Sea Shell Craft of Odisha

Origin: In India, man’s love for shells dates back to the Upper Palaeolithic period.  A Oliva sp. was discovered from the Upper Palaeolithic phase at Patne (Sali 1989). Historians opine that shell craft was one of the prominent industries during the Harappan period (Dales and Kenoyer 1977; Kenoyer 1983, 1984, 1985, Bhan and Kenoyer 1984; Deshpande-Mukherjee 1995).  

The land of charming beauty, Odisha, wears the crown for its exquisite handicrafts. This state was titled Utkal meaning a place of art of highest degree. It embraces a rich history of handicrafts that are displayed in temple architecture and its reflected in day to day life.  

Although sea shell craft is hugely practised in this region. The discovery of ancient shell crafts in Odisha is rare. Some sites where shell artefacts were discovered in the excavations are Khameswaripali in the middle Mahanadi Valley. Here a pendent made of bivalve shell and a blade made of shell was discovered. Both the recovered items hail from Period I. 

Present Day: Sea shells are unique expressions of Odisha artisans.  Repercussions of the increased globalization has resulted in commoditized products. Artisans are competing with goods from across the globe. 

Today, seashell crafts include ornaments, musical instruments, chandeliers, table lampshades, flowerpots, door wreath decoration etc.  The most love seashell craft remains the seashell mirror frame. 

Procedure: The tools and raw materials required in the making of seashell craft are natural seashells such as clamshells, cone shaped shells, small snail shells etc., adhesive, plywood, reflective glass sheet, handsaw, oil based colours, scallops etc. Artisans buy these shells from markets in Puri.

The first step is to cut the plywood sheet using handsaw. This is done keeping in mind the desired design. This step is followed by gluing plywood sheet to the pre-cut and shaped glass sheet. 

The plywood surface is painted with a thick layer of Fevicol. Now, each and every shell is dipped in adhesive to glue clamshells. To add up the fashion quotient coloured shells are added in between.  This step is followed keep in mind the design structure. To enhance the crafts appeal, varied decorative items are added to the shells. LED lights, bells, flowers etc become part of this craft. 

Bring Home Sea Shell Craft of Odisha: These sea sell crafts can be found at different markets across Odisha and are also found at different festivals and fairs in Odisha.

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