Spectrum: Making attractive designs from paddy

As one enters this unassuming house in Hosamalangi village of Kollegala taluk, the ‘art’ rooted in agriculture unfolds in the form of attractive paddy festoons and wall hangings, apart from other designs made from locally available materials. Twenty-year-old Yogish effortlessly braids paddy earheads as his brother, Abhilash, lends help. Proud parents, Rechanna and Rajeshwari, take another half-finished design and sit beside their sons. “This art is much more than a creative skill. It is a medium of expression for farmers,” says Rechanna, a pioneering seed saver in the State. Rechanna and his family have been conserving heirloom varieties of paddy and millets for the past several years. This year, they have grown 300 varieties of native paddy and 40 varieties of finger millet, apart from other millet varieties. 

Though making decorative items from paddy is not new to the region, the skill has disappeared over time. Around a decade ago, Rechanna saw someone making paddy art in the neighbouring village and informed his wife, who has a deep passion for making decorative items and knick-knacks. Soon, she learnt the art and began making paddy designs. Yogish, who has inherited his mother’s creative streak, was quick to master the craft. Now, all the four make paddy designs.

They make four to five types of festoons, wall decors and roof hangings. Motifs, such as gandabherunda and peacock, change based on the requirements, depending on whether they are used in the hall or puja room. Rechanna says that any indigenous variety of paddy is suitable for making these decorative patterns. They have also made designs using finger millet. When they select the earheads suitable for seeds, they identify the ones that have the appropriate features for making paddy art. The ones with long spikes and packed seeds are preferred.

One piece requires 100 to 600 paddy earheads, depending on the size and pattern. There are different patterns of braiding, and it requires skill, creativity and patience. Each member of this family has a signature style. Two persons need to work together until a particular stage of braiding after which one individual can continue. On an average, a pattern requires two persons to work for three hours. While fresh earheads are more suitable for making designs, one can dry and store the earheads for future use. The dried bunches have to be soaked in water for some time before making the designs. 

They utilise the paddy diversity in the farm to make colourful designs. While the paddy designs are generally brown or golden in colour, those made from red varieties like ratnachudi and rasakadamare red in colour. Black paddy varieties such as kagisali, ginisali and kalajeera lend black colour to the patterns. Though one can make a design using a combination of paddy varieties, it is better to use one variety for a design, says Rajeshwari. These decorative items stay intact for 10 to 12 years. After that, the paddy can be consumed.

Since making paddy design is a hobby for them, they haven’t given any thought to commercialising it. “We do exhibit and sell these patterns when we participate in agriculture melas and other similar gatherings. We also make them on order. But we don’t think it is viable as an income-generating activity as in spite of appreciating the art, people are not ready to pay an amount that justifies our work,” says Rechanna. He can be contacted on 9481321530.

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Spectrum: Making attractive designs from paddy

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