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.

What is an Himalayan vacation for most of us? A wonderful whiff of fresh mountain air, a cup of tea while you are swaddled in cozy woolens.For some it is an opportunity to provide a means of livelihood and change the lives of the locals. Nisha Subramaniam travels to Naggar in Himachal Pradesh atleast twice every year. Each time, she stays for more than a month organising local women into knitting units. Her co-operative WHIMS (Women of Himachal Self Help Group) designs, produces and markets woolen accessories. She works on their designs, improvises on their skills and helps them create products that appeal to an urban audience.

Nisha provides the basic raw material (wool) and helps with patterns/designs that appeal to an urban audience.The women who are experts in knitting and crochet create these charming, old-world with a modern twist, cozy accessories. She has also identified a family of weavers who create traditional Kinnauri and Kullu patterned stoles and shawls, and Pashmina stoles. Nisha and her mother in law Mrs.Padma Krishnamoorthy work together on this project.

The whole project started as an effort from Nisha to give back to Naggar. She has been a regular traveler to Naggar during the summer months. The locals have welcomed their long stays and Nisha feels it was time for her to give back. WHIMS is committed to providing sustainable employment for the women so they can take control of their lives and futures. The marketing and design is based in Bangalore while the production takes place in Naggar.

Do check out their head bands and hand knit slippers. You can check out their website here.

Every company needs publicity. I’ve written to so many popular blogs asking them to feature CraftCanvas on a guest post. And since you haven’t read any article on CraftCanvas anywhere else on the blogosphere, you know I wasn’t successful! However the good news is that I’ve been successful in the print media. Can you imagine 3 articles in a row, all in the month of April. Of course, this has nothing to do with fooling you. It really did happen! Falguni (my lovely friends who runs AppleBlossom) started it all. She went out of her way to persuade a journalist that CraftCanvas is a good enough story to cover.  So when the journalist called me (on a super busy weekend when I had friends visiting), I was sure that it was a one-off thing, a back up story. I wasn’t so excited and was going to spend barely half hour on it.  One of the friends who was visiting forced me (she’s like a pseudo mom, always pushing me to do things!) to spend a day on it and I ended up sending the jounalist loads of stuff.  And I waited…..

If you are someone who’s been regularly following up on CraftCanvas, you’d remember the workshop that we conducted on Warli painting. It was pretty good success and I am working on making it a regular feature. So ‘the first of it’s kind in Ahmedabad’ workshop was featured in DNA on the 2 nd day of the workshop. I was ecstatic. It was 80% craftsman and 20% CraftCanvas article, but I was happy with the results. After all, they are the integral part of CraftCanvas.

I have a very kind friend VV (not sure if I can name her), who’s been smitten by CraftCanvas. I love it when people say such things. CraftCanvas is definitely not a profitable venture (not yet!) and such goodwill is all that I can cherish for the moment. VV contacted her friends, shared the workshop photos on almost all the relevant Facebook walls and finally there was someone who landed up at the event. By now, I was a pro. I knew all that I had to say and I even posed in all the pictures. You can see a tad bit of my dress in the photograph. All this reaffirms my basic principle of just working hard, doing what you can do. The rest just happens.

So after the week long workshop, I was off to Delhi on a personal visit. When I came back, I was still basking in the success of the previous workshop and got into planning another one. The first article was off my head, I’d decided that it was  a back up story and wasn’t meant for publication. So like all dramatic events in life, Falguni called one morning to tell me the news. I had not one, but two articles in the current issue.

This happens to be their anniversary issue, so the issue was full of thoughts from various women. I was glad to be a part of the group that followed their heart. Small perks that come by for giving up on a lucrative career! :D And thanks Girish for the photo and for sending it to me at lightning speed.

I think in the end, this post is about the people in my life. People who’ve helped me, recommended me, pushed me to excel without a second thought. I hope to live up to their expectations and better still, be able to reciprocate. Thank you guys. I am terribly moved by these actions.

I had my season’s first mango milkshake yesterday. The ‘Banganapalli‘ totally swept me off to dream land.  To the last day of the exam, as the bell rings signalling the end of the tortuous annual exam, I would look forward to the beautiful summer ahead. Luscious mangoes, loads of books to read (yeah, I was such a bookworm!) and of course, those little crafty things that my mom would indulge us in. I’ve made silly looking paper decorations, painted garrish-looking women (complete with bindi and mogra, like all nice Madras girls would do!) and tried making frozen jam sandwiches.

