I know I’ve been out of blogging for a long time now. So much was happening that I had to take a break to reign in the chaos. Now that I am in control, I think I should get back to this favorite activity. More so because I am turning 30 in 4 days. Considering that life has been one roller coaster ride all along, I think it is time to take stock, time to relish the happy moments and time to flip through this blog. This blog started my current life, the life that gave me an identity that I so love now.

The first post on Rajasthan was straight out of my trip. I remember having proof read that post a million times. I was learning image editing softwares then and it was a huge task to edit all of 5 photos for the blog post. The Dhurrie that I bought on that trip still rests under my feet as I am smiling away at the blog.

Then came the Bangalore trip with it’s 100 year old workshops, travel to an obscure stone carver’s village, leather puppets and my brush with the spirits. One of my closest friends and a pillar of strength and support navigated me through roads that never showed up on Google. What an adventure that was! :)

Photo Courtesy: Sindhu Sarathy

Puri happened all of a sudden and I was suddenly gaping with eyes wide open at all the beautiful Pattachitra paintings.

The first product range was launched from that trip. With a few pieces of Uluka in hand from inside a tiger sanctuary in Dhenkananal, I decided that something had to be done. I had to do something to change the plight here, better their lives. I had to help them earn. Today we supply Dhokra products made by Dushashan Behera and his whole community to US and Dubai. The community now has a computer to see our emails and works with a logistics company to send us products every month.

Diwali 2011 is such a blur. I ran around promoting hand-crafted gift-sets, laboured at getting boxes done and packing all that dry-fruit in little pouches. All I remember is that I still get orders for my sets, even an year after Diwali.

Christmas bells in tow and I was replacing those plastic bells with little hand-crafted ones from Kutch.

A winter Kutch trip was long overdue and I discovered the Sufi singer cum Lippan artist who wove magic with just mud and mirrors. I was exhausted after a day in the Rann where our car sunk into the marshy land! I landed at Mehmoodbhai’s house and all that fatigue vanished as I gawked at his walls.

Sometime around this time, I was looking to gift a three-year old. All I could find were expensive imported toys. I wanted something that was fun and Indian. I remembered those ‘Young World’ days from my childhood and took a friend’s help on sketches. Soon the block-printing kit was in place!

Around this time I realised that we were doing very well outside of Ahmedabad, while I was hitting a wall everytime I tried something there. My friends reasoned that a little awareness drive  was required and we did the first craft workshop. The Warli workshop was covered by 2 newspapers and was such a smashing hit. I almost contemplated changing my business model and only conducting workshops! :)

The workshop and my blog paved the way for the rest of the journey and I landed at CEPT. The Madhubani workshop opened up new friendships and interesting avenues. I designed the tissue boxes and chocolate boxes during this time. The enthusiastic artist couple- Naveen and Pooja painted day and night to finish the first lot.

From tissue boxes, we graduated to walls and made beautiful Madhubani trees in two locations. Constant work has enabled our Madhubani artists to invest in a camera and take pictures of all their work which they can now send to me.

So the last year and a half has paved the way for a new life. I am happy and only counting my blessings. There have been trying times, doubtful times, angry times and even ‘this is the end’ times. But the good overrides the bad. Always.

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

Though I no longer live in Bombay, I still look forward to Ganesh Chaturthi every year. Part of the reason is that it signals the beginning of the festive season and the other is of course, the creativity in all of us that comes to the forefront. Every street has it own Ganapathi and the whole works around it is almost like a competition. Here are some of our Ganapathis :) Check out some renditions of the elephant God from various craft forms across the country.

Dhokra Ganesha from Dhenkanal, Orissa

Dhokra Ganesha

 

Made in Dhenkanal, Orissa, this Dhokra sculpture was handcrafted by Dushasan Behera.

Ganesha made by Oklipura artisans

Ganesha made by Oklipura artisans

Found in a small alley in Oklipura, Bangalore, this metal sculpture is used in homes for Puja (prayer)

Silver Ganesha and Lakshmi Udaipur

Silver Ganesha and Lakshmi Udaipur

The auspicious silver sculptures are part of the Puja (prayer) room. A new bride is gifted these as a symbol of luck and prosperity.

Shivarapatna Stone sculptures

Shivarapatna Stone sculptures

The stone sculptures of Shivarapatna in Kolar.

Contemporary stone sculpture from Udaipur

Contemporary stone sculpture from Udaipur

A modern style Ganesha made in Udaipur.

Pattachitra Ganesha from Orissa

Pattachitra Ganesha from Orissa

A Pattachitra of a  five headed Ganesha from Orissa.

Paper machier Ganesha masks from Orissa

Paper machier Ganesha masks

Ganesha masks on Papier-mâché.

Leather puppet Charmakari Ganesha from Andhra Pradesh

Leather puppet Charmakari Ganesha from Andhra Pradesh

That is me holding a Ganesha made with goat leather. The puppet craft Charmakari has Ganeshas on just about everything- lamps, puppets and even wall screens.

Sadly, every year after Visarjan (the day when the elephant god sculptures are cast into the water bodies), I hate to think of the pollution levels that our fun and festivals have caused the environment. A bio-degradable Ganapathi is a great option, but if you wish to retain your Ganapathi or even gift your friends, write to us at mail@craftcanvas.com.

