Masterly creations in wood, yarn, and clay vie for attention at Valluvar Kottam.
Crafts and weaves have always held an irresistible appeal for the urban aesthete. At Valluvar Kottam, where over a hundred stalls have artisans converging in a hub of craft displays and sales, a whirl of colour and activity welcomes the visitor. As visitors drift leisurely across the aisles, the craftsmen are only too happy to share the details of their work techniques.
“Elephants are regarded as harbingers of good fortune. So, there is a constant demand for elephant sculptures,” beams T. Bhuvanendar, a native of Thiruvananthapuram, who has specialised in wood sculpture for over 40 years and made Chennai his home. “Earlier, I was making carvings from sandalwood and ivory, but after these materials became unavailable, I have been working exclusively on rosewood,” says this artisan who treasures memories of his meeting with the late M.G. Ramachandran when he presented him with an ivory tableau of the Gitopadesa.
Sourced from Kerala
The rosewood is sourced from Kerala and each piece is fashioned from a single block without any joints. The sculpting is done in three stages – rough carving, finishing touches and polishing. Idols of Ganesa, Muruga, Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Krishna are sought after while statuettes include the lion, eagle and camel. Deer horn inlay is used for the tusks, nails and claws. Prices range from Rs.900 to Rs.5,000.
For those looking for that special floor rug to brighten up their living spaces, the vibrant primary hues of Mohammed Firoz’s (U.P.) dhurries offer the perfect choice. Ranged alongside are the kilims whose pastel palette exudes an understated charm. Pale yellows and frosty blues complement creamy green bands in a 3 x 5 ft kilim. “Due to troubled family circumstances, I had to discontinue my schooling and take up weaving at age 13. My siblings and I weave the rugs on our home looms. Strong cotton yarn is used for the warp and wool for the weft. Since we dye the yarn ourselves, we can replicate almost any colour. After weaving, the knots are cut, the ends tied into tassels and the piece is washed. Being pre-washed, the rugs are colour-fast and do not fade even if machine washed, though hand washing is gentler on the fabric. The standard sizes are 2.5 x 4.5 ft (Rs. 750) 3 x 5 ft (Rs. 850) and 4 x 6 ft (Rs. 1,400) and the yarn used is 2, 3 and 4-ply. While stripes and geometric designs predominate, delicate Persian motifs and florals are also featured on select pieces. Those who find carpets too heavy and difficult to clean find the ideal pocket-friendly alternative in these dhurries.
The chinaware section is one of the biggest draws with swarms of buyers milling around at any given time. Made in Khurja (U.P.) the pieces stand out for sturdy craftsmanship, bright colours, attractive designs and smooth, even finish. “China clay from Gujarat and Rajasthan is mixed with ceramic quartz and water, poured into plaster of Paris moulds and sun dried. The mould is removed, the rough areas honed with a blade, the piece washed in water and scrubbed. Then the designs are hand painted with a brush, the vessel dipped in glaze and fired at 1,250 degrees, making it microwaveable. Also lead-free, ensuring that there is no health hazard. We receive bulk orders from hotels and restaurants,” adds Imran.
You see why, when you spot items such as a polka-dotted cookie jar scattered with cheerful red, blue and yellow flowers – a must-have for your kitchen counter. Mugs, cups and saucers, coffee and tea containers, pickle and salt jars, coasters, dinnerware, serving dishes, flower pots and aroma burners jostle for attention at prices ranging from Rs.150 to Rs. 850.
With wares that include Khadi apparel, dress materials, Thanjavur, Jaipur and oil paintings, brassware, bedspreads, Kashmiri embroidery, walnut, teak and sheesham wood furniture, Pashmina shawls, Odisha saris, jute bags, terracotta, silver, semiprecious, five-metal jewellery, leather articles, wall hangings, Lucknowi Chikan work, bamboo articles, Chennapatnam toys, the Handicrafts Exhibition is on at Valluvar Kottam from August 2 to 12, 10 a.m. – 8.30 p.m.
Keywords: craft displays