So this summer along with the wonderful mangoes, I am unveiling my summer kits for children. Long in the making, they’ve turned out great. I’ve seen all those traditional paisleys and flowers doing the rounds in various block printing kits. Somehow, I think imprinting an elephant’s rear or an auto rickshaw is far more an enjoyable activity than doing the same with that intricate looking paisley! If you are a 7 yr old, what do you care about intricacy anyway!

The process is fairly simple and has been detailed out in the kit, step by step. The kit comprises of 2 interesting blocks, two fabric colors (best quality Camlin colors), a sponge for application, a piece of fabric and 2 sheets of paper. The designs are straight out of a child’s imagination.

 

Here is a glimpse of the what’s in the kit. To buy our range of craft kits for children, click here.

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! :)

 

 

There is a Warli painting workshop coming up in two weeks. And I am super excited. As a customer, I love the idea and wish more and more people would do this. As a marketeer, it helps me build a transparency with my customers. They know what they are buying, they know the person who makes it and they know how much this whole process means to me! :) But what gives me the most satisfaction is the idea that I am letting a few explore that child in them. The one that craves for that bright colored cupcake (the adult in them screams ‘non-food grade color’) and the one that loves the rain even if it means popping a crocin and drinking warm water when you get home. Personally when I try to create something, my two left hands are always a source of disappointment. I went to a school that put a lot of focus on making me a good home-maker, but the needlework classes weren’t particularly easy for me. I still dread the ‘lazy daisy’ that ended up as 5 sticks instead of petals and the ‘french knot’ that would create a mass of unyielding thread.  And I can’t paint to save my life. Of late I’ve started dabbling a bit in painting again (ok, it’s only for my interior design course!) and I’ve realised that it is so much fun to let yourself go.

This painting workshop is set to do just that. Create an environment where you learn something interesting, try your hand at color and in the process become aware of a craft that has been around for generations. Warli is perfect for this. It is a simple art form. Traditionally in the Maharastra-Gujarat border, it is done by women in their household. It follows some simple rules.  The paintings use a very basic graphic vocabulary: circle, triangle and square. The circle comes from the shape of the sun and the moon, the triangle comes from mountains and pointed trees. Only the square is outside this realm of influence. It is not influenced by nature, but rather by a basic need of early settlers- their own piece of land. The square denotes an enclosed piece of land. So the central image in each painting is a square, the chauk. The mother goddess is inside the Chauk and depicts fertility.

Image Source: BCA Galleries

The traditional Tarpa dance was popularized by Tantra tee shirts. The dance denotes the communal set up. It is a show of solidarity by people in the community. A well coordinated dance form where the focus is still on the central figure.

Village life is prominent in this form. Women carrying pots of water, a farmer ploughing his field are common themes that recur.

Ganesha has gained popularity in this art form. Originally, it was the Mother Goddess who found the pride of place in the center of the Chauk. Slowly this has been replaced by Lord Ganesha.

So go ahead, indulge that child in you. Or better still, do that with a bunch of people like you-young at heart! :)

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!

About 80 percent of my wardrobe is filled with clothes made with all sorts of block printed fabrics. The stripes, the florals, the bright colours, the muted ones, the big designs and the tiny prints. All the while, I thought these blocks were machine made (I did know making blocks existed, just that I wasn’t prepared for the finesse). My fondness for the Keri design (paisleys) extends to everything from my curtains, to bedsheets and of course 80% of that 80%!

I reached Pethapur which is about 50 km away from home. For the amount I travel, this is hardly any distance. I’ve been planning this for a very long time. Finally I got out of my inertia and decided to get there. This time I had the contact number of the person making these blocks. My Ajrakh printer gave me all the details, thereby killing all the adventure!

Mukeshbhai has a perpetual smiling face. It was just the kind of smile that had a hint of humor behind it. He was sitting there creating a difficult design and also mentoring his son and nephew (both in their twenties). Both of them were making such complex designs that made my eyes pop out! I found the designs beautiful, but Mukeshbhai seemed hardly impressed. He is disappointed with their performance and blames it on the generation; the impatient bunch that this generation has spawned.

Here is the design that his nephew was working on. He has carefully stenciled the design on the soft wood.

For hours on end and with meticulous precision, he drills tiny holes using this simple, hand operated drill.

In another corner of the balcony, his son is putting some end finishes on this block.The finer details are carved using a set of fine tools.

