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.

The rampant power cuts in Raghurajpur ruined some of the pictures. It was very dark inside Dilip’s home and I am not a fan of flashlights! :) So forgive me for the ‘ok-ish’ pictures, but I am sure you’ll love the concept.

Pattachitra on a palm leaf

Pattachitra on a palm leaf

After two posts of praises about Raghurajpur’s skill with the brush, this one takes it to another level! Dilip Kumar has carved out this piece on palm leaves sewed together to create a canvas.

The palm leaf canvas

The palm leaf canvas

The palm leaves are sewn together to make a canvas. The drawing is etched on the canvas using a sharp object.

Etching the design

Etching the design

Dilip took less than a minute to etch this!

A Pattachitra girl

A Pattachitra girl

The characteristic portrait of a girl’s face used in Pattachitra.

Soot for filling

Soot for filling

Black colour (made from soot of lamps) is used to fill the etching.

Colour application

Colour application

The colour is applied.

After the application

After the application

The excess colour is wiped off with a rag showing the face of the girl clearly in contrast to the beige background.

Pattachitra boy and girl figures

Pattachitra boy and girl figures

A close up to reveal the face of a boy and a girl.

Without a stencil or any measurements, Dilip managed this perfectly ‘in sync’ faces.

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! :)

My first day in Bhubaneswar happened to be very rainy indeed. Such a dampener when you have so much to do in such little time. Thanks to Dr.Gadanayak’s (Director, school of sculpture) advice, I had a fairly reasonable list of locations for the crafts I wanted to visit. The closest craft was stone carving, so Girish (my friend) and I were off to explore it in the maddening rain!

Konark temple, Orissa

Konark temple

The initial experience was mind-blowing and this was even before I had visited the Konark temple.  Orissa’s temples are monuments of beauty, every bit of it sculpted by the ancestors of these gifted men, the worshippers of Vishwakarma, the divine architect of the world. The temples are made of sandstone (sanapattar, as it is locally called) and have a reddish-pink sheen.

The first stop was a well established set up owned and run by a master sculptor Dr. Sudarshan Sahu. Though we didn’t get to meet him, we were generously allowed a tour of his premises.

Artisan carving a replica of the Konark wheel

Artisan carving a replica of the Konark wheel

The craftsmen working under him were patiently creating the works of art. One of them, Murlidar explained that Orissa is rich in various indigenous varieties of stone. Anything from the super soft soapstone to the hard granite is available here.

Simple tools for stone carving

Simple tools for stone carving

Very simple tools like chisels and hammers are used to sculpt these beauties.

Stone carver adding the details

Stone carver adding the details

The detailing achieved using these simple tools..

Our next stop was a small workshop on the way to Pipli. The entire Bhubaneswar-Pipli road is dotted with such small workshops. We decided to take a random stop at one of them and we were not disappointed.

Stone sculptures in green background

Stone sculptures in green background

I met Rasamani Maharana, a master craftsman who runs a training school there. The rain soaked sculptures in contrast to the lush green of the surroundings was the first thing that hit me here.

During my discussion with him, I told him that I love these sculptures. However my tiny apartment cannot fit these in and so decided to try out something small for the city dweller! I am restlessly awaiting their arrival. :)

Here are a few designs..

Stone Lions that gaurd the temple

Stone Lions that gaurd the temple

Signature sculpture from Orissa. A lion sculpture guards the gate in every temple. It is a symbol of triumph and victory. Note the detailing on the waist band.

Stone sculpture of Hanuman

Stone sculpture of Hanuman

I would have loved to stay back to hear the constant chiseling, taking in the lush surroundings and admiring the sculptures. Another burst of rain and I had to leave.

End of day one..

Please click here for more photos of my Orissa trip.

Dhokra Ganesha

Dhokra Ganesha

It was the last day of my stay in Orissa. In all the 6 days I spent there, I barely managed to get a few hours sleep everyday. I had already covered the Rath Yatra (enjoying all the madness around it), visited loads of artisans ans covered some very interesting crafts. Managed a sunrise at Konark, took a quick tour of the temple, shopped and then I was left with one single thing to do- visit the Dhokra artisans at Dhenkanal.

