A little breath of spring

A little breath of spring

A little breath of spring

It’s hard to miss artist Mallika Paul’s love for flowers. Her interest in art started at a very young age. She dabbled with a range of colours when she first started drawing and soon, she was experimenting with different materials. “I used to take my mother’s saris and try out stuff on them,” she recalls. The keen interest in art, which began when she was in school, continued into college. “All my science records have been preserved in college,” she says. She didn’t receive adequate encouragement to pursue home science at the graduation level and so, she decided to pursue a degree in botany. However, that did not deter her from continuing her passion.  

She credits all her success to her husband, who encouraged her to go to England in 1989 to pursue a short-term course in bread craft and sugar craft.  She points out that if not for her husband, she would never have been able to go ahead with it. The course gave her the opportunity to explore more avenues and fine-tune her skills.

“Right from my childhood, I was interested in flower-making. However, my father was not keen that I pursue home science. It was my husband who sent me for the classes,” she says, adding, “I learnt the art work at community centres in Harrow and Oxfordshire.” Mallika has made flowers from a variety of materials, including sugar, bread, ceramic and even Thai clay. She says that although she uses different materials, the technique she employs in making the flowers is the same. She used to conduct classes at home for people who were interested in the art form. 

When her family moved to Sharjah, she opened an institute, which she called ‘Mallika Handicrafts’. However, after running it for 25 years and teaching over 4,000 enthusiastic students, she decided to give it away. One of her students took over the place and continues teaching artwork. “I used to hold classes at home and a number of students flocked to them. It was at that point that I decided to start the institute,” she says.

“Initially, I used to make flowers from sugar mainly for wedding cakes. However, when I was in Dubai, I found that flowers made with sugar are not durable. Sugar-coated flowers might have lasted for a while in England because of the cold climate but here, that isn’t the case. At the same time, I discovered I could use ceramic powder and glue,” she says, adding that she found that these could be used for a variety of items.

 “I used the same technique as I did when making items with sugar and bread. I also made fruits with ceramic paste and have used stale bread and glue to create flowers,” she explains.

The items she made with sugar were generally used as cake decorations since they were edible. But Mallika found that there was a lot she could do with raw materials like ceramic powder and Thai clay as well. 

“I found that items made with these are smooth in texture and look natural. I started making miniatures, small figurines, large flowers and bridal bouquets with them,” she says.

As a matter of fact, making flowers with ceramic is quite rare. She explains, “I make a dough with the ceramic powder and glue and then apply the same technique that I use on other raw materials.”

Her personal collection of work is diverse and beautiful. She also happens to be an expert in oil, acrylic, water colour and pastel painting. She also does relief work, pottery, metal embossing, Tanjore painting and glass etching, besides flower arrangement. In fact, her work is so intricate and her brush-strokes so perfect that some of her flowers actually look natural. 

Right from her spring baskets filled with flowers in soft pastel shades to white lilies made of Thai clay, her passion is there to see in each and every item.