Avila Juliet from Coimbatore makes handicrafts out of coconut shells


For 36-year-old Avila Juliet, the lockdown has been busier than ever. She is the founder of Thengu Kalaikoodam, a agency that manufactures handicrafts out of coconut shells in Kalikkanaikenpalayam, Coimbatore. “I just finished making a batch of earrings and I still have a few more pending orders to finish. I usually work for eight hours every day,” she says.

Avila Juliet
 

Avila began the enterprise three and a half years in the past. “I worked as an assistant professor at DKT College of Education, Tiruppur where I took classes on upcycling. I taught my students to make simple show-pieces by painting coconut shells.” Avila liked working with it and began to experiment with the shells after work. “First I checked online tutorials, but couldn’t find one that explained the process of preparing, cutting and polishing in detail. So I developed a method by trial and error. I later quit my job to focus on the craft,” she says.

She buys coconuts in bulk from farmers on the native market and soaks them in water for 2 weeks. “This makes the shells harder and reduces the chances of them developing cracks while design,” she explains. Then the coconut is de-husked and damaged. “We sell the coconut meat inside to make oil. The shells are later immersed in coconut oil for two days before they are polished and cut into desired shapes. The treatment with oil gives them the shine.”

Avila Juliet from Coimbatore makes handicrafts out of coconut shells

Avila makes use of each tender and mature coconuts to make pendants, earrings, bangles, key chains and show-pieces. “The tender shells give a white finish and the mature ones give a darker shade,” she says. Her household helps her within the course of. “They cut the pieces. It is a team effort now,” she says. One of the hardest challenges she had was designing an idol of Nataraja. “It was intricate and only at my third attempt did it come out right. It took me almost two weeks to complete the six-inch piece,” she recollects.

The lockdown has not affected her enterprise a lot, she says. “I have a stock of raw materials. I continue to take up new orders.” Her merchandise are priced between ₹50 and ₹3000 primarily based on the design. Avila ships throughout the nation. “I have also tied up with exporters who send my creations to Japan and the US. I will resume the exports once the situation is favourable,” she says.

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