Ashwini Subban has always been deeply interested in diyas. Deepavali has been her favourite festival since childhood and she recalls wondering why many of the diyas used as part of the festival were so plain. She also wondered how she could decorate these little sources of light. It was this curiosity that later developed into a hobby and Ashwini has been decorating diyas for the last five years.
Ashwini started her hobby when she was living in Hyderabad, working as a teacher at a college. She used to decorate the diyas and give them away as gifts. “When I moved to Bangalore, I wasn't able to bring the collection along as they would all end up broken. So I gave away most of them,’’ she adds.
“When I started this hobby, there were only Plaster-of-Paris diyas available in the market. I would paint them with water colours. Slowly, when more options started coming in, I moved to earthen diyas,” says Ashwini.
She takes extra effort to make the end-product pretty and long-lasting. She recollects, “Earlier, I used to use only water colours to beautify them. But when the diya was lit, the colour would turn dark. That’s when a neighbour suggested that I use varnish that would seal the colour.”
With a bright mix of colours, each of her pieces is a delight to see and possess. “First, I wash the diyas and let them dry. Then, I paint them with fabric paint and use golden powder mixed with fabric binder for detailing.”
She allows each piece to dry for a day before applying varnish and adding the details. The different items she uses to beautify the diyas include
sequins, beads and kundan stones.
Ashwini says that she uses traditional combinations of red and blue, green and yellow, and variations of the same scheme to give her creations a festive look.
“Diyas are very traditional items and they are mostly used during the festival season. The colours are significant of the festivity. Also, light colours wouldn’t look good and reflect the mood,” she says firmly.
Ashwini makes designs like hearts and Ganesha heads on many of her diyas. She highlights the embossed designs on the plain earthen diyas with colour and adds her
personal touch as and when required.
“If a diya looks blank in areas, I add some traditional motifs or designs in gold — like mango or leaf patterns. I’m also inspired by mehendi designs,’’ she explains.
This homemaker says that for a hobby like this, much concentration is required.
“Many people have been awed by my decorated diyas and appreciate me for my patience and the details that I carefully include in each piece,’’ she says.
Ask her if her hobby has inspired anyone in the family to follow the same path and she replies, “My son and my niece are interested in the same. But since both of them are very young, I advise them not to use varnish. I helped my son with his batch of diyas, which he decorated and I did the varnish part. He gifted these to his teachers at school and they were pleasantly surprised.”