When korvai meets kolam

Kolam artist Ravisankar VM and textile revivalist Sreemathy Mohan have joined forces this Margazhi to bring out a colourful series of patterns depicting the weaves of Tamil Nadu

author_img Vaishali Vijaykumar Published :  12th January 2022 03:11 PM   |   Published :   |  12th January 2022 03:11 PM
Ravi and his paalum pazhamum kolam design

Ravi and his paalum pazhamum kolam design

The usual intricate and traditional sikku kolams on Ravisankar VM’s doorway have been replaced by a yellow and Ramar blue Arani silk sari with a temple border. Through his kolam series on Weaves of South India, the Thiruvottiyur resident has been delighting his 39.1 k followers on his Instagram page MuraiVaasal. A bright Mubbagam sari with raindrops motifs and Kalakshetra parrot on the pallu, a Madurai Sungudi,  paalum pazhamum and Tirubhuvanam sari  — what’s not to love!

Patterns with a purpose

As much as he was convinced about the novelty in the concept, he’s now overwhelmed by the unexpected response. “The series was suggested by Sreemathy Mohan, textile revivalist and founder of Sthree Creatives. We have an ongoing Pongal contest as part of which we are asking followers to draw a sikku kolam or rangoli to celebrate the art and tradition of our state. Three winners will win weaves of south India from Sthree Creatives. The last day for the entry is January 14 and the instructions are available on my account. Winners will be selected by kolam expert Vins Raj,” he details, adding that he might continue the contest depending on the response. 

Each kolam takes him an hour or two to complete. The designs are inspired by his mother’s vintage sari collection. “Sreemathy explained the many similarities between motifs on a sari and kolam patterns. I’ll have to study the border and pallu of the sari to replicate it on the floor. It can get confusing but it’s been an insightful experience for me. I’ve shared some information about the weaves in each post to educate people. I want to take this as an opportunity to highlight the works of our artisan clusters,” says Ravi. And keeping the Pongal sentiment, there are plans to draw a veshti with Toda embroidery and a silk sari, he adds.

Connecting the dots

To be inspired is only one part of the project, but to painstakingly pursue it requires unspeakable passion, says Sreemathy. “You feel like draping the kolams. They are so realistic like an original sari that you cannot tell them apart. Ravi and his brother have been my customers for two years. I respect how they select and gift vintage saris to their mother. I’ve been seeing their kolam works for a while now and I thought it would be nice to pick sari as a theme for kolam this Margazhi. Ravi has executed it effortlessly,” she shares.

Sreemathy too is equally fascinated about kolams and has incorporated a few designs in her block prints. Based on requests, she customises kolam designs for her clients on silk and silk cotton saris. 

“The beauty about both kolam and korvai of Tamil Nadu is its precision and symmetry. You see a sikku kolam and you can easily identify its pattern. Likewise, if you see a Kanjivaram silk sari, you can distinguish it by its make. In one of my projects, I came across Kalamezhuthu, a ritual art form of Kerala in which the deity’s form is drawn on the floor using five types of coloured powders. While documenting, I found a similar pattern in Gujarat’s Patola sari. Again, I chanced upon a sari with a similar pattern in Kochi called Virali pattu. Patola has travelled from the Gujarat coast to Kochi via the spice route and hence, the similarity in design. It’s the pattern that connects the kolam and weaves. This is how the two mediums influence each other,” she details.

While the idea seems fairly simple, it’s taken quite a bit of research at Sreemathy’s end and meticulous execution by Ravi to complete the series. “We want people to appreciate the diversity in south Indian weaves and kolam. This is a small step from our side,” sums up Ravi.