V. Meena believes craft stimulates the imagination of her students.
V. Meena remembers how Mrs. Ebenezer monitored a bunch of intent girls at St. Josephs as they struggled to colour a flower petal in shades of mauve. “She was so particular about how we graded the petal in water colour,” she recalls. Today, as a teacher of art and craft, she tries to create the same love for the subjects among her pupils. “I’ve been teaching craft for 15 years now. And, from being just another ‘time pass’ class, it has grown into a class that relaxes students,” says Meena, who now teaches at Avila MHSS. “Sadly, not many schools give art and craft the importance they deserve. They are much more than just a hobby,” she says.
Meena believes craft improves concentration, builds confidence and generates employment opportunities. So she teaches her students craft forms that have commercial appeal — pot painting, glass painting, paper quilling, jewel making… Many students have turned part-time entrepreneurs and sell their creations to earn money. It is also an opportunity to teach children about history and culture. “Many students did not know what Tanjore painting was. So I asked them to read up about it. They understood its value better. They are doing the same with Minakari work. Whey they read about an art form’s history, it comes alive for them and makes it more interesting.”
Meena organises exhibitions of the children’s creations in school. “That is a huge source of encouragement. Parents are delighted and the children love seeing their work displayed,” she says.
When she was working in Nirmala Matha MHSS, Meena also taught boys. “They love it. But, it is a challenge to come up with activities that will interest both boys and girls. Sometimes, I’ve found that boys create more beautiful flowers than girls!”
Meena reconnected with art when she took up courses with Raviraj of Lalit Kalakshetra, Avinashilingam JSS and CIFT. “That gave me the confidence I needed. I also fondly remember Miss Stella and Mrs Ebenezer from my St. Josephs days. The hobby club that Ms Stella ran was so popular. I aspire to do something like that.”
So, is needlework still popular? “Yes. We have made it more interesting by allowing children to create their own designs within a certain framework. So, they end up doing what they have to, but monotony does not set in.”
Meena reads a lot so that she can teach new techniques. It helps that craft materials are now easily available in Coimbatore. “There was a time when everything came from Delhi.” Says Meena: “When you are upset and no end seems in sight, turn to craft. It will consume you. You’ll smile again.”