There is plenty to be done this summer as workshops and classes invite women to learn new skills

“Summer camps can also be useful for women like me too,” says R. Maheswari. She has attended a month-long craft course conducted by the Gandhi Memorial Museum and Government Museum and has learnt to make colourful aarathi plates with beautiful rangoli designs. She now also knows how to make clothes for Barbie dolls! For young mothers such as Maheswari, who has put her five-year-old son Lalith Krish in the children’s camp, these courses are a blessing. “Instead of roaming around the campus aimlessly waiting for my son’s classes to end, I am also engaged purposefully,” she says, and adds that these classes are also major stress-busters.

For more than three decades Gandhi Museum has been organising crash courses during summer. “Such craft courses instil confidence in women. Age is no bar to learn anything,” says M.P. Gurusamy, secretary of the museum. “These courses encourage them to become entrepreneurs. They learn to make gift articles and also earn,” he says.

From tailoring, embroidery, glass painting and handicrafts to photography, art-from-waste, jute bags and mobile repair classes, there are more than 20 month-long and week-long courses on offer. “We encourage trainees to learn new skills. Some come to these courses just to pass time but often what they learn comes in handy for them in times of need. A number of these participants have also started Do-it-Yourself demo classes based on the coaching we give them here,” he says.

School teacher M. Vijayalakshmi, who is passionate about hand crafting, is one of the resource persons of the summer courses. She has been teaching craft for two decades now. She trains people to make train-shaped key holders, flowers out of ribbons and fashioning artefacts with plastic spoons! She also teaches terracota painting, quilling jewellery, Gond art and patchwork. Vijayalakshmi says that these classes have generated tremendous interest with people coming in for four consecutive years to learn. Some have become entrepreneurs and others have become craft teachers in school or at their own homes.

Aruna Jeyapaul teaches embroidery. She says it can help the women earn good money. “We have just begun the session. Within a month the students will learn to make intricate designs,” she says. In an age of machine embroidery, hand embroidery is distinct and charming. “Embroidery can brighten up your clothes with its vibrant designs and colours,” she says.

Shanthi Ilangovan who is in charge of the classes for making fur toys says there is money in that too. “Once the trainees learn to make the basic fur toys, they can then make any other pattern. It depends on their creativity. Coloured furs are available in the market. Though a bit expensive, we use synthetic cotton for the filling so that the toys are washable,” she says.