Coconut Shell Craft
|Banerjee, Debanjali, PhD in Textile/Color Chemistry in Natural dyes, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, with a Masters in Textile and Clothing from S.N.D.T. Women’s University, Mumbai, with NET (Research & Teaching). Currently an Assistant Professor with National Institute of Fashion Technology, Kolkata, earlier with Jadavpur University, Kolkata in Chemical Engineering Department as Assistant Professor. She has been visiting faculty at Apparel Export Promotion Council, Kolkata and J. D. Birla Institute, Kolkata, also worked with Bombay Textile Research Association, Mumbai. Coordinated projects in the field of Science and Technology, Survey and Auditing programs, pattern developments, color matching. She worked on projects funded by UGC, CSIR and DST. With published papers in National and International Journals, she is a member of several prestigious bodies. Her research interest includes Indian traditional textiles, blending with modern trends, using traditional natural dyes, research and development, commercialization of research project, Her works include Herbal Gulal from natural colors, Natural Colors from waste flowers, Cosmetics using natural products and other medicinal research. She has conducted workshop for artisan groups and weavers.
December 2012, Craft Revival Trust
The Coconut constitutes a plant that belongs to Palmae family and is widely grown in tropical regions as it needs proper living environment for its growth and production.
Coconut is well-known as a multipurpose plant and has been utilized and developed in a manner that yields a high economic value. Even, for that part of the plant that could be considered as waste, such as its fiber which is utilized among other uses as active charcoal; while the shell is often processed to create remarkable art works.
||Coconut shell or kotti in Konkani, has biological function as the protector of the main fruit. Located in the inner side of the coconut fiber with its thickness around 3-6 mm. Coconut shell can be categorized as hard wood, yet has higher lignin level and lower cellulose level, and water level about 6-9% (counted based on dry weight), and especially composed of lignin, cellulose, and hemi-cellulose.
With above composition, thus art works from coconut shell have excellent quality, imperishable, and relatively easy to be formed. These features have resulted in the development of the modern coconut shell handicraft industry.
Instead of being thrown away or used as firewood for cooking dry coconut shells are carved in different designs, varnished and colored. Coconut shell craftwork involves tremendous creativity and is used for the creation of utility and decorative items by artisans who use their creativity to create items from utility to artistic and decorative. The items produced include Table lamps, flowerpots, table clocks, different idols and decorative items.
Carving Coconut shell is very difficult and only highly skilled craftsmen can make products out of it due to its hardness.
Traditionally, crafting objects out of coconut shell is to make household objects which was practiced by coconut farmers. They would scoop out the copra by making a neat hole at the top of the shell, and use the shell, which was the waste or by-product.
It is believed that as a craft, coconut shell carving could have been experimented with by craftsmen from the Vishwakarma community in Kerala. Traditionally involved in sword making and carving wood and ivory, they may have tried out coconut wood and shell as well.
Coconut shell craft has gained popularity only in the last few decades, and hence does not have a long history to boast off. However, a report mentions this craft being brought in from Iraq almost 900 years ago. It could be that the wood carving artisans from the Middle East and Persia were the first ones to try carving on coconut shell.
While Coconut shell craft is practiced all over the world, the craft has evolved and is being highly used as means of creative employment in different places around the world such as Cambodia, Thailand, the Philippines, Java, Maldives and Sri Lanka.
In India, coconut crafts have gained immense popularity and have become rather fashionable for their novelty and uniqueness. Tamil Nadu and other coastal states have abundance of skilled artisans for making coconut crafts.
Coconut shell craft is primarily prevalent in Kerala in and around Calicut, Trivandrum, Attingal, Neyyatinkara and Quilandy in Kozhikode district in north Kerala.Other states where this craft is practiced are Goa, Andaman and Nicobar islands, West Bengal, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu and the tribal belt of Bastar. Here, intricately designed patterns in white metal are inlayed in the shell and cut to make bangles.
Goa produces beautiful, decorative and utility items made out of coconut fiber. Apart from consuming the flesh of the coconut in the meals it has done wonders to earn livelihood for the local artists. Artists prepare decorative to utility items from the shells and its fiber. Brooms prepared from this material have a good life span and do not produce any dust out of it. Locals have been using spoons or davlo as locally called and other vessels made out of shells. These are safe to use.
The success of Coconut craft is because it is eco-friendly, and available almost free of cost. It is easy to work with once it has been mastered; it is durable, beautiful and utilitarian; it is available in abundance. The craft makes use of non-exhaustible natural resources and makes available an option to the harmful effects of plastics
Coconut shell is bought from coconut growers and from farmers who scoop out the coconut for sale in the market, also selling the dried shell. The coconut is scooped out by making a small neat hole. Shells are available in different shapes and sizes. Prices also vary.
