Shell Craft has always been in great demand in India and have religious and social significance. The ornaments made out of shells are cherished by the people of all strata of the society. Since time immemorial, shells are the most colourful and fascinating objects known to man ever, other than gems
. Shells are basically the hard outer protective covering of sea creatures. Empty shells are found in abundance in sea beaches and are utilized to craft outstanding utilitarian and decorative items. They serve as ornaments, musical instruments
, drinking cups and many more artefacts. Shells have unending aesthetic uses too and are used extensively in rituals and religious observances. Shells such as Giant clam, Green mussel and Oyster support edible shell fishery and a few like Scallops
and Cockles are burnt in kiln to produce edible lime.
Conch Shell Craft
Shells of different kind of sea snails
are referred as conch shells
. Since ages, conch shell is considered as sacred. It is one of the pre- requisites in religious rituals and the blowing of the conch is regarded as auspicious at religious as well as social functions. Its sound is said to symbolize the cosmic universe and is believed to keep away the evil forces. Conch ornaments in the olden days were very popular. The ancient city of Korkai, on the Indian shore of the Gulf of Mannar
, was actually established as the sub-capital of Pandya dynasty
because of the heavy revenues it brought by the selling of conch shells. Archaeological excavations have revealed numerous conch shell products with beautiful inlay work that require great skill. Buildings were also decorated with conch pieces. Nowadays also, conch shells find their utility in various purposes. Ornaments, musical instruments, decorative items and many more crafts are made from conches. Shell horn is the intact conch used for religious purposes. Beautiful ritualistic designs are made on them including figures and floral designs.
Making of Conch Shell Crafts
Making of Conch Shell Crafts involves a series of complex procedures. For crafting conch shell bangles, the tip and the edges of the shell are firstly cut off with a hammer, followed by its cleaning. The shell is then tightly wedged between two bamboo
stakes and is placed between the right heel and left toe of the artisan. With the aid of a saw, the base is cut out and rings are sliced out from the remaining shell by a curved saw. The finishing touch requires sealing of the holes with wax and painting five coloured drops on the joint. The bangles are then kept in nitric acid solution for some time and then finally polished with a dry cloth. In order to utilize the broken pieces, the pieces are tied together by extremely thin tin coils, resin and shell powder and are coloured to make beautiful bangles. Apart from bangles, bracelets, spoons, forks, lockets, decorative bowls, and armlets are also carved out of conch shells.
Tortoise Shell Craft
is the main centre of Tortoise Shell Crafts
. The tortoise shell has a very limited use. It is often used along with ivory
. A large number of shell craftsmen, organized as private units, are involved in this craft. The tortoise Shell Crafts include products ranging from cleaned and polished decorative shells to table lamps, decorative items, ashtrays, spoons, forks, jewellery
and buttons. Polished shells have a pearly shine from which fine and exquisite crafts can be carved out. Small boxes of round and square shapes with designs including geometrical motifs and mythological
figures are also illustrations of tortoise Shell Crafts.
Making of Tortoise Shell Craft
The making of tortoise Shell Crafts is quite similar to the making of conch Shell Crafts. However, sometimes the shell surfaces of the boxes are covered with ivory framework of intricate designs. This framework beautifies the boxes even more as the orange hue of the shell glows out from the perforated lacy pattern.
Other Sea Shell Crafts
The abundance of small and large varieties of shells along the Indian coast has led to the evolution of the sea Shell Craft, practised by coastal people. Since ages, sea shells have been known to please every human eye with their majestic shapes and colours. The shells are used to produce a variety of products, starting from attractively designed animals to human figures in ethnic costumes. One can trace the existence of this craft since Portuguese
rule in Goa
, the centre of craft activities in India. Sea shell is one of the original crafts of Goa and in Portuguese architectures of Goa, one can find doors and windows decorated with sea shells. The sea shell products of Goa are known throughout the country. The items produced by the craftsmen are both utilitarian and decorative. The items include posters, curtains, chandeliers, pot hangers, table lamps and mirror frames.
Making of Sea Shell products
Sea shells are collected along the sea-beaches. The shells are generally defiled and some times buried deep in the sand for cleaning purpose. These are then cut out in desired sizes and shapes and are washed in water. Further cleaning is done with chemicals to impart a sparkling and ornamental look. After this, items of various shapes and colours are crafted with sea shells.
Shell Crafts are delicate and exquisite artefacts crafted with utmost care are outstanding dexterity. Being one of the most loved crafts of India as well as the world, Shell Crafts have always been in great demand. A variety of shells are found on the sea shores which are converted into a wide range of enchanting and elegant products by the artisans.