DC Collaboration: Handcrafted quirky Pattachitra masks

It was one of our regular days at the office when a client called us and placed an order for something which left us amazed. The order was for handmade animal masks. As we heard this strange request, our minds started functioning to get the best ideas out, for making these masks. Our thought process was running through three areas. First, we wanted the masks to be eco-friendly, second, we wanted to make such exciting masks which can drive interests of the kids and adults alike and third, we needed a fantastic form to paint those masks in an appealing manner.

After fighting up with a bunch of ideas in our mind, we manifested the plan of creating 3-D masks with the animals and birds being lion, fox, rabbit and eagle. Now we were all set to find the best resources for this project and get the ball rolling.

The task we prioritized to be done foremost was cracking the best layout for the masks. A layout, which can make the masks appear more realistic and pertinent to the respective animals. After pondering upon the internet for a while we came across the works of Lapa Studio, a company based in California, United States. And that was the Eureka moment for us! Thanks to the speeding technology that we managed to connect with them at the same time. We collaborated with them, and tried their methodology of mask making. Concrete accuracy in geometrical proportions, and perfect size measures by our designer, gave us exciting results, and our first step got sorted.

Our next target was to find an art work which can make the masks look prominent. We were known to all of those Indian art forms which have survived generations with Madhubani, Warli , Miniature, Pattachitra and Kalamkari being a few on our list. The only hurdle we had before us was to choose a form which can deliver the best look to these masks. Sooner, we connected with the famous Pattachitra artist, Mr. Madhu Sudan Chitrakar, a three time national award winner. We requested him to come to our place to take charge of the much needed art work. And to our surprise, the next day we found that eminent artist in our office. He came all the way from Bengal to Delhi, just to meet your requirements and make us go awestruck with his grounded personality.

Madhu Hazra, engrossed in creating art

Without much ado, he took the charge of painting those masks in Pattachitra art form. He inherited the interest of practicing this wonderful art from his father and, his strong dedication and perseverance earned him three National awards. An exquisite Bengali scroll painting depicting the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York, has been acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum. Made in 2004 by Madhu Chitrakar, from a village in Medinipur, West Bengal the traditional scroll is a long strip of paper backed with cloth, which is unrolled as the storyteller recounts the attack. This expertise is not just limited to making the Pattachitra paintings and scrolls but he also sings as he unfurl the painting scroll to show it to the audience. These songs are known as Pater Gaan. The songs are of wide variety ranging from traditional mythological tales and tribal rituals to stories based on modern Indian history and contemporary issues like protecting forests and preventing spread of HIV/AIDS. Natural colors are used for these paintings which are procured from flowers, leaves, turmeric, indigo and clay.

The making of the quirky Pattachitra masks (1&2. Our designer, Raj cutting the shapes of the masks 3. The masks ready to be handpainted 4. Madhu Hazra painting the masks in Pattachitra art form 5. Finished set of masks)

The terrific patience and exceptional commitment, with which he kept the work going was evident from the fact that he is a true gem to our nation. Every brush stroke he made showcased his expertise in the Pattachitra Art.

After 3 days of immense hard work and adherence, he came up with enchanting Pattachitra patterns on the masks. The final masks were before us and the results were a lot more exciting and impressive then how we thought them to be in our planning sessions. Our masks now showcased the blend of beautiful art and sustainable crafting methodology. Vibrant shades and lively patterns made the masks look phenomenal and for this we were extremely grateful to Madhu Sudan Chitrakar.

This collaboration has been a journey in itself and we are looking forward to making innovative and beautiful products by bringing together the maker, designer and buyer on a common platform and working on the confluence of tradition and technology.

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