 

 

Athangudi tile designs from Karaikudi

Athangudi tile designs from Karaikudi

It’s been 2 years since I set my eyes on Athangudi tiles. I saw it on a blog that I frequent and it was love at first sight. I’ve spent all these months planning for a trip to Karaikudi. I travel quite a bit, but this trip wasn’t just coming through. When I finally managed to get here, the trip was just perfect. Two really close people, one a friend with whom I’ve spent the dreamy years of college giggling, shopping and forging a friendship for the rest of our lives. The other one is an interesting story, I’ve hardly met him thrice in the ten odd years that I’ve known him and we get along very well.

In the coming weeks, I will write about all the wonderful sights and people we met in this packed four day trip. For now, let me start with my first love.

Athangudi tiles in Chettiar mansions

Athangudi tiles in Chettiar mansions

Athangudi is a relatively new craft. The region is dominated by Chettiars, a community of rich traders. The Chettairs built fabulous mansions with wooden pillars, Belgian and Japanese tiles, Italian marbles and imported stained glass. But over time, they realized that repairs were expensive due to the non availability of spares. So the inherently enterprising community set up an industry that made replicas of the imported tiles. The sand from Athangudi suited this procedure the best and this village became the hub of tile production.

Adding colours to Athangudi tiles

Adding colours to Athangudi tiles

(Photo courtesy: S. A. Girish) Made with white cement, sand and pigments, the tiles are entirely hand-made. Colors mixed with white cement are poured using a mould on a glass base. The glass helps in giving the tile a smooth, polished surface.

Athangudi tiles blue and red

Athangudi tiles blue and red

(Photo courtesy: S. A. Girish) The design is packed with cement on top and left to dry in the sun.

Athangudi tiles out to dry

Athangudi tiles out to dry

It is later cured in water for a couple of days and again dried in the sun.

The laying process involves the use of sand, cement, lime and the top is polished with rice husk.

There are about 60 designs, will try to put it up on Flickr with product codes. Here are some of them.

Athangudi tiles contemporary design

Athangudi tiles contemporary design

 

Athangudi tiles on a staircase

Athangudi tiles on a staircase

Ulsoor is just a stone’s throw away from the heart of the city.Nestled in between hundreds of bylanes, there are two small workshops making replicas of old doors. Those old doors were once made by their grandfathers. The replicas are made mostly with the help of machines, only the last bit of detailing is done manually.

Carving a replica in wood

Carving a replica

Here is a lamp stand in an old house that needs a pair. The new one is machine cut and will end up looking less imperfect, less intricate and in the process less beautiful than the original.

Tools for carving wood

Tools for carving wood

The tools are still simple. A compass, a measuring scale and a hammer.

Chisels for carving wood

Chisels for carving

Different sizes of chisels for various degrees of carving.

New designs for Pooja room doors carved in wood

New designs for Pooja room doors

Nowadays, owing to the decline in demand, small parts of the door or the pooja (prayer) room doors are made here. With such options available in synthetic materials like fiber and plastic, the craft is definitely on the verge of extinction.

Reupholstering a vintage chair

Re-upholstering a vintage chair

It mostly serves as a repair centre for old doors and furniture. This beautiful chair is being refurbished and a replica has also been ordered.

A era gone by. Bangalore is no more the place it used to be, isn’t it?

 

Stone sculpture in balcony garden

Stone sculpture in balcony garden

You have already seen the beautiful stone sculpture in my balcony garden. Here is the post on where I found it.

When we finally managed to drive out of Bangalore (which seemed almost endless) and left behind the huge building complexes, my friend Mandy and I were glad to take in some fresh country air. The highway was a pleasure to drive on, with picturesque and almost uninhabited surroundings for our eyes to feast on. Some really good 90′s music (loads of nostalgic thoughts in the process) and we were well on our way to Shivarapatna. All that we knew about the place was that it was in Kolar district!

Finding Shivarapatna on Google maps

Finding Shivarapatna on Google maps

We reached Kolar and figured that we had crossed the village atleast an hour earlier and had to head back the same way. So we took a detour (again a vague direction following instructions given by the village folk, who measured distance by the time it took them the last time they visited that place!) and we trying Nokia maps to figure out the direction. Thats when we realized that as far as the maps were concerned, we were non-existent!

Stacked up stone sculptures

Stacked up stone sculptures

Shivarapatna was hardly made up of a couple of rows of houses, all of which were busy with activity. Statues were strewn around in all stages of work. The workshops (like the one shown above) were full of statues ready to be shipped to the US.

Tools for stone carving

Tools for stone carving

The craftsmen were all immersed in their work using simple tools, sometimes even oblivious of our presence.

Some of them were working under the shade of a bamboo structure, an interestingly ‘green’ feature.

My friend helped me with Kannada translations and we slowly started getting an idea of the work. This craft has been practiced for generations, the raw material (stone) coming from nearby areas of HD Kote and Mysore. Granite and soapstone are the two common stones used for sculptures.

Navagrahas- the nine planets

Navagrahas- the nine planets

Navagrahas, the nine planetary gods in Hindu religion are made here. These sculptures are used in temples across South India.

Few interesting designs.

Nandi, Shiva's gaurdian bull

Nandi, Shiva's gaurdian bull

Nandi, Lord Shiva’s bull, a representation of Dharma.

Tall stone sculpture

Tall stone sculpture

The tallest structure that we saw in the village.

Goddess Laskhmi, symbol of wealth

Goddess Laskhmi, symbol of wealth

Goddess Lakshmi, a symbol of wealth.

Hanuman

Hanuman

Hanuman, a devotee of Lord Rama.

Goddess Durga

Goddess Durga

Goddess Durga.

If you are planning to drive there this weekend, you can contact me for directions!

Please click here for more pictures.

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.

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.