CHENNAI: 31-year-old Deepika Velmurugan’s fondest childhood memory is of observing her mother and ammachi (grandmother) chalk the entrance of their home with rice flour kolams. Be it the wavy yet symmetrical sikku kolam, intricate pulli kolam, padi kolam, maa kolam or the idai pulli kolam, the duo would create tangible poetry with a combination of the arisi maavu, a matrix of dots and geometrical lines, and love, she recalls.
“These kolams were not only integral to auspicious ceremonies but everyday life as well. Drawing the kolams at the entrance was symbolic of inviting abundance and prosperity. My mother passed down the art of kolam-drawing to me and I picked it up. But at no point did I think it would become such a big part of my life,” shares Deepika, who, in 2019, started a venture, Home2Cherish, through which she specialises in painting kolams on household decors and selling them.
Finding new mediums
Growing up, Deepika was always surrounded by antiques and brassware. “Even today, every corner and shelf in my house is filled with brassware. I am a lover of all things antique, unique and traditional. In 2019, while I was cleaning my house, I found an old cradle separator (used to keep apart the ends of a cloth cradle). Being an art enthusiast, I decided to paint the separator. But I wanted to give it a different take. So, I drew a kolam on it! That was, perhaps, the moment I realised that this could be a business idea,” shares the Srirangam resident, who is originally from Coimbatore.
Two years later, Deepika’s hands are full. Orders, for these uniquely painted household décor items, have been pouring in from different parts of the globe. Her product catalogue has grown from simple wall shelves to kolam padis (steps) of different sizes (used to hold the figurines of gods and lamps), palagais (stools), wooden plaques with motifs, wall hangings, name boards, pallanguzhi sets, and door panels. “In the last two years, I have taken up and delivered over 600 orders to my clients across the globe. I have shipped my products to people in the US, the UK, Norway, France, Germany, Australia and Dubai too. In India, I have been receiving orders from every state.
But a large chunk of orders have been from cities like Hyderabad and Bengaluru,” she notes. Replacing the traditional rice flour with paint might have had its challenges or so one might think. But Deepika tells us that the transition was seamless. “It could be because of the years of practice I’ve had in drawing kolams. Over the years, I have learned over 1,000 different types of kolams. And here, I have only switched the mediums… the hand movements, the measurements and the techniques remain the same. So does the requirement of being accurate, neat and focused.
I haven’t faced any challenges in this process. I guess I love creating kolams wherever they are — the doorstep or the drawingroom!” she gushes. However, she doesn’t let her overfamiliarity with the kolams affect the process. She ensures to follow a well-laid plan to get the best results. “I always measure the spacing of the pullis, I also sketch the kolam with a pencil first and then paint over it. One mistake can make the entire artwork look shabby and I take extra precautions to avoid it. Kolams are important to me,” she says.
Decor is in the details
The household décor that Deepika has handpicked as her canvas are all made out of wood. “The combination of kolams on wood gives it a very opulent feel. From mango, neem to teak, I work on different kinds of timber. Some people prefer teak wood, especially if it’s a décor for their pujai room, so I customise it accordingly. I work in synchrony with a carpenter on the orders,” she shares.
Detailing and vibrancy play an important role in Deepika’s artistic process. For instance, some of her décor items are fitted with shiny brass bells and the traditional Marapachi dolls; her colour palette is often bright and arresting. “I enjoy working with colours that aren’t dull. It breathes joy into me and since the décor items will find new homes, I wanted to spread happiness by coating them with these lovely colours. The brass bells and Marapachi dolls too have become an interesting addition to what I offer. The idea is to take these traditional motifs into modern households…they can either be a reminder of our heritage and culture or even a conversation starter,” she shares.
While it’s hard to pick a favourite from Deepika’s collection, ours is her version of door panels, which in many ways act as a storyboard. “These are mostly three feet (in length) and two feet (in breadth) and encompass characters and stories from mythology. I have so far customised three such panels with different colours combinations and themes. The first order I’d received was from a customer in Tiruchy for a panel with his favourite characters from the Tamil novel, Ponniyin Selvan. I have also traced the birth story of Lord Ganesha and the story of a royal woman from Mysuru. I have been receiving more requests, especially to paint the protagonists from Tamil epics.
But it’s a time-consuming process. It takes anything from 10 to 15 days to make these door panels,” she shares. Her Instagram page currently has over 11,600 followers. “I try responding to at least 10 direct messages about orders and other enquiries every day. But when there is a paucity of time, I prioritise the orders in hand. Usually, it takes about 35 to 40 days to complete an order. All my clients have been very understanding of the time it takes to work on a product. It’s heartwarming to see people not just being appreciative of the final product but also of the labour that goes into making it,” she says.
With multiple orders in the pipeline, Deepika also plans to introduce aruvamanais (vegetable cutter/coconut grater), traditional spoon stands and anjarai pettis (traditional masala box) to the collection. “My house is located amid a farm. Our family continues to practise agriculture, raise and rear cattle and poultry, and harvest our vegetables.
The kolams, brass wear and traditional household items are what I’ve grown up with. It’s wonderful to see the world taking notice and being interested in these elements even now, during a time where modernity has taken over. I hope to keep alive these aspects of tradition through my art,” she says.
The products are priced from Rs 800 onwards. For details, visit Instagram page @ Home2Cherish