I sat there for about two hours, chatting about ‘this’ generation (yeah, I pretended to be older!), sipping chai from the saucer (like they do in Gujarat) and skimming through all his designs. Though the mentoring process where the knowledge is passed on from one generation to another is the key to the progress of handicrafts, very rarely do I see such importance being given to quality and finish.

If you are wondering why I visited Mukeshbhai, wait for some block printed products from CraftCanvas :)

Of late, I’ve been really stuck up on the Panchatantra project. It’s actually going nowhere, still I am unwilling to give it up. I want to come up with a range of home decor products and services for children’s room. The entire range will be based on Panchatantra, illustrated by artisans using various crafts and completely hand crafted.

As part of the research, I came across this book called  Bhimayana: Experiences of Untouchability, Incidents in the life of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar.

The entire book is illustrated by Durgabai Vyam and Subhash Vyam. The story was compiled by Srividya Natarajan and S. Anand.

I stay in an urban set up where I cannot imagine a society divided on the basis of caste. In my growing years, there have been instances where I’ve been a witness to such caste divisions. My grandmother would insist that I shower immediately after an haircut, or that maids at home would use a separate cup. My hair is now styled at good salons and I’ve never asked my maid to use a different set of vessels.  So when I read this book, the caste divisions hit me really hard. A good education need not necessarily end all these troubles. Ambedkar went through these trials and tribulations all his life. But what is most shocking is the present day manifestations of such divisions. You can read more about the story here.

The book is illustrated in a beautiful Gond Art. Gond art is a tribal practice in Madhya Pradesh, Every Gond painter has developed his or her own style now, some draw dots, some use only crosses or circles and some of them use a mix of lines and lines. This style is strictly followed and has allowed each person in the community to carve his own identity.

And of course, when it comes to books, it is only Flipkart for me. Incredible service, it makes me want to emulate that at CraftCanvas. You can find the book here.

A 15 ft by 5 ft religious scroll depicts the entire life story of a local deity, Pabuji. Made in the folk art form, the paintings reflect both the fact and myth of this Rajput chief. He is a legend. Before I set off to explore this craft, I was talking to my carpenter(who hails from Rajasthan) about Pabuji. He told me that Pabuji protects all the cows in his village. A small Puja (prayers) to Pabuji cures them of any illness.

Pabuji is the Rajput chief of Rajasthan in the 14th century, who is extolled as an incarnation of Hindu God, and worshipped by the Rabari tribals of Rajasthan. The nomadic bard priests, known as the Bhopas (who belong to the cult of Pabhuji) are specialists in narrating the story of the Pabuji in their sartorial best through the medium of the Phads used as a portable temple, all over the desert lands of the Thar in Rajasthan.

Narrating the Phad is a religious phenomenon. The ground is cleansed with a Pooja before the Phad is displayed. The Phad is used as a backdrop while narrating the story. The whole narration along with the musical accompaniments take 9 whole nights to complete. The narration starts at dusk and ends at the break of dawn.

Painting the Phad is done by a different community. Well known painters belong to the Chipa caste and have the ‘Josi’ surname. The long scrolls take months on end to be painted. Only a young virgin girl is allowed to draw the first stroke of the painting. The colors used are natural and are used in a particular order. Orange is the first color, followed by yellow, green, red. Blue and black are the last colors used for the paintings.The images in the painting are arranged logically. However, iconographically it is considered as ‘extremely complex and intricate’.

Pabuji’s life is depicted as one with a lot of adventures. He travels to Umarkot in Sindh to find camels for his favorite niece and on the way, he falls in love with a princess and marries her after a lot of persuasion. He fought a battle with Mirza Khan from Patan who was killing cows (a sacred animal for the Hindus) and saved the honor of the womenfolk. He had a black horse, who is believed to be a re-incarnation of his mother. Pabuji is the central character in the Phad and all the stories revolve around it.

Prakash Joshi belongs to a well known family of Phad painters. Barely 31, he is a master craftsman who has won a lot of awards. Owing to declining demand from Bhopas, whose audience prefer other forms of entertainment like television and movies, Prakash has started painting other forms of paintings. He has switched over to fine art (very different from folk art) and is catering to the demand.

The brightly colored Phad has been adapted to suit changing needs. Black and white forms are very popular, especially with the urban audience.

My carpenter was very kicked about my interest in the Phad. He promised to get me a CD (yes, those are available!) of one of the performances.