punched leather puppet

Tulsi Rao was all enthusiastic as he took out his harmonium and played ‘Bahut Pyaar Karte Hain Tumko Sanam‘. He also showed us a minute long puppet show. But what took my breath away was this Vishnu’s Dasavatar (10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu) piece that he had made.

Scene from the Ramayana

Scene from the Ramayana

Ramayana is a very common theme for their puppet show. Here is Hanuman and Sita.

Animal puppets, deer

Animal puppets, deer

And here is the deer that lured Sita away! :)

Lord Ram puppet

Lord Ram

So many beautiful pictures, an amazing bunch of people. Here is my favorite picture.

And if your glass door is asking for something like this, any design, any size can be custom made. How about a back-lit panel of Lord Krishna for the Pooja room door? :)

Please click here for more pictures.

After the overwhelming response on my wall project, I had to write about the craftsman who made those wonderful plaques.

Local myth claims that a blind ancestor was granted vision by the local deity ‘Dharmaraja’. The blind man sculpted the god’s shadow on a two dimensional plaque. Thus evolved this practice of making plaques, instead of three dimensional figures.

Molela Artisan's own wall

Artisan’s own wall

Molela is a quaint village, the one that you will normally miss on your way to Nathdwara. The only signboard is usually hidden under layers of movie posters. Once you get there, the rows of houses with their terracotta wares is the first sight to greet you. I wanted to visit each one of them. I started with the first one, spent around four hours and reluctantly left the place without any time for the rest.

Lady working on the design of terracotta plaques from Molela

Lady working on the design

I visited master craftsman Jamnalal Kumbhar’s home. I entered a workshop where his entire family was involved in making these plaques. Here is the picture of his wife putting in the final finishes on the plaque.

Storing terracotta plaques in the workshop

Storing terracotta plaques

The entire household revolves around his work. Stacks of these plaques are found everywhere. While I was there, Jamnalal was working on an order for a thousand plaques for a home in Delhi!

The clay is collected from the local river bed, dried and beaten to a fine powder. This is then mixed with donkey dung (binding agent)! and water. The mixture is used to make the plaques. For the details, balls and strings of this mixture are used. The basic idea is in the craftsman’s mind, which is further improvised on the go.

Colourful plaques for sale to tribals

Colourful plaques for sale to tribals

The local deity is ‘Dharmaraja’ and during the months of March-April,  tribal communities from as far as Madhya Pradesh come to Molela to buy these brightly coloured plaques. These are then carrried on their heads back home as a ritual. The winter sun is just right for making these plaques that are sold during the summer. The summer sun is quite harsh and can lead to cracking.

 

Five sisters Molela terracotta

Five sisters from Molela terracotta

A plaque with ‘five sisters’ is used as a symbol of welcome in homes. These sisters are believed to welcome the good and ward off evil.

Village scenes made by Molela artisans

Village scenes

A series of scenes from village life are made using these plaques. When the demand for Dharmaraja idols dwindled, these smart craftsmen started introducing new designs.

Award winning Molela mural

Award winning Molela mural

This mural has all the major designs used in this craft. Jamnalal made this thirty years ago. Though replicas of this piece can be commissioned, this one is definitely not for sale! :)

Please click here for more pictures.

It’s been three months since I’d picked up a few terracotta plaques from Molela, Udaipur. I knew the wall where I wanted it, but I was contemplating a design. Initially the plan was to intersperse this with a few black and white pictures taken during my travel. Then it was a mix of paintings and finally I decided to give it a go. Without the paintings, of course and I am very happy with the result.

Before the wall mural

Before the wall mural

The wall where I wanted to do this installation. The plain white walls weren’t just right. I wanted something that was warm, Indian and would contrast the red terracotta brilliantly.

First step- Preparing the base wall

First step- Preparing the base wall

However much I was impatient to have my yellow walls, I had to wait for the process. And it takes time!

The right shade of yellow

The right shade of yellow

Yellow is definitely a difficult color. Too bright is tacky and too light is dull. I bought the brightest yellow possible and manually mixed white colour and applied patches till I was sure (almost!).

The yellow wall

The yellow wall

All that effort was definitely worth it. The wall turned out beautifully.

The Molela tiles

The Molela tiles

Since they were going to be riveted directly to the wall, I had to get the placement right. I tried a lot of combinations and decided to take my friend Shivani’s advice. She said the more intricate ones neeed to go at the end. That would be visually more appealing.

Screwing the plaques to the wall

Screwing the plaques to the wall

Terracotta is tricky. One crack and the whole thing falls apart. I hadn’t really planned it in my head when I bought it. So I had exactly 9 pieces! So it was such a relief once all of them had holes drilled in. One of the plaques chipped a bit, but I cleared this round without much incident.

Putting up the plaques on the wall

Putting up the plaques on the wall

I’d rather be safe than sorry. So I decided to use two screws diagonally on each plaque to fix it to the wall. One piece of advice for hanging art- ideally the mid point should be 57-60 inches from the floor. Mine is about 64 inches, but then there is a lesson to be learnt in almost everything in life! :)

Close up view of the Molela tiles

Close up view of the tiles

The beauty of handicrafts is in the imperfections. The similarly (almost) sized tiles look fabulous when put together. I used some red color and cement mixture to camouflage the rivets.

Living room with the terracotta wall mural from Molela

Living room with the terracotta wall mural

I cannot even explain how happy I feel, everytime I pass by. The colour is perfect, the setting is right and brings a lot of character to my home.

If you like this and want something like this for your home, just message me!

