India Interior

Creativity in a ‘nut’shell

Usha Rai | Updated on April 04, 2020 Published on April 04, 2020

Sunil More has a huge collection of handicrafts made from coconut shell   -  Usha Rai

A fascinating tale of how the humble coconut became a govt school teacher’s artistic calling

Coconuts are offered at temples, broken in home kitchens and restaurants to make an amazing variety of cuisine, but their shells are mostly discarded as garbage. Sunil More, teacher at a junior government school from Shindkhede tehsil of Dhule District of Maharashtra, has picked up this waste to create from it close to a thousand beautiful craft products. Not only does he fashion art pieces from the shells but also inspires youngsters to follow in his footsteps.

He took to the hobby in 2010 while on a trip to the Konkan coast. Here he found, like in Kerala, vendors selling innovative pieces made of sea shells, bamboo and coconut waste. Inspired by the creativity of the vendors he too tried his hand at it, slowly turning his interest into a passion. “Initially, I would rummage in dust bins and garbage heaps outside temples for coconut shells,” he recalls. Today, his students and others in the village save the coconut shells and bring them to him. Most of his handicrafts are handmade, with minimum use of machines.

Slow but steady

 

His first creation from a coconut shell was a tortoise. It took him three to four days to make it because he had no idea how to cut the shell, smooth the surface or how to glue together the various parts. But his innate curiosity and artistic streak took charge. Many today say that Sunil More, like the tortoise, began slowly but has won the race. He has over a thousand craft items at display in his large home gallery started in 2016. Every month, he collects or gets 50 to 60 shells and, after his duties at school, spends two to three hours creating the artefacts.

As word of the innovative school teacher spread, he was invited to hold exhibitions and conduct workshops in 75 places in Maharashtra. In 2018, he was invited to participate at State Education Fairs in four divisions of Maharashtra and a large number of teachers and art lovers visited and applauded his creativity.

Sunil More has received 14 awards so far, including the Innovative Teachers of India award, the Ideal Teacher of Maharashtra and the Exceptional Teacher award. In 2019, his creativity got him entry into the India Book of Records for making over 900 handicrafts from the coconut shell.

More is also quite clear that he should share his skill with others so that waste material is put to good use and the environment remains clean. In 2013, he guided his students to make 50 turtles, all of which were displayed and sold within an hour at a city fair, at ₹50 a turtle. From the money collected, More bought drawing books, colours, paints and brushes for his students to motivate them on their artistic journey.

 

Though the tortoise continues to be More’s favourite, he also makes a range of animals, from monkeys to rats and rabbits. He carves Ganeshas, trophies, flowers, flower pots, mementoes, owls, hanging show-pieces, wall decorations, birds, trees, dolls, toys, pen stands, cups, mugs, ships, lamps, key chains and even ornaments like necklaces, earrings, pendants and bangles. He uses a drill to make holes in the shell when he makes jewellery.

While the smallest creations are just 5 cm, the bigger ones, like trophies and lamps, could be one foot high. Each new creation is uploaded on social media and draws comments and praise from his followers. That is enough for him! “When the hand, head and heart come together, the creation has commercial value,” says the school teacher, but More does not want to commercialise his skill. “I am comfortable on my teacher’s salary.”

However, he encourages others with an artistic streak to take on the skill as a livelihood if they have limited resources. He has trained around 500 people and encouraged them to become micro entrepreneurs.

The writer is a senior Delhi-based journalist

Published on April 04, 2020

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