A beautiful 2 hour drive from Bhubaneswar, crossing the Mahanadi river and a tiger sanctuary I was on my way to Dhenkanal. I had looked up a bit on the location, but it is almost impossible to find details of an artisan village online. Nevertheless, what works is a picture of the craft, an approximate location, stop-overs at chai (tea) shops and a lot of smiles and questions.

Village folk, Orissa

Village folk, Orissa

 

After a few detours (inevitable on Indian roads as there are hardly any sign boards), I reached the village nestled amidst lush mountains and freshly washed earth. I found myself on a street with dirt roads, puddles and the usual village life humming around. The first person I met was working on Dhokra and my joy knew no bounds when I saw that. It has been a while since I’ve been doing this, but there is this pleasure of exploring something and the joy of finding that which I am looking for is the same everytime! :)

Dushashan Behera, Dhokra artisan

Dushashan Behera, Dhokra artisan

I was taken to the village elder, Dushashanji Behera. He was in his sixties, agile, strong and very genial in his manner. The whole settlement were descendants of artisans who had  migrated from Bastar(a Dhokra settlement in Chhatisgarh), about hundred years ago. I explained briefly about CraftCanvas and I was suddenly surrounded by loads of curious onlookers. My father-in-law had accompanied me (for the first time ever!) on this expedition. Being a professor in rural marketing, he saw this as a case study for his next lecture!

Dhokra Designs

Dhokra Designs

I couldn’t get my eyes off those beautiful works of art, carelessly strewn around. The tigers, peacocks, tortoises, fishes, deers and the elephants in various forms kept tugging at me to buy them.  After feasting my eyes enough, I urged  Dushashanji to explain the process. The fact that I was shooting a video was an added bonus for him.

Elephant clay model

Elephant clay model

He quickly made a rough clay model in the shape of an elephant (with a cute trunk).

Wax threaded, WIP

Wax threaded, WIP

On this he would string around threads of bee wax, also adding details like the eyes, ears and a few embellishments with it.

Wax model to final piece in Dhokra making

Wax model to final piece

The picture above shows that the wax structure (one in black) is an exact replica of the final metal structure.

Applying final layer

Applying final layer

On top of the wax structure, wet mud is rubbed all over. This takes the impression of the wax model.

Before going into the kiln

Before going into the kiln

Now the whole structure is heated, the wax melts forming an hollow with the image impression. Molten metal is poured into this hollow, which takes the shape of the wax model. Traditionally, wood was used as the fuel and a device made of goat skin was used to fan the kiln. Nowadays, coal and an electric fan have replaced these methods.

Rejections after the firing process

Rejections after the firing process

The structure is cooled, the outside mud covering is cleaned, the inside terracotta (clay fuses into terracotta) is broken to reveal the metal structure. Since they don’t have a controlled environment in the kiln, there are a lot of damages. Interestingly, they attribute this to ‘God work’ and accept the damages as a way of life!

Dhokra figurines Out of the kiln

Out of the kiln

This is how it looks before polishing.

Polishing the Dhokra figures

Polishing the Dhokra figures

This is then polished to a fine golden colour.

About 15 artisans remain in this settlement. They live in pitiable conditions in mud houses, bereft of any material comforts.  About 40 families have left for jobs in the mining sector that pay them Rs.130 per day. Dushashan proudly claims that he is a Rastrapathi (President) award winner. The recognition somehow has not been translated into rewards. Nowadays he travels to a lot of exhibitions to sell his craft. He wishes that he didn’t have to go and would love to focus on his craft. Nevertheless, the smiles on their faces and their abundant hospitality overshadowed their problems.

You can buy their wonderful pieces online here.

Dahi vada dum aloo from Orissa

Dahi vada dum aloo

This one was for the road. Dahi Vada Dum aloo is the traditional street food available in Orissa. Doted all along the highway are roadside stalls that sell this. Made with fried lentil balls, curd and potatoes, this spicy treat is just perfect for the rainy weather.

