Friday Review » Art

Updated: January 14, 2011 18:27 IST

The travelling craftsman

print   ·   T  T  
Sivakumar makes dolls out of clay in Coimbatore. Photo: K. Ananthan
The Hindu
Sivakumar makes dolls out of clay in Coimbatore. Photo: K. Ananthan

With all his worldly possessions in a sack , G. Sivakumar moves around the city making clay models of almost anything you may want

Sitting under a tree along a quiet street, G. Sivakumar powders dry rocks of clay. He adds a dash of water from a battered bottle, and starts kneading the mixture. It takes him exactly ten minutes to conjure the form of Ganesha, complete with a tiny necklace, from the wet mass. The man has a gift – he can make clay models of anything one can think of, in no time. Deities, temples, birds, animals, insects, trees, cars, bikes, buildings, landscapes, furniture, jewellery, miniature kitchen utensils, electronic gadgets – you name it. Why, he can even make a model of your face!

With a sack and two water bottles, the forty-year-old has journeyed the length and breadth of Tamil Nadu, stopping in street corners to make clay figurines for a small price. “It has been 20 years since I stepped out of home to make a living out of clay dolls,” begins the soft-spoken craftsman.

“As a kid, I used to hang out alone, making models out of the clay from the pond in our village.”

His first ever model was a marapachi. “Back then, my friends would pay me to make clay toys for them,” he recalls. Poverty forced Sivakumar to discontinue school and take up a job in a brass workshop. “But, I was too dreamy for work. My mind would wander to the soft clay along the river bank.”

After brief stints in various workshops, Sivakumar realised that he was happiest making clay figurines, and left his village in Ariyalur district to do just that.

His natural gift has sustained him all these years. “Once I reach a new city, I head straight to its wetlands to check out the quality of clay available.” Sivakumar says that Neyveli has the best quality clay in the South. “The clay there is pearly-white and supple, unlike anywhere else.”

The man is always followed by a band of kids – they huddle about him and watch in awe as his hands work deftly, fashioning toys within minutes.

He can make models for as little as Re. 1. For Rs. 50, you can walk away with an elaborate model of Thanjai periya kovil, smelling of fresh earth. You can also hand him a photograph of a loved one and have a model made.

Sivakumar is headed to Mettupalayam next week. He can now be found in a street opposite Alvernia Convent, Trichy Road.

Latest in this section



Recent Article in Art

Let there be light

The Story of Light Festival, which recently concluded in Goa, saw art and science come together to create some awe-inspiring experiences »