Screw Pine Products
Kerala popularly known as “Gods own country” is a place beautiful, rich in vegetation and greenery. Screwpine is a plant which comes under Pandanus genus, commonly known as Screwpine with bladelike leaves, arrangement of which is like the threading of a screw. These grow abundantly near water bodies, marshy regions in the coastal areas. Screwpine Craft being almost century old craft has come a long way. The process of transforming the leaves into elegant and beautiful products require a lot of skill. What started by women in rural areas in their household merely with weaving mats and fences today have found a place amongst many other traditional handicrafts. Representing as a rural handicraft Screwpine products today does not fail to impress people for not only its colors and patterns but also its use and most importantly as an ecofriendly product which could replace many of plastic items in our home. Now this craft exists mainly in three regions of Kerala-Thazhava(in Kollamdistrict), Kodungallor( in Thrissur district) and Thalayolaparambu (in Ernakulam district).
GI TAG for Screwpine products has been awarded for its exclusive climate and geography influenced uniqueness. Products traditionally was to make Floor mats, but now explores most of the household products from table mats, coasters, Cushions, Fruit box, magazine holders, variety of Handbags, file holders, storage boxes, spice boxes, lampshades, jewel boxes etc. About 100 products are available today.
MAKING OF SCREW PINE PRODUCTS
Materials and Processes
The broad stages of producing Screwpine products would include collection of raw leaves, removing thorns, rolling, slicing, dyeing and product making. Leaves from a matured plant (8-9) are collected twice in a year before rainy season. Thorn removing is the hardest task in the entire process. Thorns are removed from the edges as well as midrib of leaves. Nylon fiber and knife are used to do this. Then the leaves are rolled together one after the other. This is called “Madi” which is then dried. The time required for drying depends on the climatic conditions, mostly dried in the summer and stored in the godowns. The dried Madi is opened and leaves are weighed. Then are sliced into strips called “Poli”. These strips are taken for dyeing. Traditionally they used natural dyes like Mehandi, Kasthuri Manjal, Kadukka etc. But because of certain limitations they now use water based dyes like Methyl violet, Bismark Brown, Rhodamine, Magenta, and Malechyte Green, Methylene blue, Auromine and Coirblue.
Dyeing: First stage in dyeing is boiling Screwpine strips in water in a bath for about 30 minutes. This makes the Screwpine leaves soft and opens up the pores. This helps to absorb colors. Required amount of dye is added into the bath allowing it to further boil for 30minutes while stirring the strips well so that the color is spread evenly. It is then transferred into a tank containing normal cold water and washed thoroughly. They are then dried in the sunlight. Next stage is to send these to weaving units to make mats.
Weaving: Weaving is done using 4 warp strips. A skillful process of weaving in diagonal direction is continued until edge and is then locked by folding the warp and weft. This makes the strands closely packed reducing the gaps. The quality of the mats are determined by looking at how closely the weft is placed without gap. Next stage is making the product. For a product like table mat size and shape is drawn on the big woven mat. It is cut using scissors. Then a machine stich is done on the outer line to avoid shifting of strips while making the product. The outline drawn is creased with a tracing wheel so that it can easily fold without breaking. Creases made are folded with the help of punch. Two such pieces are taken and tied together with small thin strips of Screwpine using a needle for the edge finishing. For other products like coasters and boxes a pattern is generally created on cardboard. It is then sandwiched between two mats and glued using rubber based synthetic adhesive then the shapes are cut as per the profile drawn. Edges are finished the usual way.
CURRENT STATUS OF THE CRAFT
Low labor wages and high cost of products (due to labor intensive work and time consumption) has resulted in shifting of younger generation from this to other lucrative well-paying jobs. It takes a very long time (years of experience) to master this craft. Despite all this there is a huge demand for Screwpine products in market. This has a vast opportunity particularly as an eco friendly substitute to most of our household plastic products. However it requires technical support to make the products in shorter time. The continued demand in the market and technical support may bring back younger generations to involve in continuing this traditional handicraft.