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The myriad ways of crafting lives

Meedhu Miriyam Joseph
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Sheer craftsmanship: Artefacts on display at the Surabhi Craft Mela at VJT Hall in Thiruvananthapuram. — Photo: S. Gopakumar
Sheer craftsmanship: Artefacts on display at the Surabhi Craft Mela at VJT Hall in Thiruvananthapuram. — Photo: S. Gopakumar

As many as three metres of well-cut Khadi silk, three intertwined coloured silk threads, and three days of careful sewing of the intricate embroidery patterns by the many villagers of Gorakhpur. Such is the level of hard work that goes into to the making of any hand-woven silk ‘kurta' displayed at Surabhi Craft Mela now on in the city.

Organised by the Kerala State Handicrafts Apex Co-operative Society at VJT Hall here, the fair has more than 100 artisans from across the country whose lives are as varied and unparalleled as the artefacts they make with so much creative zest.

Colourful kurtas with exquisite ‘kantha' work reflect the craftsmanship of the artisans of Bengal. Narendra Kumar at the stall explained that women in various villages are involved in the threading work for which they earn about Rs.50 a day, for a simple running stitch, to Rs.250 for complex patterns.

The umbrella-cut skirts and harem pants in bright colours are not as simple as they look. According to Mr. Kumar, the skirts, kurtas and bedsheets on display are dyed using vegetable colours and natural pigments with candle-waxing technique to prevent the intermixing of colours on the patterns.

Fascinating trails

Virendra Singh from Rajasthan travels miles with his bag of rubies, emeralds, and other precious stones—sometimes goods worth Rs.25,000— all the way to the city for selling his magnificent stone jewellery.

From the separation of stones based on their quality to the mixing of beads according to style and need, there is careful crafting all the way to make a simple necklace, Mr. Singh says. “It's a huge risk to travel carrying these things. The bag is always tied to my body and secured safely even while I sleep,” he says.

Attractive handicrafts from Orissa include palm-leaf writings and paintings—an ancient art that is still practised at village homes. It takes about 20 days for the completion of a single palm-leaf painting. Pattachitra cloth paintings, wooden bangles, wall-hangings, and dress materials with traditional appliqué art and decorative items extensively carved out of wood are also on display.

The ‘herb cot' looks like any other cot until one gets to know that it is made from more than 23 herbal woods. A.K. Mohanan from Venjaramood in the district spent five years to research and attempt numerous trials before he finally launched his patent herbal wood furniture products.

A. Raju, who hails from Andhra Pradesh, has an altogether different story to tell. According to him, there is a huge demand for the Pochampalli silk and hand-made Gadwal saris from the region, but unfortunately, he is short of stock. “Owing to the strike, the goods are getting delayed. It will take more than five days before it reaches the city and the fair will enter its last day — November 12 — by then,” he says gloomily.

Also awaiting their chance to tell the stories are the Chinese charms, mud-painted wall-masks, and many more exquisitely handcrafted wonders on display at VJT Hall.

Meedhu Miriyam Joseph

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