Work well done, I did deserve this! :)

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

My first view of the Pulicat lake

My first view of the Pulicat lake

It started out as a day trip from Chennai. Pulicat lake is a lesser known tourist spot in Chennai. It is the second largest brackish water lake in India and is also a bird sanctuary. Even after living in Chennai for two odd decades, I had never ventured out that far!So at a whim, the decision was made and my brother and I set out to visit Pulicat. Without a proper map in hand,  we just assumed that if we followed the coast, we might just land there. What we hadn’t anticipated were the lack of roads and of course the signboards! But the grueling road trip did throw up its ‘picture perfect’ sights! The picturesque lake sparkled in the afternoon sun. There was hardly anyone in sight and I heard an 80′s Tamizh song playing somewhere far away. The driver was getting a little edgy and even I was almost willing to give up my search. But what I saw later on made the whole trip completely worth all the effort.

Pulicat cooperative

Pulicat cooperative

The Co-operative was started in 1958 and initially employed a few Muslim women who lived in the village. Pulicat was a Dutch settlement and this craft mainly catered to them.

Stack of red baskets

Stack of red baskets

 

Two colour baskets with handles

Two colour baskets with handles

 

Mutlicoloured saree boxes

Mutlicoloured saree boxes

Some of their designs.

There are predominantly 2 types of weaves- thadukumodachal (resembles small, diagonal checks) and thuppimodhachal (big checks).

Women members working together at the cooperative

Women members working together

More than 30 women work here. They sit together all afternoon and as they chit chat, their deft hands weave the most beautiful designs. This work earns them their livelihood and has impacted their lives in a big way. They have a sense of belonging and the money brings in the much needed financial security.

Coloured palm fronds used for making the baskets

Coloured palm fronds used for making the baskets

The palm leaves used for making these designs come from places around Pulicat. Surprisingly, Pulicat does not have palm trees! The leaves are then dried in the sun, their ribs are removed and sorted out, the leaves are cut into thin strips, dyed in boiling water and again dried. These dried strips are then woven into the desired design. To ensure pliability, the leaves are constantly moisturized during the weaving process. The ribs of the palm leaves are used to provide the framework for the designs.

The brave trio from the Pulicat cooperative

The brave trio

After the tsunami ravaged Pulicat and destroyed their premises in 2004, these women approached the government to help them set up again. As the personal compensation awarded to victims’ families was being delayed, these women decided that the best way out of the struggle was to start again. They forced the government to provide funds, started all over again and have emerged successful.

Though the work is erratic, they are slowly making some regular clients. This year, they have started taking bulk orders to make boxes and trays for weddings. Do contact me if you wish to help. From my side, I will put up an online store with these products very soon..

Today, as we deal with women empowerment issues of all kinds, we predominantly tend to focus on more urban issues. Women everywhere have their battles to fight and this gritty bunch has proved that success is very much possible. They have empowered themselves with their craft, gained economical independence and thus command the respect of society.

A classic case of women empowerment, these colorful designs reflect their attitude towards life. Way to go, ladies!

For more photos, please click here..

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! :)

Terracotta from Pokharan

Terracotta from Pokharan

I always knew Pokharan only as the first underground site where India tested its nuclear weapon detonation. So when we stopped over there on our way to Jaisalmer, I was surprised to see a typical bustling town. Dotted with jewellery stores selling the beautiful kadas (bangles), old men smoking their bidis and soaking themselves in the winter sun, we walked through a busy market selling fresh vegetables. We passed by beautiful havelis (most of them in very bad condition and close to ruins) and reached the potter’s place. The potters stayed in a colony of sorts. I had just enough time to pick up a few souvenirs from this place, before hitting the road to Jaisalmer. Asharam’s home was the first one on the street. This (picture above) is what I found! A whole lot of his products. Though terracotta is such a common material that we encounter in our everyday lives, it never fails to fascinate me.

Terracotta artisan Asharam from Pokharan

Terracotta artisan Asharam from Pokharan

Asharam has a very serious look when he works. His deft hands give the finishing touches that make the whole thing seem so real.

Handmade Giraffe pot

Handmade Giraffe pot

A giraffe pot for plants. Asharam also makes other interesting pots with bulls, elephants, even birds!

The process of making a Giraffe pot

The process of making a Giraffe pot

The process of making a Giraffe pot! Here are some designs.

Animal collection of pots from Pokharan

Animal collection of pots

Terracotta urns

Terracotta urns

Clay storage in the backyard

Clay storage in the backyard

 The entire household is built around his work. The clay is stored in the backyard and offer a wonderful play area for his children.

Asharam's children

Asharam’s children

A smile for the road! For more pictures, please click here..