The coconut shells are obtained from various coconut farms located in Tiptur, Tumkur and Hasan. Raw material is normally available easily. However, coconut shell of a particular shape and size if required for an order takes a long time to collect.
SELECTING THE RIGHT SHELL
While selecting the coconut shell, the following points need to be kept in mind:
Shape of the shell: Select the shell of a required size, thickness and shade needed to complete the article. Irregularly shaped shells cannot be used to make symmetrical objects.
Un-cracked shells: Check that the shell does not have cracks developed either due to direct sunlight or due to a wrong way of breaking. This can be tested by a sound-test. An iron nail, or any iron piece, is struck on the shell. A good, un-cracked shell will give a clear deep sound, whereas a cracked shell will give a distorted sound. One could also test a shell by dropping it on a cement ﬂoor, and judging by the sound-test. Very often, it is seen that the cracks are identiﬁed only when the shell is polished at the ﬁnal stage. This means the entire effort goes in vain.
Oil-free shell: Selected shells should not have oil-marks on them. Often, very dry coconut, or copra, releases oil inside the shell itself. This is easily absorbed by the shell. This oil mark remains for a long period and spoils the look of the craft. Besides, it is noticed that such shells do not join ﬁrmly and there is a chance of the joints being separated.
Files : Rough ﬂat ﬁle
Carving chisels : Carving chisels are used for intricate designs and sculpting; cutting edges are many; such as gouge, skew, parting, straight, paring, and
Lock mortice chisel
The process of coconut crafts involves sketching, cutting, sanding, and buffing to create the finished product. The craft production process for the shell craft is as follows:
PRODUCTION OF AN EARRING
Choosing the right shell for the product that has to be developed.
Scraping the inner surface of the shell with files to clean the husk on the shell, thus making it smooth.
The shell is cut open with a hack-saw, the cut determined by the shape and size of the product to be made. The inner part is smoothened with a chisel.
Smaller portions are cut from the hemispherical cut open shell with a hack-saw. The shape to be cut is drawn on the inside of the shell and the bow blade is inserted through a small hole. In case of a complicated design, for example if a piece of jewelry is to be made, a photocopied paper stencil is stuck on the inside surface of the shell and the design is curved out using a bow blade. If a circle is to be cut then a paper stencil is made. This is stuck on the inside surface of a cut portion of a shell, the bow blade is inserted and the circle curved out from the shell. Smaller elements are cut and stuck on to the main piece for ornamentation.
After a shape is cut out, the edges are made smooth by filing or by sanding with sand paper.
This process is followed repeatedly till the finish is satisfactory.
After the article is made small hooks are attached if required. This is done by drilling a small hole and sticking the metal hook using a strong adhesive such as Fevikwik.
In case of a bigger object such as an ice cream cup or a bowl, the whole shell is used by cutting it as per the required size. Various designs are engraved in the shell using a file.
After the object is made it is sanded with sand paper till it is smooth. First boot polish is applied and then a final coating of French polish is given for high class finishing. Alternatively, if a glossy finish is desired, it is given a coat of synthetic varnish. If the surface is to have a dark finish then it is painted before the varnish coat is applied. The inside of the object in this case is first rubbed with sand paper to get the desired smoothness and then it is buffed on the machine. No varnish or bees wax is applied on the inside if the object is to hold foodstuff.
The piece is dried in the sun.
PROTECTING THE SHELL
Durability of the shell craft
Due to the uniqueness of the shell, and its content, articles made from coconut shell have a very long life. These articles can remain for over a hundred years. Termites and other insects do not attack them. But one should protect them from rats.
If the shell is dumped for a long period, it may catch fungus on the outer ﬁbre or the inner side. But the hard portion of the shell remains unaffected.
Shells should be protected from direct sunlight. Strong direct
sunlight may lead the shell to develop cracks, which makes it
useless to work with.
The multi utility nut is used to carve out gorgeous collectibles like sugar containers, boxes in different shapes and sizes, showpieces embellished with brass edgings that are sure to send you on a shopping spree. The brass embellishments are believed to have been the influence of Arabia and the remnants of their commercial enterprises in Kerala. The highly gifted artisans carve out magnificent handicrafts with edge tools designed for the purpose.
Basic jewelry such as ear rings, ear drops, pendants and necklaces.
Key rings, bowls, ice cream cups, spoons with a coconut wood handle.
Car seat covers, pen holders, coasters, place mats and buttons.
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