1) Mr. Das, can you tell us a little about your personal life and your formative years ?
I come from Basudeipur in Raghurajpur. My father was a National Award winning artist, and his work has greatly influenced me. For the past 23 years, I have been working on Pattachitra and Tassar painting, as well as papier-mache and various palm leaf etchings. I started my career in 1990, and it was my father who thoroughly groomed me in Indian Arts and Crafts. I have also attended a number of courses and certified trainings at the State Handicraft and Handloom Training Institute in Odisha. The art forms that I practice are very traditional and have varied design forms.
2) Can you give us a little more information about how tour father started his work?
My father worked with the famous Pattachitra artist Jagannath Mahapatra. He would earn his daily wages by doing his regular letter correspondences. Though we come from a family of weavers, my father learnt the art of Pattachitra on a palm leaf and carried this tradition further. Today, my family continues with this traditional art form, and we try to give it new avenues and perspectives. For his efforts and his initiative, my father was awarded the State Award in 1989 by the Government of Orissa, and in 1995 he won the National Award and the Governor of Mehariyana gave him the title of Kalashree.
3) How did you find yourself becoming an entrepreneur? Do you have any advice for the other young entrepreneurs?
At first, art and craft was simply a hobby for me, but I have a lot of passion for it and it is very close to my heart and soul. Owing to this, I started pursuing it seriously, and it has turned into my career. I’m sure that the art of every artist is very close to their heart and soul. To be a successful entrepreneur, you need to first search for your customer’s choice, then look at his demand, and finally deliver products to the satisfaction of the customer. All entrepreneurs need to work as per their customer’s demand and choice.
4) Can you give us some more information of the art of Pattachitra and the basis on which it is finally executed ?
Pattachitra originated from a place called Puri in Odisha. There, it is believed that 21 days before the famous Jagannath (Puri) Rath Utsav, in lieu of the original Lord Jagannath idol, the face of Lord Jagannath is made in the Pattachitra art form. The base on which Pattachitra art is executed is onethat is unique, one such interesting way is by first taking the tamarind seeds, which need to be ground and boiled. During this process it will become thick and viscous. This viscous glue like paste is applied between two cotton sarees and left to dry. Later, another similar coat is applied on both sides with the addition of limestone powder mixed in it and left to dry once again. For the finesse of the surface, smooth pebble stones are rubbed on it thoroughly for a polished look. In modern times such as now, Pattachitra art forms are done on tussar fabric using Acrylic colours as per the demand and need of the hour.
5) Can you give us some background on how the art of palm leaf etching started and their preserving method(s) ?
Of the traditional art forms, palm leaf etching is one of the oldest. When man evolved, he needed to establish communication, and he started using regular leaves and large stones to write on the leaves. Then people realised that the leaves would dry off and there would not be any record of their messages. Man, then started writing or etching their messages on palm leaves that would last longer, and also sustain in all weather conditions. When the Kings ruled, it was only their heirs who were privileged and who had the prerogative to be educated. In Gurukuls, the writing was done on palm leaves and that is how they were preserved.
Palm Leaf Etching
6) Can you walk us through the procedure for etching or painting on a palm leaf?
Before you can paint or etch on a palm leaf, there is a procedure to be followed to ready the leaves. The leaves are first plucked from the tree and air dried naturally. They are left like that for the next few days. The leaves are then kept in a room, preferably a kitchen, so that the leaves can receive moisture from the steam that is caused due to domestic work being done. The leaves are then cooled down naturally, and this retains the colour of the leaves. The leaves are then left to boil in some herbal extracts like hirda-behada, mustard seeds and neem leaves. The leaves are then removed and left to dry once again. All of this is necessary to retain the colour of the leaves and prepare it for writing and etching. It also protects the leaves from insects and seasonal wear and tear. Now, the leaves are ready to be used. They are stitched together vertically with a needle and thread so that they have a proper shape, and the extra edges are trimmed. For etching, a needle is taken and with it the required design is etched on the leaves. Charcoal powder or soot is then embedded in the etched areas, and the excess is shaken off. Once this is done the pattern on the leaves stand out and are highlighted. In the olden days, the leaves were used to write horoscopes on for the royal family, and later on it was used to make small paintings, and to decorate jewellery boxes.
7) Would you like to comment on the current art trends?
There has been a lot of advancement in the field of art and craft. With the introduction and usage of acrylic colours, the process of painting has become much quicker. The colours dry faster and they are more practical to use than the methods practiced earlier.
Radha Krishna Painting On Palm Leaf Using Acrylic Colours
8) Do you enjoy using Pidilite products? If yes, why?
In my Pattachitra art work, I use Fevicryl Acrylic Colours extensively. I like the fascinating shades that are available, and the end result is also very satisfactory because of the sheen and gloss that is ultimately achieved.