An initiative of Kerala Arts and Crafts Village, it has boxes with handloom and select handicraft products of the State
VV Suresh Kumar smiles when he says that the traditional Nettoor petti and Kaal petti crafted at an artisans’ workshop at his home has reached many as this year’s Onam gift. These wooden boxes of yore — Nettoor petti as jewellery box and Kaal petti for storing clothes and important documents — were among the items included in ‘Gift a Tradition’ project of Kerala Arts and Crafts Village (KACV) run by the Government of Kerala at Vellar near Kovalam in Thiruvanathapuram.
‘Gift a Tradition’ was launched in June by KACV to support artisans in Kerala. The traditional Kerala handloom and handicraft products in the list are Kerala sari, settu-mundu, dhothi, Aranmula mirror, Nettoor petti, Kaal petti and a wall decor piece made in wood, usually that of a Kathakali artiste’s face.
“We get direct orders or via art and crafts centres where these boxes are showcased. The lockdowns had left us high and dry. That was when this project was announced and we sold 60 boxes in a short period. Had we got more time, we could have made more boxes,” says Suresh, who comes from a family of traditional craftsman and is a master in making Nettoor petti. While the Nettoor petti (9×6 inches), made with the wood of anjili (wild jack), jackfruit tree or mahogany, is priced from ₹4,000 onwards, a Kaal petti (15×9 inches) costs ₹11,000 and up.
According to KACV officials, over 2,800 gift boxes have been sold so far. There are eight type of boxes (26x20x10 cm is the usual size), priced from ₹1,499 (handloom dhothi and a craft item). Two premium boxes, costing ₹19,999 and ₹24,999, have Nettoor petti and Kaal petti among the contents.
“When we announced this, we weren’t sure whether people would buy the boxes because of the pandemic-related financial hardships. We were motivated by the number of orders we got,” says Sreeprasad TU, COO, KACV.
In addition to buyers from Kerala and other states, orders have been placed by expatriates as well. “The project was targetted at non-resident Malayalis who want to present gifts for their dear ones back home. But several expats have placed orders for themselves. We have sent boxes to Australia, GCC countries and the US. Although there were bulk orders from Malayali associations abroad, we couldn’t take it because of pandemic-related restrictions,” says Abhijith MT, operations manager.
Lending support to weavers
The handloom products were sourced from weavers of various handloom cooperative societies across the State, including five from Balaramapuram (Thiruvananthapuram), two in Palakkad, two in Ernakulam, and one each from Kozhikode and Thrissur. “Nearly 1,800 weavers from these societies have worked for this project alone,” says Abhijith.
Mahesh Kumar N, secretary of Oodum Paavum Cooperative Society at Peruvembu in Palakkad, says that the orders came at a time when the weavers were struggling to make ends meet. “We wove clothes worth ₹15 lakh. There are 25 weavers in the society, most of them women. Since they weren’t enough to complete the orders on time, we had to assign work to 20-odd looms in the nearby Kallankara village. Our weavers put in extra hours of work to deliver the clothes before the deadline,” he says.
The project has now been extended to care homes in the State and this is being done mainly through CSR funds of various business organisations, Abhijith adds.
KACV has also decided to make ‘Gift a Tradition’ a permanent project. “You can customise gifts for any festival or any celebration, such as birthday or wedding anniversary. Besides handlooms and handicraft, we are including items such as spices box and mural work,” adds Sreeprasad.