Ganesha Pattachitra masks

Ganesha Pattachitra masks

There is no exhaustive list of products that are made in Raghurajpur (considering their homes are also works of art). The walls are painted on in their homes, the empty bottles are painted in bright tribal art and Lord Jagannath, (the focal point of their lives) is portrayed on every conceivable medium. So when masks in bright colours and interesting themes beckon, it is hard to resist.

Ganesha paper machier masks

Ganesha paper machier masks

Made with Papier-mâché, Lord Jagannath and his triad were the only themes made initially. Nowadays apart from making faces of other Gods and Goddesses, regular Pattachitra and village themes are also used.

Take your pick from the ones in the pictures. There will soon be lots more available on CraftCanvas.

Twin Pattachitra masks

Twin masks

Durga's Pattachitra mask

Durga’s mask

Tiger Pattachitra mask

Tiger Pattachitra mask

Please click here for more pictures of Orissa- Rath yatra and crafts.

Pattachitra artisan Dilip

Pattachitra artisan Dilip

I have known ‘Dilip Kumar Prusty’ for a year now, but had never met him in person. Going by his highly talented work and the average age of skilled artisans in our country, I expected him to be at least 60 years old. When I finally met him during this trip, I was surprised to meet a chirpy 30 yr old, with a lot of interesting ideas and dreams for the future.

Pattachitra Borders

Pattachitra Borders

As someone who has explained the process to complete strangers a million times, he clearly detailed out the process for us. Pattachitra is drawn on a special paper. The paper is made with multiple layers of old fabric treated with a concoction that consists of tamarind seed paste, a completely eco-friendly concept. A final coat of a limestone mixture is spread on the paper, which is then polished to provide a smooth canvas.

Colours in coconut shells

Colours in coconut shells

(Photo courtesy: P Sindhuja) On this paper, the basic sketches are drawn. The colours that are used are also derived from natural sources like Conch shell (white), soot from lamps (black), Geru (red), etc. The colours are stored in empty coconut shells.

Brushes for Pattachitra

Brushes for Pattachitra

The brushes are made with animal hair based on the thickness required, with the finest one being made from squirrel hair! Mythology is the central theme of most paintings. Most crafts in our country have evolved to support the various rituals performed in temples (or the other way round!). Patta paintings are used in the place of idols in the Puri temple during a specific period of the year. During this period the gods are supposed to be sick and are not fit to offer darshan to their devotees.

Painted home exteriors

Painted home exteriors

Pattachitra is just not limited to a single canvas. Walls painted with Krishna’s Raas-Leela, his life’s story and Vishnu’s ten avatars abound in Raghurajpur.

Woman artisan Raghurajpur

Woman artisan Raghurajpur

(Photo Courtesy: P Sindhuja) Traditionally done by men, women have also taken to this craft. Initially, they were involved only in the process of making colours. Nowadays they are formally trained in this art by their family members.

Pattachitra artisan Narayan

Pattachitra artisan Narayan

 

Though I would have loved to visit all the 120 families in the village, it is impossible to cover everything in a day. So I restricted my visit to two homes, Dilip and his neighbor Narayan (the one in blue shirt).

Pattachitra artisan Dilip adding his signature to his painting

Dilip adding his signature to his painting

At the end of it, we insisted that Dilip sign our purchase. He had never done it before and took a lot time to write his name on the painting.

Please click here for more photos of Orissa Rath Yatra and Crafts.

‘Raghurajpur’ has been on my list of places to visit for a very long time. So when I finally set foot inside that village, I was over joyed. Located on the banks of a picturesque river, Raghurajpur is truly a treat for travelers like me. It is more like a settlement of craftsmen, all highly skilled and each of them create magic on their canvases.

Saura painting in an artisan's home in Raghurajpur

Saura painting

(Photo Courtesy: P. Sindhuja) Here is my first glimpse of the village and I was already on an high!

There are many crafts to explore in that little hamlet. I decided to start with what I saw first, the tribal art. Made with just the basic black (originally soot collected from lamps were used), this art is a true example of how creative someone can get with whatever little they can get their hands on. Nowadays a small bit of colour is used to highlight and offset the black. The images have no facial features, yet they all have a story woven into them.

saura painting of a Lady playing an instrument

Lady playing an instrument

(Photo Courtesy: P. Sindhuja) Look at the details of a woman playing an instrument.

Kamarupa is one of the many talented artists in Raghurajpur. Barely in his 30s, he has practiced his art for as long as he can remember.

Sailing ship, Saura painting

Sailing ship, Saura painting

(Photo Courtesy: P. Sindhuja) Drawing inspiration from their environment, the simple motifs of everyday life are accentuated with a whole lot of detail.

Tree of life, Saura painting

Tree of life, Saura painting

 

The art is used on other medium as well. They are painted on cloth to be used as wall hangings.

I fell off my chair (imaginary, as I was sitting on the floor) when I saw a beautiful Tussar silk saree painted with this art. Sadly, I don’t have a photo to feature here.

So if you are already dreaming of that motif on your wall, make sure you leave me a message.

P.S: Please click here for more pictures of Orissa-Rath Yatra and crafts.

A small thanks to my friend Sindhu for those lovely photos! :)

Cozy reading nook with a stone sculpture from Shivarapatna

Cozy reading nook

Everyone needs a corner for themselves. It is our personal space, a place where we can relax, contemplate and figure things out. My corner is in my balcony- the soothing green of my plants, the hand woven mat from Assam, the pillows and now a new addition- a stone sculpture from Shivarapatna in Karnataka. This craft is part of my blogging queue, but I couldn’t resist putting up these pictures… Come have a cup of filter kaapi (coffee) with me.. :)

Sculpture from Shivarapatna

Sculpture from Shivarapatna

I was so eager about posting the pictures, that I didn’t bother doing up the space. Please don’t mind the cracked walls, I was busy enjoying the rain! :)