A group of women artisans could be seen deftly stringing seeds and sticking paddy grains to make earrings and necklaces in a nondescript house along the crowded Vayalur Road. “What started as a fun experiment is now the reason we live comfortably,” says A. Geetha, one of the artisans who is a specialist in paddy jewellery.
Jungle Jewels, a city-based social enterprise, was born out of a need to turn the waste of Ansa, a herbal park in the city, into something productive. “We knew nothing about jewel making, but wondered if it could be done. Some women who were part of the Ansa community began stringing them together when we learnt that different patterns and designs could be made. Now, 10 years later, we are selling Jungle Jewels online and in fairs across the country,” says J. Balamurali, founder.
“To assess the demand for such jewellery, we initially made only a few pieces and sold them at handicraft exhibitions in Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi. Encouraged by the huge response, we launched Jungle Jewels as a brand in 2010 and have since then sold the ornaments at metros across the country,” Mr. Balamurali said, adding: “Bengaluru, Chennai and Delhi have our biggest customers. Tech parks also invite us to set up stalls.”
Along with the seeds collected at the herbal park, grains procured from wholesalers are graded and sorted depending on quality. A machine with a tiny driller is used to make holes through the seeds. “The seeds have to be drilled with utmost precision. The earrings are quicker to make, but a set of necklace require a day’s time,” says Ms. Geetha.
The jewellery is sold for anywhere between ₹70 and ₹1,500, depending on the extent of work involved. Environmentally-conscious individuals and people looking for unique souvenirs are the biggest buyers. “A woman in Chennai requested us to make wedding jewellery using paddy and some bigger seeds like elaichi. It was challenging, but definitely rewarding,” says Mr. Balamurali.
The women, who initially kept to themselves, have begun travelling across the country to showcase their handiwork and learn from other displays. Now, they have planned to make folders, table mats and coasters, and key chains as corporate gifts, and selling them through boutiques and organic stores.
(source : The Hindu)