History of
Indian Crafts
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Indian Crafts >> Shell Crafts
Shell Crafts
Indian Crafts - Shell Crafts
History of Shell Crafts

Shells in India has from time immemorial had a religious and social significance. The ornaments in the old days were greatly prized. Excavations have revealed numerous shells products. Even buildings were decorated with them. Shell bracelets were universally worn by the Hindus of Bengal. It was considered a religious obligation by the Hindus of Bengal.

The tortoise shell at the moment has a very limited use, unlike Srilanka where it is turned into a greater variety of things.
Fine Art
Sonamukhi, golden faced, is gaily painted in yellow, green and red, with the five red drops on the mouth as in white bangles. In maya, on plain surface, delicate designs are drawn with a bamboo pen and ornamented by embossing with a file. Different coloured designs are also painted on the periphery or the outer surface. One designconsists of wave like patterns and as the motif is wave, a raised line is obtained by indenting the surface of the area around. Matardana has pea like motif engraved on the periphery with a file. Motidana is pearl like mark within a rectangular area engraved on the outer surface. Bhatia is an intricate design with three slanting lines followed by an M - like figure, done on the periphery. Mane-na-mane has different dots on both sides of a line engraved in the outer surface

A large number of shell workers, organised as private units, function in the islands. Their products extend from cleaned and polished decorative shells to table lamps, ashtrays, jewellery and buttons. A number of finer objects can be made from the polished shells with their pearly shine.An interesting resource material is tortoise shell,large shells in beautiful shades are also available. Small boxes round and square as well as bangles are made of tortoise shell.
Procedure
The apex, tip and edges are first cut off with a hammer and the inner dust is cleaned. Next, tightly wedged between two bamboo stakes,the shell is placed between the right heel and left toe of the artisan. With the help of saw the base is cut and from the remaining portion the ring shapes are sliced by a curved saw. For finishing, holes are sealed with wax and five coloured drops are painted on the joint. The bangles are then bleached in nitric acid solution and finally polished with a dry cloth.The joining is done with the help of a lac stick, a gum from lac, resin and shell powder. The pieces are tied together by an extremely thin tin coil and coloured.

The tortoise shell has very limited use. It is used along with ivory. The shell surface of the box is overlaid by net as it were of intricate patterns of ivory fret work so that only through this perforated lacy surface, one get the orange glow of shell. The design consists of fine geometrical patterns or epic figures, or animals fringed by floral edging. The supply of tortoise shell being limited, there is no all out venture on manufacture of pure shell articles. The best-known product is a beautiful octagonal jewel box with the ivory net cover.
Resources
Basic Material : Coconut tree trunk, shanks conch shell, resin, shell powder
Colouring Material : Colours

Basic Material : Tortoise shell, colours, hammer, saw, gum, resin, shell powder.
Equipments
hammer, saw, wax, nitric acid, lac stick, gum

Artifacts
Bangles, bracelets, spoons, forks, lockets, costume jewellery, decorative measuring bowls, armlets

small boxes, bangles, jewellery, decorative items, table lamps, ashtrays, buttons

Indian Crafts : History of Shell Crafts