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The traditional Palmyra basketry of Chettinad, kottans were once woven by the women or ‘Aachis’ of the Chettiar community but over the passing of time, they slowly stopped being made. The Foundation has revived the craft in its original patterns by teaching it to a group of village women from Keelayapatti Village in Chettinad, Sivangai district, southern Tamil Nadu. The Foundation now also runs centres in Sravayal Pudhur, Nachiapuram, Vairavanpatti, Koratti and Kanadukathan, and provides employment to more than 100 women.

The aim of the project is to provide a dependable and sustainable source of income through craft. As palm is a locally available natural raw material, the women can work within the comfort of their village. Sourcing raw material, finding urban markets and arranging for the transport of raw material and finished products are some of the activities to which the Foundation is committed.

The design innovations undertaken by the Foundation has found these baskets gaining great popularity both as packaging for gifts as well as in a range of contemporary home accessories. Experimentation in using natural dye has resulted in a whole new range of subtle earthy shades that are as exquisite as they are eco-friendly. Reborn in this new avatar, the Kottan today has found its place in the contemporary home.


Kandanghi Sari

The Kandanghi saris are the Chettinad answer to the dreary brown of the drought-prone region; the brilliant colours are the perfect foil against the monochrome landscape. Bright yellows, oranges, red and a minimal black were used in a pattern of stripes or checks with broad borders woven in heavy cotton or silk that threw out the colour better than a finer count would. The Kandanghi sari is woven in its authentic colours and designs, and is much-admired in urban markets today. Care has been taken that design intervention has not compromised on the original character of the sari.


Plastic baskets

Plastic baskets are one of the innovations that the Foundation has undertaken. These multi-purpose baskets may be put to a variety of uses from gift packaging to home accessories like laundry baskets, plant holders, waste-paper baskets, beach bags, bottle holders and market baskets. Woven out of both plastic tape and plastic wire, these baskets are available in a wide range of designs. These brightly coloured baskets are washable and durable, and we hope to provide them as a viable alternative to single use plastic carry bags.

Athangudi Tiles

The village of Athangudi is home to one of the most exclusive hand made flooring tiles, and its luminous colours and bold design give them an unmatched charm. Produced painstakingly in ‘factories’, they constitute a cottage industry that is gaining popularity today, thanks to the marketing efforts of the Foundation. These tiles have the advantage of being very long-lasting; they retain their polish with minimal effort, and neither do the colours dim with the passing of time. We are happy that these beautiful tiles are now reappearing in urban homes.


Lime Plaster

The mirror-like walls of Chettiar houses are today the stuff of legends, with this ancient technique on the verge of extinction. The lime plaster or the egg plaster was used in the interior of every Chettinad house as a practical as well as decorative solution to the heat. Laid in five coats and laboriously polished to a mirror-like state, this plaster has only a tiny remnant of the skilled masons who were adepts at this technique left to continue its existence. Although interest in this process has been sparked off, the Foundation is having an ongoing struggle to find masons who are willing to work towards its revival. The Foundation has made a documentation of the craft to ensure that it is not lost to future generations.


Wall stencilling & painting

Most Chettiar houses are embellished with wall paintings that have been done using stencils. Each household had its own collection of stencils made out of tin sheets, and these were used to refurbish the paintings. The traditional artists who did these wall paintings came from the village of Kothamangalam in Chettinad. Today there are very few families who follow their traditional craft of wall-painting using stencils, and the traditional colouring agents from vegetable pigments have dropped completely out of use. A workshop on how to prepare and use vegetable colours was conducted as an initiative of M.Rm.Rm. Cultural Foundation to revive and sustain the craft form, and a practical alternative to wall painting was evolved - painted wooden panels that can be mounted on walls in place of wall painting.

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