Contemporary use of heritage crafts
The art of creating Athangudi tiles is a homegrown craft that Chettiar patronage gave birth to; a local solution to the European-origin tiles that the prosperous trading community favoured.
The old Kottan baskets were an important part of various rituals and were also used for everyday use.
Fates turned and the Chettiars’ fortunes declined, which directly affected the local tile industry.
However, tile-making did not disappear altogether.
In recent years, small scale and exclusive productions saw renewed interest, giving the Athangudi tiles a new lease of life. There is a demand for both traditional and new designs.
These tiles have gained popularity across the country and are transported to various locations to be used in the construction of private homes and heritage resorts.
This skill has been revived based on the skills and designs of the womenfolk in the Chettinad region.
The old Kottan baskets were an important part of various rituals.
With time, Kottans decorated with beadwork and crochet slowly stopped being made.
One of the rituals, where these baskets were used, were weddings. Kottan baskets were prepared to be carried to the house of the in-laws, along with other gifts.
Gifts and offerings were also exchanged in these baskets.
Offering of Areca nuts and betel leaf arranged in a heritage Kottan.
Kottan baskets also found significance for everyday use.
Not only have the old designs and forms been revived, but the craft itself has also been reinterpreted.
Traditional skills are horned to make a variety of colourful and attractive designs.
Kottan is now woven in a wide range of colours, into products of regular use and for gift packaging, for weddings, festivals and other celebrations.
A line of personal accessories like clutches, potlis and bags are also available.
Kottan is also woven into contemporary home accessories like waste paper baskets, trays, tissue boxes and placemats.
Text: Aloka Hiremath, Jaya Jaitly
Photography: Chirodeep Chaudhuri
Artisans: Lakshmi Tile House, Ganapathy Tile House and M.Rm.Rm Cultural Foundation
Documentary Video: Chirodeep Chaudhuri
Ground Facilitator: Shalini Shashi
Curation: Ruchira Verma