Thiruvananthapuram

A rare craft honed to perfection

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Artist from Anayara gives shape to handicrafts from bovine horns

Horns of buffalo and ox that normally go waste turn into art in the skilled hands of T.V. Gopinathan.

A resident of Kallummoodu, Anayara, here, 63-year-old Gopinathan is exhibiting some of his horn handicrafts at the ongoing Khadi Expo being organised at Bhagyamala auditorium at Chandrasekharan Nair Stadium. The expo ends on March 6.

Gopinathan, a winner of many prizes, says he works six months a year creating handicrafts and then goes round the country as part of various fairs organised by the Union government to sell his creations.

He began over four decades ago, as a young student, helping his father make cranes from horns. Gradually, Gopinathan moved on to making other handicrafts, and increasing his range. Today, his horn handicrafts include dancing peacock, tree, small plant, lamp shades, flower vase, paperweights, keychains, and animal figurines such as fish prawns and so on. He also makes miniature boats and cranes in wood, but only when horns are difficult to come by.

He vouches for his work, and guarantees it will last decades without losing any lustre. It is environment-friendly to boot, he points out. After an animal is killed, the skin is used for leather, but what about horns, he asks. This is where he comes in. Even the polish used on the work is made from the vein of the breadfruit leaf (sheema chakka). Designs on the work are added after the polishing.

How it is done

A lot of work goes into getting a horn ready for handicrafts. A mallet is used to smoothen the horn, then it is sandpapered, and crafted as per the design in mind. Applying heat on the horns makes it malleable, and then these are dipped in water to temper it and prevent it from retaining the original shape. The colour and design of the artefacts depends on the animal whose horn is used, be it a jet black buffalo or one that is not so dark, or a white, brown, or black ox.

He keeps creating newer handicrafts, and that is what has ensured that his art finds takers. He has also ventured into making pendants, neck pieces, slides, and bangles, though these are made to order. “I take as much time to make these as other handicrafts. These do not come cheap, and the result is fewer buyers. So, I mostly stick to other handicrafts,” he says.

Costly raw material

Raw material is difficult to come by, and is priced high. The size of the horns also poses a challenge. However, but for a part of Odisha, horn craft is not seen anywhere else, and thus his work finds customers across the country. Though Gopinathan, who has a shop at the Vellar crafts village, Kovalam, manages to make profits from his art, he rues that from hundreds two decades ago, the number of craftsmen has dwindled to a few today. To keep his craft alive, he hopes to train other people.

“The government wants me to train more people in this art form, but funding will be required for this,” he says.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 10:33:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/a-rare-craft-honed-to-perfection/article22921261.ece

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