Natural Fibre Crafts Center
It's All About NATURAL CRAFTS
All fibres are extracted from plants, segregated, cleaned, dried, knitted, blended and woven to sustainable products. They are then used predominantly in everyday lives to the fashion world, furnishing, interiors and clothing industry. Thanks to the myriad sustainable features of Natural fibres like jute, screw pine, water hyacinth, cotton and bamboo, all products from KIDS are a perfect replacement to plastic. Easy to care for and easy to wash, and visually appealing, the products come in various patterns and shapes and sizes. That ensures comfort and style and health to anyone who uses it.
Through the adoption of consistent policies, specific administrative arrangements, training of staff, mobilisation of resources, organisation of research, experimentation and evaluation, KIDS has so far succeeded in improving the living conditions of its people. Integrated village development is a result of the development of various clusters as ideal community based units. Initially, around 3000 women were selected in from the neighbourhood to join the cluster. Grouped into Self Help Groups (SHGs), they work hand in hand, in an endeavour to a sustainable healthy lifestyle. The SHGs form the basic unit of the organisational frame of the cluster. 20 neighbourhood families of a homogeneous character and sharing a common bondage , form one SHG. Facilitation of its activities becomes the key responsibility of an NGO like KIDS. The Research and Development (R&D) wing of KIDS, having identified the useful and beneficial features of the Natural fibres, set up the SHG model of women empowerment to encourage female entrepreneurial activities.
Kerala’s remarkable inland water bodies experience the presence of large floating mats of weeds called Water Hyacinth (Eichornia Crassipes). It’s excessive growth causes problems for water navigation, irrigation, local fishing and contaminates water useful for domestic purposes. The water emanates a foul smell, the mats act as shields blocking sunlight for the marine life and leads to a significant reduction in the level of oxygen content. This has adverse effects on aquatic eco systems, biodiversity, fisheries and agriculture, disrupting the livelihoods of fishermen in the project area. The petiole of water hyacinth has proved to be an excellent soft and spongy Natural fibre that can be woven to useful floor mats, door mats, cushions, hats, bags, purses, files, laundry bags, waste paper bins, and related products. It can be easily blended with other materials like coir, banana fibre, screw pine, reeds, bamboo, sea grass, jute etc. it also shows strong affinity for basic dyes. The leaves and roots of the weeds too turn into useful products in the form of vermi compost. The entire weed, otherwise a waste, is used effectively and wisely. The Natural Fiber crafts Centre of KIDS also endeavor to protect and promote the indigenous crafts and craftsmen of the region. The artisans receive frequent skill upgradation training programs and are updated on the latest trends in fashion and design.
Screwpine (Thazha in Malayalam) is a small spreading evergreen tree up to 6m high with stout prop roots, which firmly anchor the tree in loose sand. The large light green leaves are spirally arranged on the stems. They are usually 90-150 cm long and 5-7m wide, with small white upturned spines along the leaf edges. The heavy heads hang from very stout branches and can remain on the tree for over 12 months. All Screwpine plants belong to the genus Pandanus which is a large and complex genus found worldwide on tropical and subtropical coasts and also extending to inland areas of the moist tropics. This tropical plant is known for its soil conservation properties. Its fine natural fibre, one of the best of its kind in the world, has been in use for centuries for making bed mats. The emergence of cheaper plastic mats paved the way for its being forced out of homes.
Screwpine is a mangrove associate and has an exceptional capacity for the protection of the banks of rivers and canals from erosion. Its fibrous root system also helps in keeping the alluvial soil intact and maintaining the water-holding capacity of the soil. Screwpine provides great refuge for a number of organisms, especially fish. The plant can tolerate both freshwater and saline conditions. Therefore it has great relevance in an area like Kodungallur where one can find rivers joining the saline backwaters and then the Arabian Sea on which thousands of fishermen depend. Screwpine is thus ecologically considered to be a ‘key stone species’, which is essential to maintain the ecological balance of this area. Screwpine mat weaving is an ancient craft and a cottage industry. However, the artisans are sticking on to the production of mats alone. Though because of the availability of cheaper plastic mats, Screwpine mats are less preferred, plastic is known to be a serious ecological problem and Screwpine is gaining in demand. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has classified it as an ideal alternative to plastic.The Screwpine crafts of Kerala is also included in Geographical Indication Registry.
In the 2010 Budget of Kerala Government, the then Honourable Finance Minister Dr. T M Thomas Isaac sanctioned a Screwpine Craft Cluster to Kodungallore area. By this cluster, it is meant to have all the A to Z activities in a specific geographical locality. The activities start from raw material procurement to marketing the finished products. Assurance of availability of raw material is one of the key factors which will decide the success of the cluster.
From mere mats, the product range has diversified to a plenty of daily utility items. Besides bed mats, the artisans make products like vanity bags, carry-bags, wastepaper baskets, newspaper holders, laundry boxes, files, interior decoration items etc. Skill up gradation training to the traditional artisanal women have enabled the artisans to make value-added products. The inputs from fashion designers too encourage them.
In coastal areas of Kerala, Screwpine craft has contributed much to the nourishment of local economy. Screwpine mat weaving was a major bread-donor to many households especially in times of famine. That status of Screwpine craft as a silent contributor to the economic empowerment of the rural poor artisans, is now a days getting revived because of the interventions of KIDS. The economic benefit reaches not just the artisans, but also those who cultivate the plant to the ones who market the finished products.
Screwpine plants are to be cultivated not only to ensure the continuous availability of raw material for the craft but also to protect the banks of our rivers and other watercourses and to protect the fertility of our land by preventing soil erosion. Screwpine craft has to be considered as a dependable cottage industry for livelihood security of thousands of rural poor. We have increased our raw material list by adding other like fibres, bamboo, jute and cotton. They are so perfectly blended and woven to beautiful patterns that suit your purposes. In close collaboration with designers and artisans, both Research and Development team and the creative team encourage developing new products, that help them become ambassadors of sustainable healthy solutions.