A match made in heaven

A matchbox from Shreya Katuri's collection.

In 2013, while pursuing her graduation, Shreya Katuri submitted a dissertation on matchboxes from different regions of India. Little did she know that this will turn into a hobby.

Her collection includes matchboxes from places like Honduras, Europe, Switzerland, Boston, Singapore and Puerto Rico.

“I started collecting matchboxes from streets, shops, hotels and everywhere possible. I was determined to study about something that was visually rich. The matchboxes found in every street intrigued me to take up this concept,” says Shreya.

Most of the matchboxes she found differed in colour, typography and icon symbols but she felt the need to study them in depth. She gradually started categorising the boxes in terms of popular culture.

“Out of the seven categories of popular culture, I chose religion, nation and gender. I found many boxes featuring babies and children, where most of them had a boy dressed as a doctor, scientist, farmer or teacher. After many attempts, I finally found a matchbox with a lady dressed as a plantation worker in a tea estate in Assam,” she says.

When researching the religious concept, it was evident that the icons were mostly related to Hinduism.

With respect to nationalism, Shreya found a categorised representation of ‘Bharat mata’ and the Indian flag. She also found icons of freedom fighters such as Subash Chandra Bose and Mahatma Gandhi.

There were matchboxes with likenesses of famous actors like Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and a few Tollywood and Kollywood actors.

When asked, Shreya shared her fun-filled memories of collecting matchboxes.

“Once my sister jumped out of the car at a red signal because she spotted a matchbox. She also used to stand outside the college in search of a small ‘Chhota Bheem’ matchbox.”

“Another time, one of my friends ended up getting me labels from the pre-Independence period which belonged to her uncle. She knew where it was treasured and got it for me secretly,” laughs Shreya.

There were also times when Shreya’s mother picked matchboxes out of puddles and mud on the road for her daughter.

The way she photographs these treasured collections of hers is quite interesting. “For example, if it’s a matchbox found in Delhi, I’d click a picture with the background of India Gate or Hauz Khas village.”

Shreya hit a jackpot at a vintage flea market during Christmas in Boston. She found a bucket filled with 952 matchboxes and bought the entire collection.

In an effort to get more people to know about her hobby, she made an Instagram account titled ‘Art On A Box’. 

Shreya currently has around 2,500 matchboxes but she doesn’t want to call herself a collector.

“I am not a person who’s obsessed with the quantity. I enjoy collecting them and looking at the various designs and icons they have.”

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A match made in heaven

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