I’ve always hated hospitals and airports. I find them vast and cold, very very cold. I guess it is to do with all the swanky steel and the blinding white light. It is not a cozy place to be in. And I would attribute this inherent dislike to my absolutely Indian sense of aesthetics. Before I am banished off of as someone who loves the hideously carved and highly varnished ‘Indian’ furniture, hear me out. I love the straight lines of FabIndia’s furniture. But give me the same thing in steel and leather and I would run a mile the other way. I’ve always wondered why our architects and interior designers borrowed so much from the West. We have some wonderful materials, a million sources of inspiration and some gifted artisans, yet our recently built public and corporate spaces mirror those in the West.

So when I saw pictures of the T2 terminal in Mumbai, I was elated. Designed by Rajeev Sethi, this is the reminder that we have arrived on the global scene. The way we flaunt our culture in one of the most visible points of the country is our way of telling the world, “Hey, look you are now in one of the most gorgeous countries of the world”. One of the largest art & craft galleries in the world with 7,000 artifacts and works by 1,500 artists, the 3 Km long art walk is a definite incentive to reach the airport much before time.

For someone who works with crafts everyday, this is welcome news. ‘Contemporary’ architects and designers, please take note. We’d gladly help you install some of our country’s most beautiful hand-crafted products and solutions in your projects. Take a pick from 22 different craft clusters, experiment with modern ideas and shed those inhibitions once and for all. We have enough artisans waiting to take up this challenge. Let’s bring our crafts back home. Sharing some pictures of the T2 terminal.

Mumbai airport, CraftCanvas, handicrafts

T2 terminal, Mumbai airport

Inspired by the peacock feather, the entryway is an ode to our National bird

T2 terminal, Mumbai International airport, CraftCanvas, handicraft flooring

Floral pattern on the floor, T2 terminal, Mumbai airport

Marble Inlay, very very Indian

T2 terminal, Mumbai International airport, CraftCanvas, handicraft flooring

Jaali installation

With inspiration from the carvers and carvings in key monuments of various states, a jaali (lattice) installation

T2 terminal, Mumbai International airport, CraftCanvas, Madhubani wall

Madhubani wall installation by Pratik Prabhakar

This is a special one, designed by a friend. As you can see, Madhubani is not all about Ram-Sita or Radha-Krishna. It is contemporary, celebrates our roots and cherishes a collective memory.

Do watch this video on the process. Narrated by Amitabh Bachhan, this one is sure to touch that proud patriotic nerve somewhere.

Video on art and crafts at the T2 terminal, Mumbai International Airport

Rajeev Sethi and GVK, take a bow!

 

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.