Crafting Ganesha..

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. It works the same way in most of our crafts. Check out some renditions of the elephant God in various crafts across the country.

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

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

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

The stone sculptures of Shivarapatna in Kolar.

A modern style Ganesha made in Udaipur.

A Pattachitra of a  five headed Ganesha from Orissa.

Ganesha masks on Papier-mâché.

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, you can pick one of these options.

This item is available at our eBay Store.
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Athangudi tiles, finally!

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 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.

(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.

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

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.

The Bangalore series: Wood carving in Ulsoor…

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.

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.

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

Different sizes of chisels for various degrees of carving.

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.

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?

The Bangalore series- Stone sculptures

 

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!

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!

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.

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

Few interesting designs.

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

The tallest structure that we saw in the village.

Goddess Lakshmi, a symbol of wealth.

Hanuman, a devotee of Lord Rama.

Goddess Durga.

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

Please click here for more pictures.

The DIY kitschy chair..

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!

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.

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

 

I use it indoors too! 🙂 More ideas anyone?

Puppets and puppeteers

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

And here is the deer that lured Sita away! 🙂

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.

Terracotta on my wall..

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.

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.

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

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!).

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

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.

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.

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! 🙂

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.

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!